In two days — in a blur of empty pint glasses, tweaked name badges, misplaced earplugs and squealing amplifiers — San Diego Music Thing came and went. CityBeat was there, and we had a good time. And though we can't replicate the experience for you, we can share some of the highlights. It's almost like being there.
Kim Gordon: The Friday night featured speaker at the SDMT conference at the Mission Valley Sheraton, Kim Gordon is also the subject of this week's CityBeat cover story. And though, at the time of the interview, Gordon hadn't quite nailed down her topic of discussion, her SDMT address provided an interesting combination of rock 'n' roll history, beat poetry and personal anecdotes. "Disruption" was the central theme of her talk, about how Sonic Youth's mission was, more or less, to disrupt, and how those that shake things up are the ones that are worth remembering. She closed with a story about a shambolic performance at the Bridge School benefit show in 1992, helmed by Neil Young, in which Sonic Youth was asked to play an acoustic set, which they never did. It didn't go great, Gordon shouted "Fuck!" and smashed her guitar, and looked over to the side of the stage to see a group of children in wheelchairs watching the performance-art tantrum. Funny, soft-spoken and self-deprecating, Kim Gordon is as cool as ever.
Gayle Skidmore: Seven Grand was buzzing with chatter Friday night, which threatened to drown out the gentler indie folk sounds that Gayle Skidmore and her band were stirring up onstage. Frustrating as it was for a good show to compete with an audience that seemed mostly indifferent to the music, Skidmore still put on a lovely performance, her gorgeous vocals and intricate acoustic plucking making for a wonderful first act of the evening.
Titus Andronicus: When I showed up at The Irenic to catch New Jersey punk rockers Titus Andronicus, they were engaged in a lengthy guitar jam, more Allman Brothers than Replacements. Then things took an even more peculiar turn when, as a special treat (?) for this Southern California audience, the band launched into a cover of Sublime's "April 29, 1992." Against all odds, it actually sort of worked, thanks in large part to Patrick Stickles' ability to yelp his way through anything and make it sound fun. But from there, the energy level ramped up dramatically, as the band plowed through favorites like "A More Perfect Union," "Titus Andronicus Forever," and dramatic closing barn-burner "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ." Slow start or not, this band has the power to turn a chill night into an instant riot.
Two Wolves: The lineup for the showcase at The Casbah on Saturday night seemed a peculiar grouping of artists, slotting the gimmick-laden alternative rock of Gram Rabbit between Kim Gordon's new improvisational art-rock duo Body/Head and local psychedelic groovers Wild Wild Wets. Over in the Atari Lounge, however, concertgoers were practically stepping into a different era thanks to the '50s-style rockabilly and surf-guitar sounds of Two Wolves, which were actually a trio, rounded out by a baritone sax player. Whether or not they made sense in the context of the show, they were definitely fun.
Wild Wild Wets: Wild Wild Wets actually did make more sense on the same lineup as Kim Gordon's new band, not just because of their hazy, disorienting nature, but because both bands include heavy use of projected visuals in their stage show. That said, WWW are a more conventional rock band that relies on hard-hitting grooves and effects-laden melodies. Easily one of the best live acts in town, by the time they get around to releasing a full-length, there's little doubt they'll be at the top of their studio game as well.
Body/Head: Closing out the festival at The Casbah, Kim Gordon's new band Body/Head—comprising just herself and collaborator Bill Nace—shook up the place with a dose of low-key weird. With just two guitars and Gordon's vocals, the duo stripped away the rock bombast and delivered a meditative, dreamy, droning set that at times recalled early no-wave Sonic Youth, but by and large inhabited its own world. Behind them, a slow-motion film scene progressed, with clips of a woman's hair floating like jellyfish tentacles, making for a hypnotic accompaniment to their art-rock drift. Experimental, strange and oddly beautiful, Body/Head ended SDMT not with drama, but with some interesting, engaging surprises.