Listings are in the opposite order of appearance: headliner is listed at the top, next is the support band(s), and the last band listed is the opener.
Friday January 20
8:30PM doors -- music at 9:00PM
••• 21 AND OVER
$15 in advance / $20 at the door
Spiral Stairs [co-headlining]
Kelley Stoltz [co-headlining]
-from Cambria, CA
-They say that great art is often mined from great adversity, an adage that indie-rock pioneer Scott Kannberg (aka Spiral Stairs) can attest to all too well — especially given the raft of challenges he was forced to face down and overcome in the quest to assemble his sterling new solo album Medley Attack!!!
These roadblocks weren’t trivial concerns. We’re talking multiple international relocations — the album’s genesis was spread between Mexico, Australia and the U.S.A. — as well as the sudden death of a close friend and bandmate, all while battling the COVID restrictions and attendant uncertainty which engulfed us all during the upending course of the pandemic. And it hadn’t been all smooth sailing before all of that transpired, either.
After more than 30 years in the game, the erstwhile Pavement co-founder had all but decided to pull the curtains on his career after finishing the European jaunt promoting his acclaimed 2019 album We Wanna Be Hyp-No-Tized, a tour which had included a string of shows opening for Americana-slash-rock legends Wilco across that continent and into Scandinavia.
“I did my last shows in London in 2019,” Kannberg explains. “And I had this great show and kinda thought to myself, ‘I don’t really want to play again after this. This is great, this is a good way to end.’ ”
But after returning to his then-adopted hometown of Merida, Mexico on that high, turning off the tap of musical inspiration proved easier said than done. Songs started coming thick and fast, and it became quickly apparent that a farewell statement was in order — a swan-song album, one which would take the take the tally of his post-Pavement output to six LPs (the initial two as Preston School Of Industry and the next four under his long-held Spiral Stairs pseudonym).
Kannberg — still a music fan first and foremost — has long been inspired by bands such as Roxy Music and Echo & The Bunnymen as much as the usual suspects like The Clean and The Fall, and on Medley Attack!!! this convergence of worlds has resulted in some of the best songs of his storied career, rife with catchy melodies, fascinating arrangements plus an abundance of both hooks and ideas which make them indelible listens.
These songs both intrigue and delight as they burrow into your consciousness, with plenty of intricacies and embellishments in the margins that slowly unveil themselves with repeated spins. Kannberg has written more than his fair share of terrific songs over the journey, both for Pavement and his solo pursuits, and they’ve all been leading to this triumph.
Now back in the States in anticipation of Pavement’s 2022 reunion — also delayed repeatedly by the pandemic — even the singer himself sees Medley Attack!!! as the peak of his own artistic career:
“It’s definitely been the weirdest and the hardest record to make, but I think I like it the best, really. I think they’re my best lyrics — they’re pretty dark, but they’re pretty honest and they tell stories a little more than in the past. And originally it was really going to be a stripped-down swan-song record — I really didn’t want to get a bunch of people involved — but I ended up getting so many of my closest friends and people I admire to help and I couldn’t be prouder of the results. It’s kind of made me want to make more records!”
-from San Francisco, CA
-The Stylist, Kelley Stoltz’s seventeenth album finds him following up the Third Man Records reissue of his 2001 Antique Glow with a collection of ten new songs. The album was recorded early in 2021, and has been languishing in the vinyl pressing log jam ever since—luckily Stoltz writes timeless songs, the kind that might’ve appeared on the fringes of the late ’60s or mid-’80s.
Acoustic guitars, synthesizers, drum machines and strong melodies abound. As with his other classic records Below The Branches, Double Exposure and Ah! (etc), Stoltz plays most of the instruments himself and records in his home studio in San Francisco. Kelley says, “I chose the title The Stylist because musically I guess that’s what I am... because of the way I write, at my leisure over a period of months at home, I kinda flit around between styles. It’s all in the pop-rock vein, but there’s usually a wide range of sounds and inspiration from song to song. It sort of fits together in a mix tape kind of way, rather than an exploration of one particular mood. That’s always been the case with my albums.”
Thankfully, after twenty-three years the beat goes on... and no matter what style Stoltz chooses, The Stylist is another platter of tuneful delight in the impressive catalog of one of the great songwriters of the time.
-from Oakland, CA
- If every decade of life comes with its own existential crisis, the one that hits in your mid-30s might be the most subtly soul-crushing of all. Too young to quit your good time, too old to change course completely without it being weird, and slowly becoming boxed in by constant societal pressure to “do something with your life,” it’s no wonder many people start to quietly freak out.
This is the strange period Oakland band Blues Lawyer take on with third full-length All in Good Time, a record of concise pop-rock songs parsing out what it means to be an adult on your own terms in a world that wants to put every facet of your existence on the clock. “I have always been really attracted to the way we measure time, especially in relationship to our concepts of what we are supposed to have achieved,” says Blues Lawyer guitarist and vocalist Rob I. Miller. “There’s a lot of different moments on the record where we're interrogating this whole value system that comes along with it—determining my worth because of where I'm at in my life in relation to my age, in my love life, in my career. These are all marketplaces where you can tell that you're being assessed in some way.”
“I wanna stop talking about the way things used to be,” sings Miller on buzzy opening track “Chance Encounters,” a song that sets the tone for what’s to come. “I’m all about a change in scenery.” Throughout All In Good Time, Blues Lawyer are similarly refusing to get mired in nostalgia, examining the pieces of their past lives only in service of forging a new identity for themselves unencumbered by the pressures that surround them as musicians and human beings in the year 2022.
All In Good Time is not only a record about being in personal transition, it’s also something of a professionally transitional record. Blues Lawyer was started in 2017 as an outlet for Miller and drummer Elyse Schrock to write pop songs outside of the strictures of their more formal post-punk groups, and that attitude extended to the more casual way they approached their first two records (2018’s Guess Work and 2019’s Something Different.) Since then, Blues Lawyer has become both musicians’ main group and “graduated from being a side project band, a sort of throwaway project, to actually being a legitimate band,” says Miller.
A new outlook asks for a new sound, and All in Good Time finds Blues Lawyer shaking off the shackles of dry cleaned jangle pop for an alternative rock approach more indebted to the melodic melancholy of the Lemonheads and Teenage Fanclub as filtered through the ragged sound of early Slumberland Records releases than the Flying Nun bands to whom they used to draw such loving comparisons. It is, Miller and Schrock agree, the first record that Blues Laywer approached with intentionality, each member (bassist Alejandra Alcala and guitarist Ellen Matthews) having spent their time in pandemic-enforced isolation working on their parts and bringing fully-formed ideas to the band when they could practice. It made for a positive and productive working experience reflected in how tightly constructed these songs are, their messages as quick and purposeful as the hooks are sharp.
All in Good Time is possibly the most congenial record Blues Lawyer has ever made, but it’s certainly their most unironically rock record. The addition of Matthews (of Oakland punk band Nopes) has kicked the band’s sound into more unabashedly riff-centric territory, bringing a kind of controlled wildness to pop songs that might otherwise want to figuratively shamble along. It’s Matthews who closes out the album on “Tangled Mess” with a guitar solo recorded in one take that the band initially intended to fade out on before deciding it was too great to cut.
All In Good Time is also notable for being the first Blues Lawyer record for which Schrock wrote her own songs. Her earnest contributions balance out Miller’s more sardonic approach—on the wistful “Scenic Route,” Schrock shakes herself out of a reconciliatory fantasy with the rueful refrain: “nevermind, that never happens.” But Schrock is also the band’s optimist and it is she who most reflects the record’s hopeful title, lightly brushing off the idea that she’s run out of time to become who she’s meant to be on the Heavenly-esque “Late Bloomer.” “A late bloom is worth the wait,” she sings brightly.
And so it is on All In Good Time. Having begun as a lark with a sound sourced from records loved in their twenties, this record is Blues Lawyer growing more comfortable with themselves as a “legitimate band,” ready to take a risk and stake a meaningful claim in a world that rewards insincerity. Not to say there won’t always be some youthful regret in the mix. “If I’d known the band would’ve lasted this long, I would’ve picked a different name,” jokes Schrock. - Mariana Timony