It's about the jazz, not the clothing

I was stuck. T-shirt or collared shirt? I figured slacks would be too much, so I settled on jeans.

I was on my way to Savanna's Lounge (inside the Red Lion Inn on Arden Way) for its weekly Thursday night jazz concert. It was to be my first trip to a "jazz club." What do people wear to jazz clubs? Visions of smokey rooms filled with sophisticated fans swirled through my head.

I didn't care about being the best-dressed one there - somewhere in the lower 10th percentile is fine with me - I just didn't want to be the worst-dressed one there.

I arrived at school to pick up a friend who would be going with me to see he was wearing the same thing he had been wearing earlier in the day. How anticlimactic.

"This thing is off-campus?" he asked incredulously.

Once we arrived, clothing all but faded from our minds as we took a seat at a tall table glowing with a single candle. The first performer was finishing her set, and the room was all but empty. Maybe it just seemed that way because of the huge open spaces between tables and seats.

The hotel is in the middle of renovations, and a stripe of yellow caution tape hung over a black velvet curtain covering a doorway.

The band was calm and the mood was relaxed, and a couple of visitors wearing blazers nursed sandwiches or drinks. It occurred to me that this would be a good place to bring a date if I wanted to trick her into thinking I had sophisticated, refined tastes.

At 8 p.m., Sacramento State senior Glynis Davies took the stage for a set with the house band. Her voice bounced lightly through her upper and lower registers as she swayed and bounced with the rhythm.

She meekly thanked the crowd between songs as the group of students who had materialized just before her set hung on her every note, heads bobbing subtly.

Her relaxed set lasted about an hour, and included a cameo from fellow jazz studies major Arlyn Anderson on guitar.

Savanna's Lounge will feature Sac State students as guest performers for the next two Thursdays. The relaxed atmosphere would be a good place for a first jazz concert, and seasoned fans will appreciate the skilled performers.

There is no cover charge, and the bar/restaurant is all-ages. Click here for driving directions. For more information, call (916) 922-8041.

Listen to a (low-quality) recording from the concert here:

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Throat singers, pop, punk rock and, oh, apparently music sucks

We're nothing here at The State Hornet if not schizophrenic. Depending on our mood, we'll either celebrate music as a life-affirming force or deride it as a barren wasteland of washed-up pop stars. We just like to keep you on your toes.

This week, our ire was fueled by commercial radio and a famous pop star's sibling. Meanwhile, throat singers and punk rockers reminded us why the sounds of the world leave us in constant marvel.

Solange Knowles' latest album "Sol-Angel and the St. Hadley Dreams," though an improvement over her debut, didn't muster enough to win over our reviewer. Beyonce's sister seems doomed to remain known as "Beyonce sister" despite a couple of assists from Pharell and the singing half of Gnarls Barkley, Cee-lo.

In other news, music sucks. Mainstream music, to be exact. Disagree? Get on over to our Opinion section and let 'em know otherwise.

Elsewhere, a couple live music performances knocked our socks off. First, An on-campus performance by Chirgilchin, a world-renowned troupe of Tuvan throat singers, left audience members entranced by their hypnotic sound. And on the same night, Los Angeles punks X stormed through Sacramento and left their gentrifying fanbase in ruins.

Where else are you going to get a review of Solange and a video of Tuvan throat singers in the same place?

Only The State Hornet, friend.
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Don't call it a comeback!


It seems 2008 is the year of the musical comeback for a few well-known artists, as legends Metallica, AC/DC, Journey and LL Cool J are all releasing new albums. But how do they stack up against the originals?


then - Master Of Puppets (released 1986; performance from 1989)

now - The Day That Never Comes (2008)

Does it stack up? Well, when you take into account their most recent album, 2003's St. Anger (which was a travesty), there's really nowhere to go but up. Surely the band's newer material must be better than that, right? Right?

Death Magnetic, which was released Tuesday, is a definite throwback to Metallica's older material. It's a step in the right direction, but like so many other artists in this genre, after a few tracks all the chugging guitars start melting together and it all starts to sound the same.


then - Faithfully (1983, sung by Steve Perry)

now - Faithfully (2008, sung by Arnel Pineda)

As many drunken karaoke participants have probably found out, Journey is not a band most men can sing along to. It takes a special kind of vocal talent to hit the highs that Steve Perry made famous in the formative years of the band. But by some unexpected aligning of the planets, Journey happened upon 41-year-old Arnel Pineda, who was fronting an '80s cover band in the Philippines when he was called up to the big leagues.

Journey's first new album with Pineda, Revelation, was released in June. In case this is the first you've heard of it, there's not much need to worry. The band hasn't had any recent revelations in its songwriting, so the only thing fresh about the two-disc set is the addition of Pineda's strong vocals. Long-time fans should be delighted by the second disc, a live recording of the band doing justice to Journey's classic back catalog. So, let's review. The only good things about this album are a singer who sounds just like the original singer and covers of the band's old songs. Hmm.


then - Back in Black (released 1980; performance from 1981)

now - Rock 'N' Roll Train (2008)

From the first instant someone hears Rock 'N' Roll Train, that person is going to know it's AC/DC. That person will bob his head, nodding along to the familiar, jagged guitar sound. Then he'll be surprised when tries to sing along and realizes it's not a song from 1980. AC/DC has never really been known for its diversity, but that's OK. AC/DC is a one-trick-pony, but it's a hell of a trick. No matter how many times I hear the raunchy guitars and driving drums in the 1980 album Back in Black, I still nod my head and air-drum along. Now the band seems to be on the path to recreating the attitude from that same album - except many years later. Turns out we'll have to wait until Oct. 16 to find out whether the stylistic rehash is worth Angus Young squeezing back into his school uniform.

LL Cool J

then - Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)

now - Baby ft. The Dream (2008)

Over the years, rap pioneer LL Cool J has produced a steady stream of albums constantly changing and evolving with whatever is popular at the time. His songs almost always seem up-to-the-times and relevant, but they don't stay that way for long. He quickly adapts to the next type of style to dominate the airwaves, all while focusing his lyrics mainly on making women swoon while still maintaining his claim as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). The Greatest What could be debatable, though - LL Cool J has definitely been a force in hip-hop over the years, but at this point in the 40-year-old's career, he may just be the Greatest Chameleon in hip-hop, struggling to blend in with the hottest flavors of the month. The only sticking point is that he earns his title with his 13th studio album, Exit 13 - a radio-friendly, club-ready compilation of songs split between the two major subjects of women and his elder status in the hip-hop community. So while it's true that LL Cool J's "been here for years," Mama told him to knock out any attempts at being profound in his lyrics a long time ago.


What do you think? Are these artists washed up or just getting warmed up? Post your thoughts in a comment below or send them to podcasts@statehornet.com!
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Friday at the Fungarden

I don’t get out to shows as much as I used to. Maybe I’m just getting old, but sometimes it can seem like a challenge to get excited about the prospect. I find myself asking myself, do I really want to slum through a collection of amateurish bands just to hear to some artist I somewhat like?

Honestly, the answer is usually yes. I don’t mind that at all. The real problem is finding a place that will host a steady stream of bands I can get behind.

Enter: Luigi’s Fungarden.

After the unceremonious departure of Fool’s Foundation, Sacramento seemed a little less exciting for me personally. The area lost a great venue for unheard music. Outside of the random house/basement show or a sojourn to the Bay Area, gone was that consistent fix for the immaculate amateurs, the wobble-voiced folk singers, the dirty garage punks, noise provocateurs and other assorted loonies.

So when the Fungarden sprouted up back in late July-August, I was instantly intrigued. The lineup of shows was diverse and tapped oddball locals as well as smaller touring independent artists without the draw to get booked at some of the larger venues in town. Throw in the fact that the Fungarden is tied to Luigi’s Slice, a fine proprietor of pizza pies and beer, and the place seemed too good to be true.

It took a couple false starts, but I made a visit in early August to see Oakland no-goodniks Nobunny and was thoroughly impressed. Not only was this place bringing intriguing artists to town (at a reasonable 5$ a show), but it was also a highly organized operation headed up by KDVS stalwart DJ Rick. There was a sound guy, lighting and even someone taking money at the door. While those things might sound like par for the course for a music venue, these are things one does not take for granted at the typical underground show.

As an added bonus, the venue welcomes that oft-ignored segment of the music loving audience, the underage crowd. The choice puts Fungarden in stark relief to most music joints, given Sacramento’s dearth of all-ages venues. A few pepper the suburbs, but most in the city proper disappear far too quick.

So on Friday, a couple children ran around between sets by locals San Kazakgascar and Portland-based Eternal Tapestry (pictured). Both bands dabbled in mutated forms of the stoned, psychedelic rock formula, doling out guitar harangues and heaviness without blinking an eye. Probably too loud of the little ones, but perfect for most of the audience, who bobbed in approval of both bands. Eternal Tapestry was especially impressive, ending their show with a full on freak-out, tossing implements off stage and breaking guitar strings left and right.

U.S. Girls, the evening’s headliner, was somewhat anti-climatic in comparison, or at least a 180 from the sweaty, masculine charge of her openers.

Though pluralized, U.S. Girls is just one gal, Meghan Remy. Remy's work takes off on a tangent from her work as drummer for defunct noise mavericks Hustler White. As a solo entity, she plumbs the vast gorge between the dreamy ambiance of Arthur Russell and the abrasive performance art of Diamanda Galas.

"Experimental" is the cliched tag bandied here, so, uh, naturally, she covers Kinks and Bruce Springsteen tunes. Indeed, it was her version of Springsteen’s “Prove It All Night” which first caught my ear and dragged it away, kicking and screaming.

In spite of her narcotic delivery, Remy was as loud as either of the bands that proceeded her. Yet the tunes lulled as much as they did irreparable damage to the hearing. She requested complete darkness on the stage, so by the light of a LED keychain, she turned out a seamless string of songs to a crowd of entranced and (a few) perplexed listeners. Yelps, found sounds and a steady wave of distortion.

Since it’s in the heart of midtown, Fungarden will hopefully avoid some of the issues that plagued similar venues. Zoning laws, fire code violations and noise complaints shouldn’t be an issue since the place is wedged between a couple of clubs and is housed by a reputable business.

And interest seems respectable: on Friday, the narrow room boasted at least a good 30 to 40 people at peak wandering in and out. That might not seem like much on a Friday night, take in consideration the brand of entertainment.

While I'd love to see this place packed, right now, the intimacy works fine for me. I'm not a fan of the big crowds. But then again, I'm getting old.

Luigi's Slice and Fungarden is located at 1050 20th Street, just off of J Street in the MARRS building.

U.S. Girls' Introducing on Siltbreeze records.
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