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HICKS WITH STICKS NEWS #204, March 24, 2009

San Francisco Bay Area Twang Calendar Highlights
Bands / Clubs

Saturday, April 25
Jeanie & Chuck's country roundup, VeloTones, Chick Wagon @ Cafe Royale, Post & Leavenworth, SF, 8-10 free.

Larry and his Flask @ Ireland's 32, Geary and 3rd Ave, SF, 8-10, free

Ron Thompson's Recovery from Pneumonia Benefit
The Mojo Lounge
3714 Peralta Blvd
Fremont 3-8 PM
Bluesman Thompson is the real deal.

19th Annual Pacific Coast Dream Machines: Bill Kirchen @ Half Moon Bay Airport, Half Moon Bay 1pm $20

Cash'd Out/The B Stars/The Mighty Slim Pickens @ Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF 8pm $10

Joe Goldmark & the Seducers @ The Riptide, 3639 Taraval, SF 7pm free

Devil Makes Three/Hillstomp @ Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, SF 9pm $16

77 el Deora @ Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF 4pm free

J. P. & the Rhythm Chasers/Big B & the Snakeoil Saviors @ The Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF 9pm $15

Rusty Evans & Ring of Fire @ Ireland's 32, 3920 Geary Blvd., SF 8pm

Full Calendar


Misner & Smith
make a strong case for folk Americana without baggage and for music with intricate simplicity and lyrical dignity.  This duo is a Bay Area treasure that needs to be shared.

The uninitiated might want to start their journey at
MySpace by listening to "Greyhound Days," the musings of a bus-riding philosopher that will leave the best of songwriters wishing they could write 'em like this.  "Though I ain't religious his message seems clear/'Each eye that we meet, son, is only a mirror." 

Those familiar with the Bay Area's Pete Bernhard of the Devil Makes Three or "shitkicker poet" A. J. Roach will find kindred spirits in Sam Misner and Megan Smith.  Like Bernhard and A.J., Misner & Smith have a touch for taking simple ideas, wringing the clichés out of them and infusing them with unexpected meaning, metaphor and imagery. 

"Poor Player," the title track, leverages their main occupations as stage actors.  In this song an actor views the world as an actual stage yet with himself as but a poor player waiting in the wings.  

On "Length of a Song," a royal court takes the place of the stage and a troubadour replaces the poor thespian.  Only this time, the outside world, symbolized by the court from kings to jesters, judges the troubadour as someone "Who's here and he's gone for the length of a song," a comment on the brevity of life and the scarcity of lasting impact from our existences.

Life in the moment is at the heart of love in "Wandering Fool."  And is it any wonder the duo took a wandering fool's approach to recording their CD live in the studio?  Could these wandering thespian/troubadours have done it any other way?  Sometimes one's life just has to mirror one's art.

"Compose" calls up the image of a writer, who keeps herself as withdrawn from the world as her works which she keeps sewn into the lining of her coat.  She only experiences life through her imagination and her pen.  "Polly" is an answer song from the woman
who was done in by the man who'd promised to marry her in the centuries-old ballad "Pretty Polly."   This is the tale from her post-mortem point of view with no comfort in her ending.

Find M&S playing the Bay Area on April 10, 22 and 30th.  Get calendar details and hear their songs at  They'll make it easy to become a fan, and they'd surely have even more of a public if they didn't spend their summers on the stage and much of their winters tucked away in Petaluma.


The City of San Francisco's arts budget is funded by millions from a special hotel tax, but those who run San Francisco Grants for the Arts (SFGFTA) are making sure that not one dime of it gets to hillbillies, rockers, punks, rappers, sonic outlaws, struggling clubs or, heaven forbid, music's cutting edge. 

Sadly, the SFGFTA web page that lists its 2008-'09 music
grants displays a clear bias toward classical music, which raises the question of whether The City funds music as art or simply promotes musical elitism to the tune of $3.5 million.  By comparison, SFGFTA does seem to spread the wealth around for the other arts.  They granted the Samoan Flag Day parade $11,100, for example, but when it comes to music grants, from the American Bach Soloists to Volti, the agency funds classical music and not much else. 

SFGFTA granted $3.5 million to 50 music organizations in 2008-'09.  Of those 50, the opera and the symphony devoured 51% of the budget, so for practical purposes SFGFTA gave $1.7 million to 48 organizations, averaging $35,000 per grant. 

Considering the quantity of music-related endeavors in SF, SFGFTA is putting great sums on tax dollars into a narrow group of organizations that artlessly repeat the same-old, same-old year-after-year.  Imagine dividing $1.7 million among 500 songwriters, composers, mixmasters, small stages and nonprofits.  $3400 in each of those 500 hands would make San Francisco the creative music capital of the world, but that's not the way SFGFTA thinks.

Their list of grant recipients reads like a who's who of classical music snobbery with chamber orchestras aplenty, mid-summer Mozart (like the world really needs another one of those), and choral groups up the proverbial wazoo.  90% of the grantees are classicists and the rest are ever-so-PC ethnic and G/L/B/T groups of which the majority of them are both PC and classicist.  A grant hopeful who walked into SFGFTA with a Telecaster, twin turntables or a banjo could expect little more than a lash or two from Michael Tilson Thomas' baton. 

Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC) is responsible for grant decision making, but they are merely acting on the will of those who appointed them.  The key to this unfortunate situation lies in the control of the San Francisco Arts Commission, which is over-populated with social and political hobnobbers.  It is their members' tastes that ultimately determine what deserves a music grant and what does not.  Hoi polloi pack SF's Art Commission, place their proxies in the CAC, and group-think their social agendas into art.  Thus it becomes more important to spend $1,800,000 to assure opening night galas at the opera and symphony than to put $3500 into the hands of someone who might create something more than a musical retread. 


The last HWS issue's story about pointless divisiveness in the Bay Area's zydeco and roots music communities drew some interesting responses.  The better news is that zydeco's battling bookers have decided against going head-to-head on Fridays in Alameda.  They've still gone their separate ways, but have decided to run their own shows every other week, without each other's company, at the Eagle's Hall in Alameda.  The good news is that this compromise will keep the audience intact and save pitting bands against one another.  The bad news is that the bitterness, which was accumulating long before the split, remains.  Could this compromise be a step toward reconciliation?

Nutty Buddy, a licensed counselor (MFCC), emailed to point out the role of alcohol in the rare but troublesome rockabilly rumbles, and then went on to sympathize with clinical depression's role in divisive behavior.  Referring to the "rock stars" who poison their own wells, Buddy wrote that, "Depression causes those who have it to act against their interests to avoid meeting the unreasonable standards they set for themselves.  The low self-esteem that accompanies [untreated depression] makes it necessary [for them to portray themselves] as perpetual victims and to bring their environments down to their level...  They are not mean-spirited, they are ill... [and] because [depression] is very good at protecting itself, they shy away from treatment, which makes their lives worse." 

Music actually attracts people with untreated depression according to The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluated five research reports on music and depression.  Four of these studies connected music with mild, temporary depression relief.  "Music therapy techniques can involve making music, listening to music, writing songs, and talking about lyrics," wrote Nancy Schimelpfening, commenting on these studies in her depression blog.  If music can lift the spirits of the depressed, imagine what it does for those with relative peace of mind.  Apparently acting like a rock star isn't a behavior, it's a syndrome.  More.


Bands with concepts risk that their idea will not stand up to time.  It was fame that freed the Beatles from their pudding bowl haircuts, and even Kiss ditched their makeup for awhile. 

Fancy Dan's dapper threads work because they aren't a gimmick; they're who he really is.  He may be lookin' good but he's no stuffed shirt like the
Fancy Dan stereotype who would do in Spiderman.  The Fancy Dan Band's leader is as amiable as a Midwestern preacher's son and his band has the chops to back the threads.  It's all explained in the self-effacing humor of "Wake Up Fancy," the lead track on Born Fancy, the band's debut CD.

Listen to any one or two songs on the CD and they'll stand up well, but a funny thing happened on their way to the pressing plant.  The live show features some good kick from Michael Loebs' lead guitar, the rhythm section punches it out, and Fancy Dan is up front and on it with his voice and rhythm guitar.  But Nashville, where the songs were recorded, ran all these assets through the Tennessee homogenator, and though they didn't make the band sound country-politan, they did take away just enough edge to remind West Coast bands that they don't need to go to Nashville to accomplish something that a couple of hundred California studios can do better.  Luckily, Californians can see this band live and still pick up a copy of the CD as a worthy souvenir, which, as we might expect, comes in a package as spiffy as its muse's.


Trust those plucky Bombshells to come up with the biggest, boppin'est event the Bay Area has seen since 1997's Greaseball.  It all happens on April 18th at the Clarion Hotel just south of the airport at the Millbrae waterfront.  It'll be an afternoon-to-late night event with bands, DJs, burlesque, pre-'65 cars, vendors, raffles, and retro spirit to spare.

Jack Rabbit SlimJack Rabbit Slim will be hopping the big pond from the UK to headline, The Delta Bombers will be coming up from Las Vegas, and Bay Area favorites Texas Steve and the Git Gone Trio, The Royal Deuces, Charlie Roman and the Teenage Werewolves, 1/4 Mile Combo and Hi-Rhythm Hustlers will round out the music.  The ladies of the Hubba! Hubba! Revue will provide the shakin' and peelin', and the whole shebang is only $20.   Be there or be square, daddy-o, and call in your buddies from out of town.  The
Clarion is offering special rates for BBH guests.


Yard Sale,
the trio with a fine blend of pop and country songs, is set to release their second CD with a release party set for July 11th and Café Royale.  Find regular progress reports on 
MySpace...   Misisipi Rider released its new CD in Mid-March, but after a roll-out show at Amnesia, they'll be on hold until April 17th when they play the Plough and Stars on Clement Street in SF.  Hear tracks and find their calendar on their MySpace page...  The Country Casanovas will be coming out with their first CD within weeks.  They just recorded it two weeks ago and the mix was finished a week and a half later.  Apparently their drummer, Bing Nathan, stops at nothing once he gets into CD making mode...  The Saddle Cats, a western swing four-piece, are revving up for their CD release in May...  Johnny & Herb? Johnny Dilks is coming out of hibernation with a new band, JD & the Barroom Roses.  This time around he's planning a horn section and looking to develop a Herb Alpert meets "Ring of Fire" sound...   The Rockin' Cabbie checked in with a fool-proof random plan that anyone can use to name a band, title a CD and select a CD cover photo.  First, click on and use whatever Wikipedia returns as the band's name.  Wikipedia named HWS News' imaginary band Regular Verb.  Second, click on and use the last few words of the last quotation on the page for the CD's title.  Quotations Page gave HWS News F. Scott Fitzgerald's, "In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day."  Next, pick one of the nine pictures at /7days for the CD's cover.  Put them together using the drawing tools in MS Word or some other word and picture crunching software.  For an added touch, revisit Wikipedia for the name of the label.  This faux CD will be released on the 4177 Kohman pseudo-label, named after an asteroid found in 1987.  Send your CD cover, using the subject line "15-seconds of fame" to HWS News to get your entry into the next newsletter. 

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