Volume 2-2012



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THIS WEEK'S RAR TUNES:  Listen by clicking on the links or covers below.

Yours truly is offering up a little Jazz-Pop confection, with all admiration for the ancient Greeks, who knew a thing or two about winging it philosophically. Use this link or click on poor Democritus below to hear "A Simple Explanation".

Oh perversity at the county fair! I'm sure involvement with the Future Farmers of America has ruined more than a few young boys, what with all the glamour and all, and the exposure to breeding stock... Use this link or click on the good people below to hear another in a nauseating string of RAR originals - "(You Do) That Thing That Sets Me Free".

Yours truly has been all about myself of late, which is why I am behind on record reviews and most everything else, but I do have a new batch of recordings, starting with "Betty from Memphis", a tribute to stable types such as my actual Aunt Betty (Olita) in Memphis (not shown here), as well as to all those weary road warriors out there playing the soundtracks to everybody else's movies.

Call it "creative destruction", like Mitt Romney does. "Until Sam Walty's Dead" is a cowboy yarn about a villain - personified by the late and wonderful Warren Oates (below) - who has left an unfortunate legacy for himself (see chorus...). Walty is my metaphor for early 21st Century predatory capitalism, a force that must be dealt with so that honest souls can carry on.

Glory be unto Angie Omaha, whoever she is, pictured below on the cover to my next- generation version of "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes",  introduced several years back as a tune about "the dark side of loving a dark soul". Our girl Angie may not let me exploit her in this way for long, but as long as she does isn't she perfect? I mean, for this song?

"Just Eleven Minutes"  comes from a few years back, and from the same box as "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes", but the versions provided below come much closer to my ambitions for this story of a booze-fueled cuckold speeding toward a crime of passion and revenge. The song is almost entirely played around the single chord of E, with occasional transitions through A-B, for those keeping score. The "psycho" version was the original inspiration, but the Nashville chicken-pickin' version has some nice qualities. Unfortunately it also shows that as a guitar player I am no Randy Barker, though I hope to be when I grow up. (Randy Barker played with Michael Woody and the Too High Band, which in the end gave him way too little exposure, but those who heard him play remember it even 30 years later as something special.)




(Click here)

New Releases on RARadio: "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"








Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects





Shawn Harris 
of The Matches




New $12 Million Home

41-Year Old Freight & Salvage Starts Fresh

Throughout its entire four-decade existence, Berkeley's legendary Freight & Salvage acoustic music venue has been a small, intimate setting that has been a springboard for some of the world's top music talent. As San Francisco Chronicle music writer Joel Selvin reports, "Alison Krauss played there when she was still in high school. Nickel Creek appeared at the club when its members were all still teens. Linda Ronstadt joined her old pals Carol McComb and Kathy Larisch a few years ago. Over the years, everybody in the acoustic music world has come to know Berkeley's Freight & Salvage and, although the club was famous for its hospitality, it could lack for something in creature comforts for performers." That list of well-known talent has included: Ralph Stanley, Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin, Alasdair Fraser, Dan Bern, Ricky Skaggs, Cheryl Wheeler, Odetta, R. Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders, Ani DiFranco, Brownie McGhee, Mike Marshall, Savoy-Doucet, Cajun Band, David Lindley, Utah Phillips, Kate Wolf, Norton Buffalo, David Grisman, Kaki King, Vienna, Teng, Bill Kirchen, Nickel Creek, Alison Krauss, Edgar Meyers and Mike Marshall, Tin Hat Trio, Greg Brown, Country Joe McDonald, and many more. Top level talent will be a great deal more comfortable now that a new Freight & Salvage has opened at 2020 Addison in Berkeley, just up the street from the original location. The old building is shown above left, while an artists rendering more or less depicts what the new club looks like at its new location at 2020 Addison.


Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle Senior Pop Music Correspondent, wrote the following piece on the new location of the Freight & Salvage, which for the past 41 years has been one of Berkeley, California's and the nation's top venues for acoustic music.

The aged, reclaimed wood that covers the walls of the room comes from the old garage originally in the space, lending the room the look of a weathered barn, the perfect note to strike for the magnificent new home of Freight & Salvage, the 41-year-old acoustic music emporium set to open its new $12 million headquarters next week in Berkeley.

The new Freight will take its place, across the street from the Berkeley Repertory Theater in the culture gulch in downtown Berkeley, as a major arts institution, riding a rising tide of interest in acoustic music driven in part by the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival presented by financier and aficionado Warren Hellman, who also happens to be chairman of the Freight's fundraising campaign and a keystone donor himself. "There's a much broader audience, not a mass-market audience, but a much broader audience than we've been getting at 1111 Addison," said Steve Baker, a former attorney who has been running the Freight since 1983.

Go to to read Joel Selvin's article.




Nuts for the Adventure...

Make that Super Adventure Club

Michael Winger, left, identifies himself as "Bass, Keyboard, Vocals, B Movie Actor" (read more about him at, while Jake Wood, right, identifies himself as "Drums, Keyboard, Vocals, Failed Comedian" (read more at Together they are the Super Adventure Club and, for RAR's money (as if) one of the most entertaining duos anywhere on the planet. If you stop reading now and click here, you will go to the duo's MySpace site where you can listen to some of the silliest stuff you are likely to hear this month. Not sure why I picked "this month," other than that these dudes may top themselves next. I absolutely love what they do, as exemplified by their goofy tribute "Former Ladies of the Cold War" (i.e., "Ukranian girls, Estonian girls, Lithuanian girls, Latvian girls...I like to see them on the see which one I maybe gets..."). It is the rare act that makes fun of its audience at all, and even rarer to find one that does it with such respect. They are smart and they assume you are too.

Visit the Super Adventure Club MySpace for show dates.



Damon & the Heathens are a six-piece punk soul band from Oakland, California. "We combine the sounds of New Orleans Brass Bands with funk, jazz, Detroit garage rock, Motown and the styles of Tom Waits and Morphine to create what we call horn-fueled Oakland grit."

(From their MySpace) - Converting an abandoned meat locker into a rehearsal space, Damon and the Heathens hashed out their gritty sound over many late nights. Drawing from New Orleans Brass Bands and Detroit garage rock, they formed a horn-fueled soul punk sound all their own. They soon began hitting stages and taking names. Known for a raucous live show and a tight sound, the Heathens came into their own. The only thing holding them back is their bar tab. 

Michael S Grant, Silicon Valley Metro, writes - "This six-piece punk-band-with-a-horn section out of Oakland sounds like a modern-day interpretation of Cab Calloway and early Tom Waits, complete with call-and-response bridges and tales of a seedy urban underbelly and the crimes committed, often by the narrator, therein. They're also hip to the funky blues of, say, the Chicago Transit Authority, but much like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones did with Ska, Damon and the Heathens mix it up with thrashes of punk rock." 





Go to Damon & the Heathen's MySpace page to hear tracks.



HEATHENS: Damon Gallagher (vocals, piano, pocket trumpet), Chris Larson (baritone sax, cello), Tom Kyrimis ( trombone), Gary Moskowitz (trumpet), Kenny Annis (upright and electric bass), and Andrew Ryan (drums)



FIKIRA is a seven-piece Afro-jazz band that is the inspiration of Oakland percussionist, composer and singer Fiaindratovo Manavihare (pictured right), known as "Mimy." Mimy is a native of Madagascar who plays music inspired by traditional Atandrov culture from the southern reaches of the island nation. The band specializes in mixing jazz harmonies with improvisation, all within the traditional framework.

Mimy learned his craft playing in traditional bands in his home country, but a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, from which he received a bachelors in performance art in 2003, helped establish him stateside. He was honored with the Roy Haynes Award from Zildiian Company, which honors innovation in jazz. (Haynes, who is 82 years old and still performing, is one of the most recorded drummers in jazz history, having worked with Gary Burton, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Henry Grimes, Christian McBride, Jackie McLean, Pat Metheny, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, Horace Tapscott and many others).

While bandleader Mimy resides in Oakland, the majority of Fikira's band members are based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mimy returns to Madagascar to work with other native musicians, including trio work  with Nicolas Vatomanaga (sax) and Ghomi (piano).




Fikira released their debut CD BEKO in 2007. Go to Fikira's MySpace page to hear tracks.


There are several videos available on Mimy's home page and on Fikira's MySpace.

FIKIRA: Manavihare, Fiaindratovo (mimy): leader, voc, perc, arr, comp/ Uziel Colon: Piano, arr, comp/ Joe Albano: Saxo/ Chris Gagne: Trombone/ Matt Owens: trumpet/ Sebastien Jasinski: Bass (on Beko mp3) Daniel Day: Bass (live performances and recording) Freddie Burgos: Drums./ George: the Cute Cat./



THE MATCHES, originally known as "The Locals", were formed in 1997 by Justin San Souci, Matt Whalen, Matt Esposito, and Shawn Harris. At the time, all four were in high school at Bishop O'Dowd. Matt Esposito then left the band (sometime between 2000 and 2002) to enroll in the US Naval Academy, and was replaced by Jon Devoto as a guitarist. In those early years, the band played what could be characterized as ska-influenced punk, creating songs like "People on the Block", "Studio 5866", and others. These songs can now be found in The Matches' Song Vault.

Gradually, their style started shifting towards alternative rock. Their influences included fellow East Bay punk/pop-punk bands like Green Day and Rancid, as well as more mainstream bands and musicians like Elvis Costello, David Bowie, The Who and Joe Jackson. The name "The Locals" soon led to copyright infringement complications when Yvonne Doll, the frontwoman for the Chicago indie rock band also called "The Locals", contacted the band and asked that they change their name.

The band gained notoriety for "commo-promo", or commotion promotion, in which they would bring their acoustic guitars and play outside of various Bay Area venues as concerts for larger acts were letting out. In conjunction with Oakland's (now defunct) iMusicast venue, the band started producing their own shows called L3 (Live, Loud & Local), which became a launchpad for many other Bay Area bands, as well as attracting such headlining acts as Link 80, Sugarcult, and Zebrahead.

Eventually, under the new name "The Matches", they self-released their debut album, E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals (this was assumed as an effort to publicly resent Yvonne Doll while avoiding libel). Then soon after landed a record deal on Brett Gurewitz's Epitaph Records, although they had already previously released the album E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals without a recording contract, Epitaph Records re-released it. The version released by Epitaph lacks the song "Superman", but adds the songs "Borderline Creep" and "More Than Local Boys", instead. As well as slight changes to lyrics on "The Jack Slap Cheer", and the last untitled track (often referred to as "Track 11", "Abraham's Song", or "Scratched Out"). "Audio Blood" was featured in the video game Burnout 3: Takedown.

They have shared the stage with likes of Lit, Yellowcard, Matchbook Romance, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Starting Line, MXPX, Motion City Soundtrack, +44 and many others, as well as playing on the Vans Warped Tour. The Matches have quickly made a name for themselves in the pop punk scenes throughout the United States and Europe.The band has also worked with rapper MC Lars on the song "Hot Topic is Not Punk Rock", as well as Zebrahead and the A.K.A's

The Matches' second album, Decomposer, was released on September 12, 2006. The album features work by nine producers, including Tim Armstrong, Nick Hexum, Mark Hoppus, and John Feldmann, among other punk rock mainstays. The albums also marks a change to more experimental alternative rock sound, as opposed to the pop punk sound of their first album. The Matches were on the Vans Warped Tour 2007 supporting the album. The Matches will be playing the entire AP tour 2008.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article on March 26 entitled "A Svengali tends the Matches' flame," which detailed the impact that manager Miles Hurwitz (right) has had on the band. The 53-year old Hurwitz, 30 years the senior of the boys in The Matches, is a former Bay Area Music (BAM) Magazine writer and a co-founder of MicroTimes, which has since been sold. Hurwitz directs every aspect of The Match's career, even co-writing all of its songs with Shawn Harris (red socks in the photo above), the group's prime driver.  Of the boys, who Hurwitz was turned onto by his 8-year old son while the band members were still in high school, says of The Match - "I saw a spark - talent, vocal charm, hook-tinged material, musical accomplishment and much potential..." He has now been their manager for eight years.


The Matches will be one of the many bands who will be playing on the Soundwave tour in Australia late February and early march in 2008.-Wikipedia


BELOW: The Matches in production of the "Salty Eyes" music video, which can be seen on YouTube (click here).





The Matches released Decomposer (left) in 2006, and this March released A Band in Hope. Tracks can be heard at their MySpace site




Cute, aren't they? Don't be deceived, PANDA(s) bite just a little. (This self-description from their MySpace page - "Who is Panda? Bla Waka Chubaka Mutha Fucka Rocka music. Is what we play. Yes, Rocka music love ta use it abuse it and con-muthafuckin-fuse it wit' dat Jazz slash Blues shit. Oooo Shit. That's that fuckiin goood shit.") They also play some of the most infectious tunes you will hear coming out of the Bay Area.

Panda is an Oakland band that is advanced way beyond their years. Petros (guitar/vocals), Jonny (guitar/vocals), Joey (piano/organ), Garet (bass) and Louie (drums) are gifted players, their vocals are top-knotch pop, and their songs are endlessly clever.

Speaking as a guy who often decries what sounds to me like a lack of solid musical grounding in young bands, Panda is the solid exception. Their version of "Walkin' In A Winter Wonderland" pays homage to the classic tune, along with The Beatles, any number of punk units, and also the jazz masters who have gone before. Their tune "Chinatown" is one of the finest bits of radio friendly hit-sounding pop rock I've heard in a long while.

Oakland's Panda may need to rethink their cuddly name, if they manage their way on to the international scene, where two other big bands from Australia and Mexico have already laid claim to the name. Something tells me they'll work it out, because these are talented boys. - RAR










Panda has tracks that can be heard at their MySpace site















Bart Davenport, the vocalist of HONEYCUT, has been prominent on the San Francisco music scene since the 1990s, known for fronting bands "The Loved Ones" and "The Kinetics." He and his present band are all associated with Berkeley's Quannum Project, a web-based recording/production company and label.

Davenport is a Berkeley native, whose performance flair resides somewhere in the sensitive regions between Mick Jagger and Bryan Ferry, and he is a great "face" for the first track ("Shadows") on the KFOG Local Scene 4 CD; in fact, as a representative of the Bay Area. He is an appealing guy. As a vocalist he is a pro along the lines of Train's Pat Monahan, though both are odd register guys.

Whatever, Davenport's range is right for Paris-born composer RV Salters, who before moving to Berkeley did session work for Nigerian beatmaster Femi Kuti and French hip-hop star DJ Mehdi (who has a tremendously entertaining video on Youtube for his tune "I Am Somebody" - click here). Salters moved to Berkeley in 1999 and started working with Quannum, on the LPs of their stable of artists (Blackalicious, Lifesavas, Maroons) and on his own solo project General Elektriks (Cliquety Kliqk), which Quannum released  in 2005. 

In 2003 Salters was brought together with Davenport and Santa Barbara drummer Tony Sevener, a veteran of mid-90s alt-rock group Summercamp. He has become a drum programmer in recent years and gained attention for doing nifty live work in live performances supporting Salters' solo LP. 

The stew of these three musical contributors comes across as a form of modern funk. The KFOG selection "Shadows" is a way-competent, if somewhat pedestrian, confection that vocally sounds like L.A.'s Jane Doe's on stimulants. Davenport seems to share Doe's singer Andy Tubman's penchant for acid drop inflections in his nuances.

ABOVE: Bart Davenport (left) and RV Salters of Honeycut. The band has an ardent group of supporters, some of whom liken their electronica to that of Gnarls Barkley.


Honeycut MP3s can be heard at their MySpace site.





Honeycut's 2006 LP The Day I Turned to Glass is available an Amazon, at The Giant Peach site, and through Quannam, among other outlets.


WATCH: "TOUGH KID" teaser video

Honeycut's teaser video for Tough Kid











Directed by Arno Salters.

WATCH: "SHADOWS" performed



Finding Mercury is the alternative rock synthesis of four musicians. Their influences range from mainlanders like Switchfoot to Brit-Rock phenoms like Cold Play, Muse, and Delirious. FM's music is highly electric, emotionally profound, and full of hooks. 

Finding Mercury makes a matchless contribution to their genre because of their unique yet complementary backgrounds in rock, pop/punk, fusion, classical and funk. When someone said, "Finding Mercury is a musical band," it was in appreciation of the artists' individual contributions to the group sound. 

Finding Mercury is currently packing its schedule with promotional events to get their music out to the people. For starters, Finding Mercury is aggressively touring Northern California where they have been building a local fan base from Santa Rosa to San Francisco to Sacramento and Reno. One can find this tight-knit band playing with internationally acclaimed groups such as Lava/Atlantic Records artist Skillet, Word Records artist Building 429 and with local rising stars - An Opiate for Angels. Additionally, FM's promotional work includes the release of first, a self titled EP in May of '05 with L.A. producers--Chris Julian (Billy Idol, Queen Latifah) and Robert Vaughn (Mint and Sister Gypsy) and then, the release of their Debut Album titled Vehicle with Transitmusic's Ken Abellon; this new album is an inspiring example for listeners of their prolific sound. 

Finding Mercury vowed to let nothing divert energy from their driving passion to create live music that blows unsullied creativity back into the mind of each listener. Jesse Garcia of Building 429 says, "After sharing the stage with these guys, I was blown away by the many colorings in the music and it translates amazingly well on their new album Vehicle." 

Finding Mercury is a must see live performance. Their music exudes vulnerability while being an emotional and electric experience for all!


Reprinted from April 2008 edition Artist News page

Clicking on the above graphic should take you to the SFSU site for donations. The site is slow to load and if you have trouble try pasting into your browser.
Arlic Dromgoole's MySpace site is not linked to the above graphic. Paste into your browser to reach his MySpace site.





Great Photographs of Jackie Greene and Lucas Ohio Pattie can be seen at


Follow this link: or click on the Jon Claxton logo right.





COUP has been around since the 1990s and it is not going away - at least not for voters in The Bay Area Guardian's "Best of The Bay 2006 Readers Poll," who voted the band their favorite hip-hop act.

Coup, which is a radically anti-capitalism/pro-communism rap duo from Oakland, gained notoriety in 2001 when a CD cover they prepared for their Party Music release just prior to the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center seemed to presage the actual event. The cover was quickly replaced with something less incendiary, and much to the surprise of many Coup was not cast into commercial purgatory, but rather was recognized for their talents. Tracks such as "5 Million Ways to Kill A C.E.O." stood in stark temperamental contrast to almost everything else marketed during America's period of post 9-11 trauma. The Coup remained righteous and adamant; things aren't right in the U.S., some people are getting tougher breaks than others, and others are profiting way too much.

Party Music was, in itself, a coup. It's list of awards is extraordinary:

"Best Hip Hop Artist" - Rolling Stone

"Top 40 Albums of The Year" - Rolling Stone

"#14 Album of the Year" - Spin

"#1 Album of the Year" - Washington Post

"Top Albums of the Year"- Los Angeles Times

"#1 Album of the Year" - Time Out New York

"#1 Album of the Year" - San Francisco Chronicle

"The Year In Pop, 3 out of 4 Critics Choices" - Village Voice

"Best Albums" - Denver Post

"#2 Album of the Year" - Philadelphia Inquirer

"#25 Greatest Album of 2001" -- Blender

The album was re-released by Epitaph Records in 2004.


Producer Boots Riley, from East Oakland's "Funktown" neighborhood, put together Coup and was later joined by Pam the Funkstress, who was the rare female star among the competitive Bay Area turntable scene. Coup's brand of rap/funk has been compared to "dirty mind" era Prince.

As radical as they may be politically, Boots Riley has been feted by some of the most noteworthy civil rights and union groups in the country, and there is a long list of press releases on the Coup's site telling of honors such as the AFL-CIO's Arts and Activism Award. Boots is active on the lecture circuit, speaking out constantly for universal health care, minimum wage reform, and proper police practices.


Pam the Funkstress is one of the great deejay stories in the Bay Area. She was featured in a recent San Francisco Chronicle story on her surviving and dominating in the competitive Bay Area turntable culture. You can check out some of her stuff at her MySpace site at There is more information on her at and an article about her at the Shout Magazine site at





Coup MP3s can be heard from their myspace site at

The Coup released Pick A Bigger Weapon in 2006, and then toured in support of the album. The album featured  a stellar band of Audioslave's Tom Morello, Dwayne Wiggins, and veterans of Parliament-Funkadelic, the Gap Band, Toni! Tony! Toné!, Jesse Johnson, and Frankie Beverly and Maze.


Artist Live-Work Studio Space

Vulcan Hosts Arts and Performance

Oakland, California - About 25 years ago, arts-supportive San Francisco became a place too pricey for most artists to afford, and so there was a great diaspora from the warehouse and loft communities of the South of Market (SOMA) area clear down to Hunter's Point. Loft dwellers looked for less expensive digs in the East Bay and found them in the Oakland warehouse district that threads along the Nimitz Freeway northeast of Alameda Island. Developers began buying up old industrial properties and converting them into funky apartment and loft units, and since then the "warehouse scene" in Oakland has become a vital part of the Bay Area's creative community, providing production, performance and exhibit space for fine artists, dance groups, film makers, musicians, and performance artists.

One such place is Vulcan Studios, at 4401 San Leandro Street in Oakland, which was developed as live-work studios in 1986. Sixty units cluster around a series of open-air courtyards which function as exhibit space, garden patch and community meeting ground. This 103,000 square foot project boasts the "Vulcan Cafe." A Bay Area real estate site describes Vulcan Studios this way: "This is one of the several somewhat legendary warehouse studios in Fruitvale. Most residents are professional artists, and there is a community group, SOFA, the South Of Fruitvale Artists, which puts on monthly gallery shows and parties. Many of Oakland's most significant artists have live/work studios in the neighborhood."



The Lovemakers scored "Best Indie Band" in the Bay Area Guardian's "Best of The Bay 2006 Readers Poll." The electronica duo are Scott Blonde and Lisa Light, whose story is that they were kicked out of a rock band for making out during practice." So, "the Lovemakers" was conceived.

The Lovemakers first appearances were on the underground Oakland warehouse music scene. (The San Francisco Links this edition seem all about alternative music venues. See the Drew Pearson "House Concerts" feature below.- RAR). They mix the violin, bass and vocal talents of the Stanford-educated Ms. Light (Marine Biology). Her resume includes time spent as a "circus violinist," which sounds dangerous. I suppose after that, playing Oakland warehouses must've seemed nothing. She and singer-guitarist Scott, described on their site as a "Vermont-raised pop prodigy," found something really powerful. It wasn't their mutual attraction, which was short-lived, but instead was their musical connection. One is really tempted to say The Lovemakers make great fucking music! But that's not the RARWRITER way.

Working with drummer Ken Hard - is that real? - and keyboard/guitarist Brandon Arnovick (Lovage, Head Automatica), Blonde-Light are making an appealing confection of "jangle technotica" that amply demonstrates the strength of the two lead voices. This stuff is fresh and getting noticed. Their tune "Prepare For the Fight," which you can hear on their MySpace site, was endorsed by Blender Magazine as a top download. Their 2005 album Times of Romance made SF progressive rock station Live 105's list of favorite records.

The Lovemakers have a sound, Lisa Light's stuff mostly, that brings to mind the Swedish rock acts that have swept onto the east coast, particularly in recent years. (There will be a feature on this in an upcoming edition of the Links on RARWRITER.) ABBA even comes to mind, but this is often more Cardigans-like. Scott Blonde's stuff sounds a bit to me like Thompson Twins. It is all dance pop, sometimes funky ("Shake That Ass"), and often sexy; maybe a little juvenile.

ABOVE: Scott Blonde and Lisa Light performing

Scott Blonde is an amazing singer, particularly adept at falsetto, and Lisa fairly oozes.









The Lovemakers MP3s can be heard at their myspace site at  .




Kudos to MALDROID, the Oakland-based band (which Aaron Axelson, music director of San Francisco radio station Live 105, calls "New Wave") that has played only one gig but used YouTube to create industry buzz.

Art school dropout Ryan Divine (pictured left) hand drew panels for a music video some have likened to the '80s band a-ha's breakthrough MTV video for their tune "Take On Me." Before he even completed the arduous process, which he had spent months developing, Divine noticed a competition on YouTube for independent band videos and submitted his unfinished work. He won! And within a short time the winning entry had racked up over one-half million views, prompting an invitation to appear on "Good Morning America," not to perform but to talk about their use of the popular video hosting service to launch a music career. That, to date, is Maldroid's story, summed up in the Chronicle headline "Oakland Band Shows How To Make It In YouTube Age." The band has followed up their competition winner with two more low budget videos.

The band's song "He Said, She Said," the subject of their first video, has made a few appearances on the Live 105 playlist and MD Axelson reports that the station has fielded calls from "labels" who are interested in Divine and company.


ABOVE: From the Maldoid website, the band's debut performance, in December 2006 at Blake's in Berkeley. Is it just me or do the ties and sportcoats (untucked shirts and grubby facial growth aside) make them look a little like a modern church band? They retooled their look for a subsequent post-Mac World show in San Francisco at the Rickshaw Stop. Are they a YouTube fluke or an actually talented band? Time will tell, and to date time has moved rather briskly for these guys.


Maldroid MP3s can be heard from their myspace site at


Apologies to the talented Mr. Divine - this graphic doesn't show well here - but he has created this marvelously whimsical animated logo for Maldroid, a sort of malfunctioning robot coat of arms. Divine's future may well lie with his fine arts endeavors, which seem to me to be somewhat ahead of his development as a songwriter, but be your own judge.

MALDROID IS...Ryan Divine - Vocals, Johnny Genius - Guitar, Mike O'Million - Drums, Todd Brown - Guitar, Sean "The Talented Mr." Shippley - Bass, Prince J - Keys and Sample, and AJ Riot - Keytar and Synths.

RAR NOTE: Maldroid the Internet phenomenon is truly special, but is Maldroid the band any good? Ryan Divine's vocals put me to mind of those of the Fairbrass brothers (Right Said Fred), which are kitschy, funny, partially annoying. Divine and Genius are quoted as saying "He Said, She Said" is their one "great" song, but that strikes me as gross hyperbole and not especially promising. Still, talent in the general sense has put this band on the map quickly and momentum does tend to procreate. Whatever, hats off to some creative guys.


You can go to to view the video that, to this point, is Maldroid's career.



SUBIMAGE, consisting primarily of Chris Campbell - or Chris C as he is known these days - has been around the San Francisco club music scene for several years. He showed up first in 2003, with the release of party music CD etoc. It featured a techno-beat sound that put some to mind of Erasure, or even Depoche Mode. In 2004, Chris issued a second CD, Fuitpacifist, which musically continued in the vein of his freshman release, and Subimage - the term may refer to options available in a multi-resolution image, or in radio waves - developed a small core following of techno enthusiasts.

Subimage played locally and toured a bit nationally, but the band was way behind a wave that crested years earlier, and Chris C's band eventually ran out of steam and lost some players. 

Last year the band was reformed with the addition of bassist Greg M, drummer Joe M (no relation), and the irrepressible Ruba F. Tuesday, previously guitarist for the The Zodiac Killers, Dead Vanity and Barbee Killed Kenn. Ruba's addition to the band seemed to herald a new democracy in the unit's creative direction that has clearly changed the sound of the band. (Click here to read Ruba's own description of her rock band experience to date, including the work with Subimage.) The new Subimage has become more of a geek-rock band with a sound and approach falling somewhere between that of They Might Be Giants and the Violent Femmes. There is a little Talking Heads in there, too, but Chris Campbell's synth sounds don't take this in the direction of funk so much as experimental garage rock dominated by the sound of Ruba's guitars. 

Chris and Ruba's soundscapes often shadow one another as musical counter-programming, Ruba leaning into the bottom end power chords, as seems her natural inclination, and showing surprising facility with pop-funk textures, which she adds with vigor. Chris works over the top of this sound chassis with clever little musical statements that sometimes bring to mind the canoodling of Radiohead. 

Ruba F. takes an upfront role on the band's tune "Maple Lane," available for listening from the Subimage MySpace site. That song represents quite a  

Subimage playing San Francisco's Red Devil Lounge in December 2006.

departure from the Chris C tracks. Under Ruba's firm control, the new Subimage seems to become remarkably more polished. Ruba is not a power singer by any stretch, but she's smooth and pleasing to the ear; certainly a far cry from Chris C's antic intonating. 

Chris and Ruba are making some interesting sounds, each bringing strengths to the collaboration. When you hear a song that takes a tack different from the band's previous inclinations, you wonder if its a bridge to a new sound, or a Dead End. It will be interesting to see if this clash of music philosophies has legs.


Subimage released etoc (above) in 2003 and Fruitpacifist (right) in 2004. In 2006 they released Bernal Hill (below).






Subimage MP3s can be heard at 

LEFT: Ruba F. ABOVE: Bernal Hill CD cover. RIGHT: Chris Campbell.


From Dave's myspace site - "I sing and play guitar. I've got my own band. We play rock'n'roll music. We like melody. We like cool lyrics. We like chord progressions that make a chill run up your spine. We like riffs. We like solos. We like you, so check out our songs. Also, I'm lucky enough to play guitar in one of my favorite bands, TESLA."

Wow. I think that's some cool writing, which I'm sure Dave did himself. I love the short form humility leading to the big-name kicker. TESLA, if you haven't heard, is a metal oriented blues-rock band that originated in Sacramento in mid-'80s and had a string of hits ("Signs" (1990) is the best-known of Tesla's hits, which also includes "Gettin' Better", "Modern Day Cowboy", the Ph.D. cover "Little Suzi", "Edison's Medicine" and "Love Song"..."Love Song" still receives much airplay on rock stations..."-Wikipedia.) Dave replaced the band's original guitarist Tommy Skeoch. How that happened is a myspace story; see the sidebar "Living The Dream..." (right), and the quote below.

Dave in his own words (from email) - "Before I started my own band and singing lead, I played guitar in The Servants.  We played classic style hard rock originals around the Bay Area.  Put out two self-released CDs that did pretty well.  After I left that band, I decided to start my own thing, which I’ve been doing since.  We’ve done lots of local shows as well as doing an East Coast tour.  Right now we’re working on songs for a new CD to be released in the new year.  

"The SF Bay Area doesn’t have the best live music scene, so you’ve really gotta have a great recording that people can hear first to get ‘em to the shows.  Very few people go out to shows unless they know the band or already like them.  From what I’ve heard, it was quite the opposite in the eighties, when many clubs had a built-in audience every weekend.  Live music in general is much more popular in other areas I’ve played in, like Seattle, NYC, and Austin.  But the Bay Area does have a large community of talented musicians, so go figure.

"I’m also lucky enough to play guitar in the classic rock band, Tesla.  They found me on my band’s myspace profile in the spring of ’06.  I did their US summer tour, and I’m currently recording a new album of classic cover tunes with the guys.  It’s been a great experience to be involved with such a great band and crew.  And it’s  opened up my music to a lot of new people throughout the world.  Goes to show that good things happen when you stick to your guns and play what you love, regardless of trends."  

DAVE RUDE of  The Dave Rude Band and TESLA. Dave's got the hair, the looks, the licks.

Check out the Dave Rude band MP3s below, which have old school groove to them.



C'mon C'mon

Devil's Embrace

Termite Mansion 





Copyright © 2006-2007 Dave Rude Band, all rights reserved 


Living The Dream...Like Mark Wahlberg

Dave was rocking right along with The Servants, and then doing his own thing, and then suddenly got a contact from one of his favorite bands, Tesla. They got to know Dave through his myspace site, needed a guitar player, and Dave was ready to roll. "Crazy, huh?" he says. "Lots of people have said it's like the Mark Wahlberg movie, Rockstar.  It's a trip, and I'm lovin' it."

Rockin Metal Revival

There is an interview with Dave available on line. Click on
"Interview on Mon,Dec4"





























Previous space on the Links has been devoted to the talents of songwriters Miss Dian and Athena. They surfaced in the Bay Area a music generation back as the driving force behind BARBEE KILLED KENN (click the link to read an archived piece on BKK). Now they are back with a new unit, THE UNPROFESSIONALS.

That name is disingenuous to say the least, because Dian and Athena are not amateurs by any stretch. They are experienced performers and accomplished songwriters who have found a vehicle in Dian's uber-appealing voice, and the territory they stake out with this new band is not terribly different from what they owned with BKK. The edge is a little softer, because gone is guitarist Ruba F. Tuesday (now with Subimage, profiled above) who added dirt to the band's sound. Mr. Larry, the guitarist they work with now, is a more than competent replacement, but the songs have mellowed just a little. The Unprofessionals seem rangier than did BKK, more mature while employing the same tricks. Mr. Steve joins The Unprofessionals on drums, and like Mr. Larry he is solid in the pop rock pocket, probably moreso than previous bangers.

While checking out The Unprofessionals, you might also check out bassist Athena's MySpace music site at If you are anything like me, you will be struck by how different she sounds from her work with bosom buddy Dian. She does a much more deep groove blues-rock than the effervescent pop they do as a duo, and she sings that style convincingly.


The Unprofessionals have MP3s on their MySpace site.

The Unprofessionals Are: Miss Dian~Vocals, Miss Athena~Bass/Vocals, Mr. Larry~Guitar, Mr. Steve~Drums.



DEBORAH CROOKS is an intriguing singer/songwriter who surfaced in the San Francisco area in 2003 when Roberta Donnay produced Deborah's first album, 5 Acres. An edgy folk-rocker who counts Lucinda Williams among her influences, Deborah is an accomplished songwriter; in fact, an accomplished all around writer, "widely published as an essayist,  journalist and poet..." as her MySpace profile states.

In 2005, Deborah's track "You Are Home," a collaboration with B.Z. Lewis, profiled below, was featured on the compilation CD Java with Javalyn. Javelyn, featured on the L.A. Links,  is a Los Angeles-based indie artist and actress who is a den mother to the folk-rock scene there, hosting a weekly showcase in Santa Monica and issuing her compilation CDs.

Deborah has some organizational interests in common with Javelyn. She is a San Francisco area coordinator of SongsAlive!, a national membership organization that helps songwriter/performers arrange performance opportunities at venues across the country. (She created a link with another Links participant recently when she graciously reached out to Elke Robitaille, who was exploring Bay Area venues.)


Deborah Crook MP3s can be heard at her MySpace site at .

Deborah Crooks' songs range from acoustic folk to hard charging rock. She brings a great deal of passion to her work, in some respects reminiscent of another San Francisco woman rocker, Producer/Singer/Songwriter Linda Perry.



B.Z. Lewis, referenced above in the Deborah Crooks profile, has become one of San Francisco's more potent musical forces. As the proprieter of Studio 132, a downtown San Francisco recording and production facility designed "from the ground up with the help of Chips Davis, who is famous for designing Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch" (from the studio's website), B.Z. has developed a gestation chamber for an astonishing array of musical types. Studio 132, fueled by B.Z.'s songwriting abilities, has churned out songs for television series, national commercials, indie films, video games, and a significant number of talented artists. The Studio 132 site has a multitude of MP3s available for download that demonstrate B.Z.'s talents as a writer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and recording engineer.

B.Z. was literally born to the recording studio, having been exposed to the small studio his father kept in the family's west Texas home. As a child he assisted his father with the chores required for the production of his daily radio show "The Sound of Texas."  B.Z. picked up piano and guitar, then (from the website) "...attended an audio engineering school in Texas, then received his B.A. in music with an emphasis on classical guitar from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was honored as one of the best guitarists in the state of Texas by Texas Beat Magazine." He got an opportunity to work on a film, so in 1993 moved to California, where his career has grown steadily.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the B.Z. Lewis story is his association with TAXI, the paid-membership independent A&R group that solicits songs for specific projects or artists, provides reviews of submittals, and occasionally hooks a songwriter up with a sale. B.Z. has been the poster boy for TAXI songwriting success, placing numerous songs through the agency. His success as a commercial songwriter allowed him to make his living in the music business and build Studio 132 from a home-based concern to a facility nestled among San Francisco's pricey office and entertainment complexes. B.Z. also serves as a spokesperson for TAXI, authoring articles and speaking at conferences on the ins and outs of using the A&R service.

Currently B.Z. is an ASCAP member writer and publisher, a voting member of the Grammys, and a guy enjoying an artist's publishing deal with Media Creature Music in L.A.



It seems like every music community has its perennial - the band that stays around forever, remains popular and becomes iconic on the local scene. In San Francisco, it is the Tommy Castro Band. Not that Tommy's range doesn't extend far beyond the Bay, it's just that the Bay Area is his home turf and he is bedrock in this music community. His career has built slowly but steadily from bar cover band to big local venue band to major festivals and national tours with B.B. King. Tommy has been putting out LPs since 1993 and he shows up on the radio more and more of late, particularly on San Francisco's venerable KFOG, which prides itself on supporting top players from the local community while playing tunes from '60s classic rock to present album-oriented adult alternative.

Tommy Castro at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival

Tommy Castro Band at the Greeley Blues Festival, Colorado

Tommy Castro & Bo Diddley

TCB at the Reno Blues Festival

Tommy Castro Band MP3s:


Right As Rain

Let's Give Love A Try

How Long Must I Cry

Soul Shaker

Copyright © Tommy Castro, all rights reserved

You know, I love this guy. He is not at all precious about sharing his tunes. He has a great selection of live recordings that can be downloaded for free at

CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE LEFT: Tommy at the mic; the band on stage at a Greeley, Colorado blues festival; Tommy on stage with Bo Diddley; Tommy Castro Band on stage at the San Francisco Blues Festival; John Hiatt, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Tommy Castro on stage at the B.B. King Blues Festival

Tommy Castro performing with John Hiatt, BB King, and Buddy Guy

Gratitude Guilty Of Love Essential Tommy Castro Live At The Fillmore - CD Right As Rain
Can't Keep A Good Man Down Exception To The Rule No Foolin' On The Wildside Triple Trouble Blues Guitar Summit




Recently, the Links at RARWRITER solicited suggestions on the staging of songwriter showcases, and among the people to answer the call was Drew Pearce. Drew has a had a lot of experience in this area. He is host to one of the Bay Area's more endearing traditions, the house concert. Drew regularly stages in-home performances featuring artists from around the world playing for small, intimate groups of music lovers, numbering in the dozens. (See the profiles of Kyler England, Nate Cooper and Jana Losey, examples of the artists Drew presents.)

"I think I went to my first house concert back in 1995 at Tom Meshishnek's series called "Mo's Melody Mansion" in San Francisco," Drew wrote recently. "I've heard that the concept of the house concert goes way, way back to parlor music in...Victorian times? Something like that.

"Anyway, I decided to start hosting my own series after having a few informal musical parties at my cottage in Sonoma in 2001. Then I wrote an article called "How to host a house concert" for Acoustic Guitar magazine, where I'm a contributing writer. That inspired me to try to host something more formal with featured performances as well as an open mic. Right from the start, there was so much appreciation and encouragement from the audience and the musicians that I decided to do it on a regular basis. So I designed a web site to promote the shows, and just kept expanding our circle of friends who come to the parties.
I meet new people at every show and get introduced to a lot of new music this way. So that's how I've stay energized for it, I suppose.

"It's all very low tech. There are no microphones or PAs or amps. Part of the appeal, I think, is hearing the music acoustically."

Drew's motivations are similar to those that fuel this site. "As a contributing writer for Acoustic Guitar magazine, I get to hear a lot of new music that I might otherwise overlook. In the past few years, the CDs I've received from the magazine have introduced me to a lot of inspired work that somehow stays below the radar. So my goal is to change the radar and tune into new music that gets missed by commercial radio" (from his website). And he further invites artists to take part in his program - "So if you've got something I should hear, send a link and I'll try to spread the word here and at the house concerts."









RAR - In response to my inquiries into hosting "jam" sessions, Drew provided the following - "All I can say is not to wait for the ideal format or location. Just get started. You're organizing something more band-oriented, yes? Maybe you could all meet at rehearsal studio like Lennon Studios or Hyde Street Studios, and have
all the participants split the rental fee, bring their own instruments, food, etc. I think you're wise to have everyone agree on a set list first. Maybe you could split the jams into smaller groups of 5-7 based on who likes to play what."

He conferred with a suggestion from Sean Lightholder, another Bay Area open mic expert, regarding an East Bay spot that is already the scene of an ongoing jam. I second that emotion about Red House in Walnut Creek. It seems like a great location for a jam. I've only seen the site so far, but this Friday, I'm going to check out the songwriter's cafe that's sort of a round robin run by Bill Spooner of The Tubes."


Drew hosted L.A. singer/songwriter KYLER ENGLAND recently, and here is what he wrote promoting her appearance - "I heard Paul Schreiber raving about: Kyler England. Paul's hype was justified. Kyler writes impeccable pop songs, sings them with soul, and makes it look easy. If you're a fan of Patty Griffin, Sheryl Crow and Jonatha Brooke, I'm sure you will dig what Kyler does. With Los Angeles as a home base, she's touring extensively across the country, and has shared the stage with Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Gavin DeGraw and Annie Lennox among many others."



Nate Cooper worked for 11 months, 15 days and 8 hours as a corporate attorney, carrying his guitar to work each day, practicing at any opportunity, and was one of few attorneys who was planning his exit from law before he ever started working as a lawyer (from his website).

Nate is a fingerstyle player who has studied with Bay Area specialists  Peppino D'Agostino ("Venus over Venice" CD) and Duck Baker, as well as San Francisco jazz player Jeff Massanari and young classical guitarist/composer phenom Gyan Riley. While these 4 guitarist inspired and helped Nate learn to play and compose music, artists such as Nick Drake and Greg Brown inspired Nate to write songs. His debut CD is Stories Between the Strings


From her website - "After a much needed hiatus, she's back! Departing from the avante garde stylings of her theatrical past, Jana's debut album Bittersweet is full of bursting with guitar-based, soulful pop songs. Possessing both a clean purity and the fullness and attitude that is Rock and Roll, her voice has been described as 'soul-wrenching' and her performance as 'multi-layered and charismatic.' With her new CD and growing radio airplay across the Northeast, this small town Pennsylvania farm girl and former Broadway starlet is currently moving audiences everywhere with a full repertoire of original songs.

"As a self proclaimed, 'recovering music school dropout', Jana has spent the last two years working on Bittersweet. With friend Dave Uosikinnen (The Hooters, Cyndi Lauper, Patty Smyth, Taj Mahal, Alice Cooper) on drums, Charlie Shew (Samite of Uganda) on percussion, and collaborator Melanie Peters on guitar, she is proud to be back in her hometown of Lawrenceville, PA after years of city life.

"A soft-spoken vigilante, and a soulful communicator, Jana is a fan of everything natural. She is currently working on a way to tour without the use of fossil fuels, supports a non-violent lifestyle, and plans to one day establish her own Permaculture community. Jana hopes to use her music, web site, and touring performances to support and spread the word about these causes she so deeply believes in."



Seán LIGHTHOLDER is a singer/songwriter (from his website) - "born to Irish parents in the San Francisco Bay Area and has spearheaded the annual Songwriter Showcase in Athlone for the last two years (see He freely admits to an obsession with black tea, is a certified cerevesiaphile and maintains an online calendar of SF-area open mics at"

The latter is how he came into the RARWRITER sphere, contacted for information on his extraordinary website devoted to listing every open mic opportunity in the Bay Area.

Writes Seán - "I suppose we're all products of our environment, so my musical inclinations probably bow to an adolescence spent listening to The Beatles on my parents' stereo, admiring the counter-culture older kids around me who were filling their ears with REM and the Cure and puzzling over the sweatsuit-clad younger generation who were just abandoning grunge rock for ska and hip hop.

"It should be noted that I love vocal harmony possibly more than anything else in music (explaining a quirky penchant I have for old barbershop quartets and medieval choral pieces). After high school I learned that playing music wasn't necessarily about the songs you knew or wrote. I fell into jamming (an art I still have much to learn about) by hanging out with musicians far better than I ever will be, who filled my head with the blues, freestyle improvisation and the primal joy of simple accoustic rythms."

Seán and his wife Kim perform as a duo called Kerbside. "Nowadays Kim and I play out a few times a week as kerbside and spend a lot of time hanging out and sharing music with other musicians in our area. We've just released our first CD . . . it's a real living room recording job (literally), but, for the first time, I have a real sense of contentment about this recording. Currently, we're touring around Ireland and the UK with it. Check it out by clicking here."

You can hear the Lightholders' MP3s by visiting their site at




Jill Knight is a San Francisco-based singer/songwriter whose vocals caught the attention of India Arie, who is quoted as saying "I love great voices and when I heard Jill sing it stopped me in my tracks, and I had to listen." 

Jill Knight does have a quality that is genuine, accessible, and easy on the ears. Hers sounds like a voice familiar from radio exposure; she is like a talent gold standard, a measure of what one must have to make a radio sing. She has that ease of delivery that rings authentic, inspires trust, and makes you stay with it. Isn't that at the very heart of the idea of being "radio friendly?" You don't punch the station finder with Jill.

Her songwriting talents are equally assured. She was "a finalist in the Telluride Troubadour competition, the National Academy of Songwriters 'songwriter of the year' competition, in Billboard magazines 'best unsigned band' contest, a regional best seller in Album Network magazine for her album Future Perfect, and voted as one of the best DIY albums in Performing Songwriter Magazine." This all comes from her MySpace site and it goes on and on. "...Honorable mention NSAI songwriting competition, Finalist in the Acoustic Live songwriter competition..."

Jill has toured as an opening act for India Arie, and has shared stages with Shawn Colvin, David Wilcox, Michael Hedges, Phoebe Snow, Richard Thompson, Little Feat, and others. 








The shot above shows Jill in her solo performer role, doing her acoustic- based indie folk-rock. She also has a 70's funk and soul cover band TAB, with Dawn Richardson on drums, Julie Wolf on keyboard and vocals, Pam Delgado on percussion and vocals, Jeri Jones on lead guitar and vocals and Paul Olguin on bass. They play private and corporate functions.

JILL KNIGHT CDS: Don't these below strike you as beautiful covers? Songs from Jill's 1999 release Future Perfect (below left) were featured in the motion picture Stranger than Fiction, and also on the Oxygen Network. 


Jill Knight MP3s can be heard at her myspace site at They include an interesting live cover of "Little Wing."

See the Passion Star News item below for information on Jill's upcoming show in Marin.




KEPI and KAT is an electronica act well-known to west coast, and particularly San Francisco dance clubbers, and to attendees of the annual Burning Man Festival. They were voted "Best Electronic Music Act" in The Bay Area Guardian's, San Francisco's weekly alternative newspaper, "Best of The Bay 2006 Readers Poll."

The couple have become a dance club staple over the past five years. It is a collaboration between the DJ beats of Kepi and the DJ/songwriting/ vocal adventures of Kat. They have a musical relationship similar to another collaboration featured on this site, that of L.A. songstress Renfey and her technotic producer Kor. Kepi and Kat have made inroads onto the playlists at Thump and XM Satellite Radio. Kepi does a monthly show on XM Satellite’s CH 80 “The Move" during the "Thump Funk" radio program.

Kepi and Kat (which must be one of the "cutest" names this side of children's television) - let's call them "K&K" for our purposes here, released their EP Limelight in 2005. That featured remixes of bigtime San Francisco DJs (Kepi & Teapot, Tyler Stone, B. Smiley, Scott Quick.)

Kat is a Minneapolis native and it was there, in the early '90s, she first made her name on the DJ circuit. She was known as "Katwoman." She went from being a spinner to a singer upon her relocation to San Francisco.

As a singer/songwriter, Kat will stylistically remind some (me) of Madonna. She is smoothe, not inclined to get outside of herself, but rather to purr in a glassy, sensual manner. Somehow listening to her, absorbing her energy, it is not hard to imagine her as an aerobics instructor or a "winter guard" choreographer. Kat still does club DJ work herself, "performing downtempo sets of her own at many of the Bay Area’s hottest nightclubs and on San Francisco’s 'Below Zero' on Energy 92.7FM" (from her website).

Self described "electronic music junky" Kepi (real name Jeff Steinmetz) was a keyboardist/guitarist playing around Minneapolis and doing engineering at area studios before discovering himself as a DJ. He moved to San Francisco after a decade of spinning on the Minneapolis scene, and since has worked in San Francisco's top clubs as well as at festival venues such as Ibiza, Spain and LA’s cult favorite Moontribe as well as at Burning Man.

ABOVE: K&K addressing the adoring masses at San Francisco's 2005 Love Parade, where they opened for Chrystal Method.

From his website - "Kepi continues to be an influential artist on the West Coast performing with many notable producers and artists that span many music styles and geographies, including such acts as Hybrid, Steve Porter, Luke Fair, Grandmaster Flash, Infected Mushroom, Shpongle, Cosmosis, Shakta, Astral Projection, Crystal Method, Hybrid, D:Fuse, Hyper, Trendroid, Fine-Cut Bodies, Freq Nasty, Jeno and many more."

"Kepi’s long time involvement in studio engineering and sound production has led to the build-up of a pro grade project studio which is the breeding ground for his original style of dance music: a fusion of house, progressive, breaks and trance. It is not uncommon for Kepi to create one off custom tracks and dubs for his sets before a show. Look for releases by Kepi, Kat, Amani and Teapot under their production title 'Desert Dwellers'."








Somehow this photo looks so familiar, like we've seen it before in someone else's press archive. 










Kepi and Kat MP3s can be heard from their MySpace site at Kepi and Kat tunes are available from iTunes.

ABOVE: They are a good looking couple, aren't they? Doesn't this shot have a kind of Guy Ritchie/Madonna thing going on?





Okay, we have looked to San Francisco and the East Bay, and now we move across the Golden Gate over to Marin County  to the Dan Hicks contingent, the Passion Star Studio people, and more. I lived and worked in San Anselmo, San Rafael and Mill Valley for years. People there have rich blood, rich pockets, rich lifestyles. And, as you'll see here, there are some rich musical veins running through those rich hills. - RAR


Deborah Winters

Deborah Winters is a top of the line jazz-pop songwriter/singer/guitarist whose talents were captured live for a CD she released a couple years back - deborah winters "live in session". The 12-song collection of original material was performed with some of the Bay Area's finest jazz players, and it sounds great, but the standout player is Deborah's voice, which is a rare mixture of muscular soulfulness and spot-on control.

Deborah grew up in the Bay Area, where her mother was a professional ballet dancer for the Oakland Metropolitan Ballet Company. Deborah has done some ballet herself, appearing as a child in the Nutcracker Suite. She was an acting/theatre major in college, developed a talent for songwriting, and launched her music career at an open mic night at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley.

After an apprenticeship as a soloist, Deborah put together a quartet and started playing the San Francisco clubs, with a sound influenced by Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones. In doing that she met acclaimed producer/pianist/arranger Frank Martin, a Bay Area legend whose career has included collaborations with Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and Sting. Deborah and Martin have been collaborating ever since. She states on her website that Martin has "constantly encouraged her to experiment with ideas that lie outside of her comfort zone."



DEBORAH WINTERS at the CD release party for deborah winters "live in session".




Deborah Winters has MP3s clips available for listening from the CD page of her site.




Deborah Winters released deborah winters "live in session" in 2004.


PASSION STAR, the Marin-based recording label, publishing and licensing company, got exciting news recently when two of their acts were placed into consideration for Grammy nominations. 

Bassist Edo Castro is under consideration in the Best Contemporary Jazz category for his Passion Star-produced CD Phoenix. And pianist/composer in residence Ray Cooper is under Grammy nomination consideration in the Best New Age category for his CD Tabernacle (original compositions for piano as performed and recorded at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Vancouver B.C.). Both releases were produced by Ray, who is having a pretty amazing year.

Passion Star is the brainchild of former LucasArts Entertainment Company executive Lisa Star, who for many years was International Business and Operations Manager for George Lucas' videogames division. Besides providing the brains for the business organization of Passion Star, Lisa is also a singer/songwriter and part of her own company's artist stable. 

Ray Cooper, who has his own studio, CoStar, is an Emmy-winning composer, arranger, engineer and producer for albums, television and film. From his EPK - "Ray has a special talent for grasping an artist’s vision, which enables the songwriters/musicians he works with to realize and even exceed their project vision. His focus is always one of forward motion and expansion. This brings a very unique and positive flow to all of the projects he is involved with."

Grammy nominated Bassist/Composer Edo Castro in the studio listening back to tracks with Lisa Star during the recording of his Phoenix LP.

Edo Castro is a SF Bay Area Native who grew up in the Haight-Ashbury during the 60’s. “ I was influenced by Sly Stone, Tower of Power, Cold Blood and Santana. There was so much music going on, it was practically oozing out into the neighborhood. You couldn’t help not being affected," Castro recalls.

He initially was a self-taught bassist but later attended the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. “ My Teachers were not only schooling me, they’d recommend me for gigs," Castro marveled. During his stay in Chicago he played with some of the finest young bloods of the music scene at that time, Jim Trumpeter, Fareed Haque, Mark Walker and Hassan Khan. Of course there were the jazz icons, Miles Davis Guitarist Pete Cosey and drummer Roy Haynes that Edo was fortunate enough to play with. Edo recalls, "After playing a set with Roy Haynes, there was a bunch of us standing around talking to him and out of the blue, Roy handed me his card and said, ‘Man when you’re ready, come to New York and give me a call.' That was the greatest stamp of approval in front of all my peers. I’ve yet to get to New York and collect on that call.”

Edo says of his LP -  “The name Phoenix is not only a beautiful name, it's also the mythical representation of change or transformation. Phoenix is about transforming personal moments." 

Edo released his first solo effort, Edo, was released in 2003. 

Edo Castro has performed with David Amram, Mark Walker, Hassan Kahn, Pete Cosey, Roy Haynes, Fareed Haque, David Onderdonk, Nick Kitsos, Ed Thigpen, Johnny Griffin, Joel Harrison, Jim Trumpeter, Ian Doogle, Deborah Winters, Jill Knight, Eva Jay Fortune, Paul Van Wageningen, Drew Youngs, Caroline Aiken, Dan Zinn, Bethany Pickins, Michael La Macchia, Armando Peraza, Caren Armstrong, Percy Howard, Mike Molenda, Deborah Pardes, Joe Sonnefeldt, Stu Greenspan, David Sobel, Stu Hamm, Lorn Leber, George Brooks and many others.


Ray Cooper and Edo Castro MP3s can be heard from the Passion Star site at

The recordings of the Passion Star stable, including Edo and Ray, plus Deborah Winters, Daria, and Roberta Donnay, all profiled on this page, are available for download on iTunes, Rhapsody, Emusic and other on line stores.


PASSION STAR NEWS: Feb. 9, 2007 - Lisa Star and Ray Cooper were headed off to the Grammys this week, and Lisa promised to be my "girl on the ground" for the telecast and after-awards party they are attending. It's a nice, if somewhat visually disturbing offer; the best I could extract. I had suggested that I would love to go with. Keep an eye on the Passion Star site for her Grammy report. Lisa does a good job of updating her site with company news, of which there has been a lot in the past year.

Passion Star artist Edo Castro was playing the Larkspur Cafe Theater this week with acclaimed folk songwriter Jill Knight. Edo will join Knight's band, which includes Jill Knight (acoustic guitar and lead vocals), Jeri Jones (lead guitar), Pam Delgado (percussion and vocals), Edo on fretless bass, and Dawn Richardson (drums). Jill Knight has achieved something of a cult following as the touring partner of singer/songwriter India Arie, who has featured Jill as her opening act. Jones and Delgado come to Jill Knight's band from their own, Blame Sally, who are celebrating their own CD release this month.



Brian Gore - Guitarpoet

Speaking of spectacular acoustic guitarists, modern classicist Brian Gore is one everyone should know.  You can get a quick dose by visiting his site at and watching his videos, which are also available on YouTube. You can also listen to his tunes at

From his MySpace - "I have a gift for melody that for a long time was bewildering to me. Fortunately, I've had many mentors; Peppino D'Agostino and Alex de Grassi on the 'steel string' side, Andrew York and many others on the 'nylon string' side. As time has gone by, through the help and inspiration of my mentors and guitar idols, I've managed to develop a decent craft for songwriting on guitar. One thing I've done which has really helped, is to put words to the melodies. I have songs with words that I perform in shows, but primarily, I choose to frame my songs as 'guitarpoems.' That's why I call myself a 'guitarpoet.' I now have a small cadre of students myself who are following in my footsteps, and a book on fingerstyle guitar, called "Fingerstyle Guitar, Technique and Creativity.'"



PAUL ROBINSON is a versatile Bay Area guitarist/singer/songwriter/ producer and more. He is currently working with six bands, including Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, the Bayside Jazz Group (another Dan Hicks project), and his own Paul Robinson. Sometimes compared to Eric Clapton for his dexterous blues guitar  work and warm vocals, his resume includes work with virtuoso saxophonist David Sanborn, bassist Benny Rietveld (Carlos Santana), Dan Hicks, Al Stewart and drummer Prairie Prince (Jefferson Starship, Todd Rundgren, The Tubes). Of late he has been playing around the Bay Area with singer/songwriter (and John Wesley Harding collaborator) Chris von Sneidern.

Paul is a pro player who has worked his way up the ranks, starting with song transcriptions for publishing houses in the early '90s, landing MTV network ID spots and a spot on the MTV show "Liquid TV," and then touring nationally and internationally as a lead guitarist with pop icon Al Stewart ("Year of the Cat"), Romeo Void's Debora Iyall, the Gypsy Jazz Band, and the Hot Club of San Francisco. Paul has added his signature guitar sound to a dozen albums ranging from pop and rock to jazz and beyond. He has shared the stage with Don Was, Bob Weir, David Sanborn, and Steve Winwood and has opened for such greats as Joni Mitchell, Joan Osborne, Dave Mason and Roger McGuinn


ABOVE: Paul Robinson on stage with Bayside Jazz at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley.

Paul co-produced Sweet with Steve Savage, with him he worked on the production of Jill Carole's The Easter Bunny, Sex & Santa Clause LP. Paul did the arrangements for his LP, for which he also played most of the instruments, and he wrote arrangements for Jill Carole's CD. For a time he was working as a performer and arranger with The Hesla/Robinson Big Band, a 16-piece unit.



The Personals




*Copyright © Paul Robinson, All Rights Reserved


Paul Robinson released Sweet in 2000. After years of performing with jazz bands, the LP, comprised of Paul's original compositions, surprised a lot of people with its pop/rock sound. 



ROBERTA DONNAY continues to make waves in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. The alt-pop singing songwriter/producer/painter turned jazz singer is a protégé of sorts of 83-year old jazz producer Orrin Keepnews, whose 50-plus year career has produced albums by Thelonius Monk, Bill Evans, Lee Konitz, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley, Bobby Hutcherson, Abbey Lincoln, Mark Murphy, Flora Purim, Wesla Whitfieldand and many other jazz luminaries. Keepnews founded Riverside Records, Milestone Records, and Landmark Records (now Muse Records) and worked as the jazz producer at Fantasy Records in Berkeley. He is old school jazz – his son Peter Keepnews is a jazz critic for the New York Times – and having him in her corner says some great things about the talented Ms. Donnay. Keepnews brought in some jazz heavyweights for Roberta’s recordings, including pianist Eric Reed, drummer Mark Taylor, bassist Gerald Cannon, and tenor sax man Dave Ellis, another Keepnews protégé.

Roberta was doing just fine even before she started keeping company with Orrin Keepnews. She was a member of the board of governors of the San Francisco Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. (This is where she met Keepnews, who was also a board member.) She was working out of her Mill Valley home and producing recordings throughout the Bay Area for a variety of artists. She had experienced success as a pop singer and had a number of film and TV credits. Her website includes numerous examples of her acid jazz-electronica, pop, blues-rock, alt-rock, alt-pop, country-crossover and latin stylings. This girl covers the waterfront!

Here is how the Marin Independent Journal describes Roberta’s music career and persona: “A performer with a social conscience and a devout Buddhist practice, Donnay has enjoyed an eclectic career, winning local and national success as an award-winning and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who led the way for many women in the indie artist circuit.

Her songs and vocals have been featured on television ("The Young and the Restless," "Days of Our Lives," "One Life to Live," "Nash Bridges," "The Unit") as well as in feature films ("Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Reservoirs of Strength"). 

“A 2001 single, "Crack in the Sidewalk" was a hit on college and public radio, receiving rotation on 80 stations nationwide. Her song "One World" has been performed on five continents as an anthem for world peace and was adopted for the United Nations' 50th anniversary celebration in 1995. She has toured the country with The Black Crowes, Eddie Money, Dan Fogelberg, Neil Young and Huey Lewis, and is touring with another Marin-based legend of Americana swing music, Dan Hicks.”

Roberta’s What’s Your Story LP has been well-received by the critics. She recently performed at the Mill Valley Film Festival where she was joined on stage by former “Saturday Night Live” band leader/guitarist G.E. Smith, The Flying Other Brothers, bassist Rob Wasserman, former Grateful Dead leader Bob Weir, Vernon Black (Mariah Carey’s band), and even comedian Dana Carvey.

Roberta is also a talented painter whose paintings are featured in San Francisco galleries.


Roberta Donnay fits right in with the Links on RARWRITER peacenik element. (See the politically oriented tracks from Steve Conn and Jim Mason, among other on this site.) Her current jazz LP features covers of classics with one exception – her self-written diatribe against the Bush administration titled “Stop This Train!”


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: What's Your Story, Back Before the Why, Bohemian, One World, and Soul Reverse. 


Roberta's mixed-media collage paintings are displayed in San Francisco art gallerys.  This view doesn't do them justice.  Go to her site to see these and others in expanded size.


This shot, lifted from the Dan Hicks site ( ) shows the current incarnation of one of the San Francisco Bay Area's most enduring and endearing acts. There has been a long line of "Lickettes," the band's female backup singers, and the current two are Roberta Donnay and Daria, both featured on the San Francisco Links.



DARIA, along with Roberta Donnay (featured above) is one of Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks' "Lickettes," which is credit enough, but she is her own artist as well. 


DARIA records with top Bay Area jazz players and her notable circuit of venues includes Yoshi's, Mr. E's (Pete Escovedo's nightclub), Noe Valley Ministry, Pearl's, Empire Plush Room, Sweetwater, 142 Throckmorton Theatre, The Vic For Jazz (L.A.) concerts sponsored by Jazz In Flight and the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Union Street Fair, San Anselmo Fair and numerous wineries. She plays internationally at clubs in Nagoya, Brussels and Berlin. She tours extensively as a Lickette, but when she's home in Marin she does studio work as a backup singer and a radio commercial voice-over performer and she is part of the female a cappella trio, Dangerous Divas. She is also a voice teacher who provides private instruction, as well as workshops that cover aspects of performing all the way to packaging and promoting your own CD.


Daria was recently honored for 15 years of service as a performer for the Bread and Roses charitable organization. 


"Daria has all the equipment to propel her into the top ranks of contemporary Jazz vocalists. A well endowed voice, extensive range, diction--an unerring sense of dynamics and time." - Jazz Now Magazine



Recording Credits:
DARIA, "Feel the Rhythm" 2005, Jazz 'm Up Records, Produced by Wayne Wallace and Frank Martin
"Center of the Rhyme" 2003 Lisa B, Piece of Pie Records
"And a Songbird in a Pear Tree, Six Songs of Christmas" 2001, Compilation, Flying Weasel Enterprises
"Jazz Improv, Volume 1, Number 2" 1999, Compilation CD
"Voices for a Millennium" The Stroud Project, DSVS Records Compilation
"If You Believe" The Stroud Project, 1999, DSVS Records
DARIA, "Just the Beginning" 1998, Jazz 'm Up Records, Produced by Ian Dogole
"The Sky Could Send You" Sherri Roberts, Due January 2006, Blue House Records, Produced by Harvie S.

DARIA NEWS: Daria reports that her CD Feel the Rhythm, which is available at,, is also now available for downloading on iTunes.

Daria will be onstage at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA on Saturday, February 17, as a member of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. They will be doing their "4th Annual World Premiere Extravaganza - "A Tribute to the Folk Years," which features the band performing the music of The Limeliters, The Weavers, Peter Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Rooftop Singers...others.





KENNY SIMEONE is a Marin County, California native and someone worth keeping in mind.  Along the lines of other songwriters on this page (Michael Woody, Gretchen Peters), Kenny has been recognized in songwriting competitions, most notably by the judges for the annual VH1 Song of the Year competition, who voted him a talent to watch. Kenny ventured to Nashville in October and December to prepare marketing materials, including demos.

Kenny has been playing around the Bay Area for some time with long-time friend Sony recording artist Dan Thompson, formerly of Protein. He lists  Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Radiohead, Terence Trent Darby, B.B. king, Al Green, BluesTraveler, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin as influences. So why Nashville, you may ask. Well, because he has been recruited by Paramount's Nashville group. 

Kenny is a guy whose focus has switched from being a blues-rock lead guitarist to an acoustic based songwriter, and songwriters listening to his MP3s below will feel the sculptor and the clay. Kenny is playing every instrument and doing all the vocals, and he tends toward the ambitious. His songs range from down to earth indie-sounding country-rock to more orchestral space-rock ala Pink Floyd. I may find him better in the latter mode, but the former may have greater commercial songwriter portability.

Kenny is a young guy with experience, having opened or shared a stage with the likes of Little Feat, 2005 Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame inductee Buddy Guy, Quicksilver Messenger, Merl Saunders, Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers), Martin Fiero (occasional sax man for the Grateful Dead),  and Bay Area guitar knight Neil Schon (Journey). 

ABOVEand BELOW: Kenny Simeone at his video shoot on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.



Her Face

I'm No Fool

Simple Song





Copyright © 2007 Kenny Simeone, All Rights Reserved 




And now on to Sonoma and Solano counties to the north, and Santa Clara to the south...



HOPE KILLS is a quintet of hard rockers from the Benicia/Vallejo area, and they appear on the Links courtesy of my daughter, who brought them to my attention. Listen to the MP3s on their myspace site and I think you'll agree that these guys are just great. They have an amazingly mature and radio friendly pop-rock sound that is filled with nuance and edge, delivered with really fine musicianship, and produced with sophistication. These guys could blow up huge.

Hope Kills' front man is Matty P (Trools Svenhard), a Benicia High School grad. Let me take a moment to brag about my adopted home town. Benicia has a tremendous school system, among the best in a state that once had the best school's in the country, but has let things slip. Not in Benicia, however, where you have a concentration of really bright people, and clearly young Matty P is one of them. Go to his personal myspace at and read his profile, which ends with "I am looking for the Isolde to my Tristan."  And look at this kid! He has rock star written all over him. And listen to this band, with his right-on-the-money vocals.

Hope Kills has their first CD out, One for the Saints Two for the Sinners. You can hear tracks and purchase the CD at

Hope Kills is Matt (Vocals), Ben (Guitar/ Vocals), Jeremy (Bass), Mateo (Drums), and Will (Guitar). You can click on these links to go to their personal myspace sites.


Hope Kills MP3s can be heard at their myspace site. Go there! They are worth listening to.



Hope Kills recently released their first CD, One for the Saints Two for the Sinners.



Readers familiar with Vallejo, California, the much-maligned North Bay city of 120,000 that produced Sly and the Family Stone and, more recently, the tragically slain rapper Mac Dre, may enjoy this video from Topkat for his track "Here to Stay." The video is well done and pays touching tribute to the places in a hometown that some consider dingy, but for which others feel a fond affection. Even "the Cow" - a drive through shoppette topped with a large plastic bovine, a Vallejo landmark -  gets a cameo!  RAR and family lived in Vallejo for many years and at least recognize most of the visited sites, though they tend toward the subterranean. We all love the video and particularly appreciate Topkat pride in his home town, a place in which he is apparently committed to staying. This video  is now playing on





Ukiah, California native ROBBEN FORD has come a long way - in fact, you might say he has gone every where - since giving up the saxophone as a teenager and focusing his interests on the guitar. Robben shot to fame in the mid-'70s when he was discovered by saxophonist Tom Scott, whose progressive fusion group L.A. Express teamed up with Joni Mitchell to support her Court and Spark tour and play on two of her albums (1974’s Miles of Isles and 1975’s The Hissing of Summer Lawn). Since then Robben has churned out one great jazz-blues CD after the next.

After his L.A. Express experience, Robben Ford came to Boulder so study Bhuddism at Naropa Institute and play with the Michael Martin Murphy Band. That brought Robben in touch with guitarist Sam Broussard, who recently sent his recollections of their shared experience: 

"He (Robben) played with Michael Martin Murphy's band before I joined it. The band at that time was Harry Wilkinson on drums, who had played with Larry Coryell in New York and is now teaching in Nashville, Michael McKinney on bass, who went on to L.A. later and did something with Michael Jackson around his Off The Wall period, and the late Jack Murphey on keys, who later died mysteriously or not, depending on who you talk to – and who also recorded the first New Age album as far as I'm concerned, a solo piano record up at Guercio's place. These guys were tailor-made for Robben's smart and ferocious brand of jazz-infused blues and they did gigs around Boulder and at the Little Bear in Evergreen.

"I joined Murphy at that time, replacing the talented Sonny Landreth who for a short time replaced the talented Richard Dean until Sonny's then-wife, a sickly young woman, needed him around more often. Jack and the guys were really, really nice to me. One day at a rehearsal they invited me on their jazzoid gigs, and I said, "I'm not good enough to play with you guys." I knew how to play Spain by Chick Corea, and I knew what was going on with the simplified jazz tunes in their repertoire – mostly jam tunes that weren't too difficult, 'fusion' was the word – but I knew I couldn't hang with their level of soloing. I hadn't done that thing yet, just rock, however adventurous.

"Anyway, I did it, had some good and bad nights, but I'll tell you, one of the reasons I don't get nervous anymore is because way too often I had to follow one of Robben's solos, and after you've taken some dives off that high board you can do anything in front of anybody. You ever had a dream where you're walking around downtown and you look down and you're only in your underwear? These days that's okay, of course, but back then the average person would have woken from such a dream feeling shame and embarrassment. Playing with Robben was sort of like that, only I got to hear those guys solo their asses off.

"Robben is a force. He had just come out of Tom Scott's LA Express, and could do anything. He built his solos to peaks of madness and he would sway, bowing up and down from the hips and strange noises would come out of his open mouth, and if his eyes had been open we would have probably just seen the whites.

"If that wasn't enough, it sometimes felt like there was an invisible force field emanating from him at those moments, pushing everything away from him. Of course, that could have just been my desire to leave the stage ...

"I remember once we were playing some song in Bb, and Robben started going Outside as he built his solo. It got crazier and crazier and beautiful as hell, until at his peak he was playing standard blues licks in F# – over Bb! – but his progress toward that moment made it all make sense.

"I've seen some great guitar players in my time. Robben didn't just play the guitar. He ate it."

Discovering the Blues




The Inside Story


Talk to Your Daughter


Mystic Mile


Blues Connotation


Blues Collection


Tiger Walk


Authorized Bootleg






Tribute to Paul Butterfield - 2001

Anthology - The Early Years - 2001

Blue Moon


Keep On Runnin'


City Life


Robben Ford & 

The Blue Line

Mark Ford & The Robben Ford Band


Ford Brothers playing to Volker Strifler's  fans - in Germany, 2005



VOLKER a guy you would never suspect to be the German-born blues rocker he is. His sound is more Chicago Blues, his vocal style similar to Eric Clapton's. The 44-year old guitarist got a late start on his instrument (by guitar player standards - he was in his later teens), played in some uninspiring cover bands and, in California, found himself working construction jobs to make ends meet and not even in a band. He was exiled from music for seven long years before working his way back in and building a reputation that eventually got him a long-standing gig in the Robben Ford Band, with whom he still plays. Leading up to that he made a lot of Volker Strifler converts - and left a lot of people wondering why on earth he wasn't fronting his own band.

Volker started doing that a couple years ago, when he also stepped up his focus on songwriting. The result was his first LP The Volker Strifler Band. Volker recently released his second LP, The Dance Goes On, which was recorded at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati, California.

There is an interview with the articulate Volker Strifler on his site at that is well worth reading. I was taken by his response to a question about who inspired him the most when he started learning the guitar. Clapton? Hendrix? Nope - the guys at the local music store: "I’d actually have to say, to start with, as far as the approach to the guitar, there’s still a local guy in Heidelberg where I grew up.  I still remember some of the things he told me or that I observed with him that I’m still coming back to this day.  His name was Roland Kastl.  He was part owner of a music store where I would hang out as a kid, just getting on their nerves playing for hours at a time.  Anyway…he taught me some things, whether deliberately or inadvertently, that are still with me to this day. Like how to pick a note, what’s important, and all that... 

"At least I think he pointed me in the direction I ultimately went into.  It was him and his partner too.  His name is Uli Rohde.  I still go to see him when I go back to Germany.  It’s funny how much that sticks with you.  Whatever they had or did was attractive to me and that’s why I tried emulating them.  Then of course there’s a whole array of guitar players they listened to.  Peter Green was certainly my biggest influence early on as far as the blues playing.  He just sounded so good.  I liked everything he did.  The way he approached everything he did.  I would sit there for hours learning his solos note for note."

Copy of Sf Blues fest (5).jpg (37448 bytes)

Volker Strifler (nearest the camera) on stage with the Robben Ford Blues Band for a Paul Butterfield tribute at the 2006 San Francisco Blues Festival 













Track's from The Volker Strifler Band's new album The Dance Goes On can be heard at the VSB MySpace site at


VOLKER STRIFLER BAND: Volker Strifler - Guitar/Vocals, Don Bassey - Bass/Vocals, Gary Silva - Drums, David Schrader - Saxophone, 

Carl Bowers - Trombone, Chip Roland - Keyboards


San Francisco Bay Area bassist DON BASSEY grew up in Michigan where he played in a band with his friend Mark Hallman, profiled on this page. Writes Don - "I had a blast running into some folks on your links page that I've met over the years. One of my dearest friends in the world is Mark Hallman. He and I played in a band together in our home state of Michigan in the late Sixties/early Seventies. When he relocated to Boulder, I used to visit and hang with him and the rest of guys in Navarro. More recently (2003), I met Bradley Kopp while visiting Mark at his Congress House studio in Austin. I've also reconnected with ex-Navarro members James Tuttle and Robert McEntee via my studio monitor biz, NHT Pro Audio. I was also reminded of a memorable Magic Music show that Mark took me and my new bride to back in 1975. It was up in Evergreen, upstairs (can't remember the name of the place). Mark introduced us to Dan Fogelberg there, and we all ended up at Mark and Rob Galloway's place. Acoustic guitars, harmonies - you know the rest."

Don is planning on recording his own LP at Congress House and I will keep you posted on that. In the meantime, he is celebrating the release of the Volker Strifler Band's second LP, The Dance Goes On.

Don has been in the Bay Area a long time and is one of the area's most in-demand bassists. Check out his excellent site for information on his long career. 




































Click here to go to Doug Strobel's review of Tia Carroll's recent show at Armando's in Martinez.


DIRTY BANGs is a group of San Jose State students who more or less play old school punk fronted by their singer Nicole who sounds part Poly Styrene, part Cindi Lauper, but all entertaining.

On their myspace site they describe themselves this way: "For those of us (sic) who don't know us already, we are a new band out of the Bay Area. We have an Avante Garde, Post 80's punk sound, with heavy/hard rock ties."

I like their sound and their tunes, but mostly I am curious about their marketing approach. Is this just frat boy stuff? A riff on the XXX marketplace? A serious attempt at career building? Who knows? The Dirty Bangs' publicity apparatus is more concept than response, but I hope to have more on them soon. 

ABOVE: The provocative name, the faux-nasty talk in the blogs, the trashy chic graphic of the website mixing sex and weapons, may lead one to believe a group of pole dancers decided to form a band. The music is the real thing, it's the name and porn image that's the put on. BELOW: Dirty Bangs.

The Bangs had an urgent call out on their myspace site for a bassist. They were cancelling gigs because of the lineup problem and were sort of bent out of shape about it.




Lady with a Gun

Dirty Song 2

Suicidal Love

Copyright © Dirty Bangs, all rights reserved 



Roy Rogers
Bay Area favorite ROY ROGERS' latest stop on his extended tour with
The Delta Rhythm Kings has been in Poland for the Rawa Blues Festival, then in November it will be dates in Denmark.

The Rogers crew reports in their SlideZone newsletter - "Best news of all, of course, is that Billy Lewis, our fantastic drummer is well and playing with the band again and he is kickin' up the dust! 

"Roy has done his fair share of flying around the globe since last spring, touring six countries besides the U.S.—performing in Australia, Norway (three times!), Italy, Spain, and this fall they are off to Poland (October) and Denmark (November). We had a fantastic gig in Italy in June with our good friend and excellent blues guitarist Paolo Bonfonte for his event Blues in Casale near Milan. On the books already for next year are Italy (June/July 2007) and Brazil (August 2007). (Want to come? Stay tuned!)"

Roy takes a solo on another Marin rocker's hit - Sammy Hagar's "Sam I Am." That song, off Hagar's Livin' It Up LP - man, is that a Sammy Hagar title? - is doing well on the rock charts. Roy is also in the studio with The Doors Ray Manzarek working on an instrumental record that will include renditions of Doors tunes, plus other original material.

The Roy Rogers connection is through my wife and her friends, who all grew up together in Vallejo, California - home, I might add, of Sly and the Family Stone and now a big-time hip-hop scene. Roy and another player featured on this site, Doug Strobel, took up the guitar about the same time and were notable local nerds of that calling. Both are still at it, Roy in a high profile way; Roy veering more toward Delta Blues, Doug toward Ragtime.


The multiple Grammy nominee  fronts The Delta Rhythm Kings and hosts his own radio show. He has produced John Lee Hooker and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, played with Bonnie Raitt, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal, Norton Buffalo, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, and many others. 


RAR NOTE: Roy's website offers an exclusive on line opportunity to hear Roy Rogers recorded live at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room. Also, Roy's manager-wife Ganell just announced on their very fine The Slide Zone newsletter that Roy and the Delta Rhythm Kings will be featured on PBS this season. Ganell writes - "We are happy to report the re-launch of 'Sierra Center Stage' is happening this October with new programs including shows with Marcia Ball, Bela Fleck, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and much more. Now a full 13  week series! This has taken the producers, The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company many many months of hard work.

"Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings with Special Guests Phil Aaberg, Norton Buffalo, Shana Morrison and Tom Rigney - with interviews from Bonnie Raitt and Sammy Hagar - will be 5th up in the series."

ABOVE: Roy with another pretty potent slide player - Bonnie Raitt. BELOW: Roy and the Rhythm Kings on the beach in Barcelona, Spain with Promoter Oriol Carbonell. FURTHER BELOW: At issue - How many legendary players can you squeeze into one frame? If you can identify all the musicians in this picture send me $100.



I think I mentioned in an email update that soon after Doug Strobel appeared on the Links at RARWRITER who was offered an opportunity to play live in the studio of a San Francisco Bay Area radio station. He did a two hour show. He also landed some other lucrative opportunities after directing people to this site, so he's a poster boy for power of exposure.

Doug has been a musician in the San Francisco Bay Area for 40 years and he's an uncommonly bright and interesting guy - sort of musicologist in the same way that are Joe McLerran and Washboard Chaz Leary. Doug has played every kind of popular music but his specialty is writing solo guitar arrangements for American classics, which he plays on a 1920 3/4 scale Washburn steel string acoustic fitted with a Fishman pickup. He embellishes the old standards with clever runs, active bass lines, and fluid chordal transitions.

Doug is well known in the North Bay for having hosted a weekly Sunday jam session at a club in Benicia that introduced a lot of players to the local community, bassist Don Bassey (featured above) among them. 


Doug honed his skills alongside his good friend Roy Rogers; he of the Delta Rhythm Kings and another Vallejo area native, who is a master of the slide techniques that typified legendary delta bluesman Robert Johnson. I see a lot of Roy in Doug Strobel, most especially a hypersensitivity to the melodic lines of classic American compositions. They are both into Americana, in that way.

Doug has played in a lot music configurations. The MP3s he provided below are from a CD he recorded live at the Solano County Fair as part of the Doug & Dave duo, and from "Hope Castle," a CD he produced with marvelous Bay Area singer Megan Johnson.


Doug & Dave MP3s: Recorded live at the Solano County Fair

Buddy Bolden

Black Mountain Blues

You Been A Good Wagon

12 Gates to the City

Copyright © Doug & Dave, All Rights Reserved 


Megan Johnson/Doug Strobel MP3s

I'm An Old Cowhand

Prelude to a Kiss


Copyright © Megan Johnson and Doug Strobel, All Rights Reserved 

RAR NOTE: I played informally with Doug recently - an experience that brought to mind that lyric from Nashville Cats: "Yeah, there's thirteen hundred and fifty two Guitar cases in Nashville - And any one that unpacks his guitar could play Twice as better than I will..."

Check out these Doug Strobel MP3s. I'm sure you'll enjoy them. His live explanations of these old blues classics are nearly as entertaining as the songs, which are richly performed.

Doug can be reached via email at


FINDING STELLA seems to be a Bay Area female trio backed by an efficient male rock band (which includes guitarist Rich Flynn, see below). The guiding force is songwriter/singer/ guitarist Chris Snyder, who is influenced by the energy of the Wilson sister, Ann and Nancy (Heart). It comes across in their sound, which alternates between ballsy acoustic and medium-hard edged rock. Finding Stella released their LP Twitch in 2004 and sold out the entire inventory. Rich Flynn suggests that Chris Snyder's newest stuff is even sturdier.

In early 2007 Finding Stella will be leaving on a three week tour of Australia.




Street Fair


Copyright © Finding Stella, All Rights Reserved 


Finding Stella MP3s can also be heard from their myspace site at  


Chris Synder was a contestant on last season's "reality TV" show "Rock Star INXS." The syndicated show "Extra" featured Chris in its segment on the show. Click on the link below to take a look:


FINDING STELLA NEWS: Finding Stella guitarist Rich Flynn reports "Finding Stella just got back from Australia; we had a VERY strong gig, and we sold about 400 CD's to total strangers at an all-women's festival...  Got radio and TV interviews, some radio airplay.  And they pulled 500 people to their last CD release party, about 4 years ago... now the sound is better, and the group is (I think...) more well known now than
before. We're doing a CD release party on Feb 24 at the Hard Rock in San Francisco, and the girls think there will be 500+ attending."


Rich Flynn
Rich Flynn is a Bay Area guitarist (and fellow Benician) who plays with rockers Finding Stella, Public Eye, The Primates, as well as in an acoustic duo with Marcy Avery












These pictures pretty much demonstrate Rich's musical range and interests. Rich just likes music. He is as enthusiastic about acoustic duo work as he is about rock. 


Rich plays his acoustic sets regularly at the bistros of Benicia and the surrounding area.


On the other hand, the 6'4" guy there on the right, in front of the Marshall stack and shoulder-to-shoulder with the Hawaiian "Road Warrior" bassist, is equally comfortable with shredding rock. 

That's Rich playing the cool guitar parts in the Finding Stella MP3s above.



Rich Flynn has a lot of natural entertainer in him and he usually has something entertaining to say. He and I used to see each other on the job during the day, as for a time we were both slaves to the same Man, and he would drop by my cubicle and tell me musician's stories.

Rich told me once that he can be found sleeping in his car, somewhere in the Bay Area, virtually any early Saturday morning of the year. It turns out he had a near death experience, flying his van off an embankment one night, falling asleep at the wheel while driving home to Benicia from a late night gig. As much as it scared him - he received nary a scratch - it more infuriated him that he had, for all practical purposes, demolished his gig transport when such a travesty could have been avoided. He made a plan that would prevent future calamities.

Rich can't do what most of us would - take a stimulant of some kind - because he is a clean liver (or has a clean liver), so his options are limited. And he isn't about to give up gigging. So, he identified safe zones along his usual routes around the Bay Area, like areas near fire stations, where a guy can sleep in his car with reasonable assurance of not being assaulted in the dead hours. He says the police have occasionally tapped on his window, but when they listen to his logic they let him be. He sleeps for a few hours and recovers his energies until it is safe for him to drive on home. It makes for a long night, but he gets home safe.- RAR

Rich Flynn's Mom gifted him recently with this reminder of misspent youth: The In Like Flynn Band ready to compete in a Battle of the Bands at the Solano County Fairgrounds.  No word on how they did. The band members (from left): Lono Hirakawa, Rich Flynn, Duane Cray and Doug Riddle (who was only half there that day).



Sometimes, in this Internet age, you run upon some shiny object out there in the virtual world, and upon further examination you learn that you've actually stumbled upon something worth finding. This is how I feel about Halley Millaine, a Sacramento girl who probably doesn't belong on this page, but as we have no Central Valley Links as yet I put her here. She is "temperamentally" closer to San Francisco than anyplace else, though that could change. She is on a course previously taken by Renfey, one of my favorite artists on the Links, who migrated from the Sierras through SF on her way to LA. Renfey and Halley have much in common, both being romantic sirens who pulsate with modernity while cleaving toward the baroque. Halley is a little less "Kate Bush" than is Renfey, but the shared inclinations are clear.

The comparison is also interesting because Renfey and Halley are at different stages of artistic development. Halley seems to be self-produced, which is no criticism. She has a vision for what she wants the music to be, which is atmospheric and melodic over a deep groove augmented by a swimming chorus of voices. Halley sings beautifully and is a developing songwriter. She is also a pianist, violinist and recording engineer. As good as she is, one imagines where collaboration with a producer like Kor, who has been so important to Renfey, might take her.


Halley Millaine has two covers on her MySpace site, definitely worth hearing.



Dave Gleason's Wasted Days

DAVE GLEASON is a Ventura guy whose heart belongs to Bakersfield (with the late Buck Owens and the boys) and Nashville (with any number of underground cowboys). It is difficult to really place him on the San Francisco scene - though he is reputed to hang out in the poster lounge at the Fillmore - and sort of a mystery as to how he ended up on a The band has been around since 2000 and the current line-up includes Mike Therieau (bass, vocals), Pat Johnson (guitars, vocals), John Kent (drums) and Gleason on lead vocals and guitar. Gleason compares his band to The Paladins, The Jayhawks  and Marty Stuart's Fabulous Superlatives. Gleason's Just Fall To Pieces CD featured guest appearances from legendary Nashville guitarist Albert Lee and San Francisco's Jim Campilongo, along with Red Meat's Michael Montalto, pedal steel whiz Joe Goldmark, keyboardist Dan Eisenberg (Tift Merritt), and Thom Moore of The Moore Brothers. This is traveling in good company.

Dave Gleason's Wasted Days Just Fall to Pieces album is available at Amazon and through CD Universe, and elsewhere.



"Yeah, they know what's goin' on
out there in Cal-uh-forn-ya..."

Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's "The Doors"


RAR NOTE: So, on our roughly east-to-west journey across the American musical landscape we have finally reached California. So many of us have lived here, and still do. One out of every nine Americans is a resident of the state, which has the seventh largest economy in the world. 

That means that whatever you've got anywhere else, you've got nine of them here - except that is extended where musicians are concerned, because those types flock to the western shores like pilgrims to Mecca. Maybe the ratios for songwriters and talented players are more like 25 to 1, maybe higher. You tend to taste the creme.

California exists on so many levels. To transplants like myself, it represents a hope of promise that we picked up from watching TV shows and movies, so many of which reflect the look and feel of the Golden State. It lets us down because it is a chimera that we have chased , and many return to those places from which we came. For those of us who stick it out - sometimes for no reason other than that  there is just no further place west to go - it lifts us up in unexpected ways because the reality of California is so immense. It is as if everything that one can think to include in a region is represented in this one magnificent strip of real estate. You will do things here you would have never thought you would, in all ways that are good and bad. You will discover yourself and eventually just be who you are. That's what makes California seem so kaleidoscopic.

To those who are native, California is the place that no place else is better than.  They explore other parts of the country, where life isn't so expensive and the pressures not so extreme, but they come home to the coast because it is just cool here. 

Californians have a keen sense for what is available in life, on whatever level you wish to look, from the sublime to the superficial. No matter what socio-economic class they come from, the people of the San Francisco Bay Area rank among the most discriminating consumers you'll find anywhere in the world.

The natives are the smoothest, the least likely to put on airs, the most likely to express themselves freely. They have the easy knowledge that they were to the manor born -  the rock manor, the country, the jazz, the blues.

The music coming out of California is phenomenally diverse, the music from San Francisco incredibly great.


James Warner
James' website states - "James Warner is a San Francisco writer of British extraction. He has a philosophy degree from Oxford and is a certified Java programmer, but is currently most in demand as a Captain Hook impersonator." Amazingly, that doesn't say all there is to say about James. As well as being a sly fictionist, he is a clever songwriter and a classically trained musician. He played synthesizer on Republican, a demo of which is available on this site. He produces the InsideStoryTime reading series at a San Francisco club and publishes his work on McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Eclectica, Monkey Bicycle and other online literary sites. He read in LITQUAKE '06 (San Francisco Literary Festival).





©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), March, 2012