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San Francisco Live Music Calendar: What to See This Week

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The Brooklyn-based black metal band Liturgy, who are playing Bottom of the Hill this week, perform at the 2009 New Yorker Festival. |

San Francisco is a tough town for live music because there's just so damn much of it. Between the top-tier touring acts selling out huge venues and your best friend's cousin's band you've been guilted into seeing three times despite their being terrible, sorting through the chaos of the city's live music sene to find a happy middle ground is no easy task.

This column is an attempt to solve that problem for you. We're going to take it one week at a time.

Fri, 7/15 - Sex With No Hands @ Ireland's 32

Pop quiz hotshots: what's the sexiest musical instrument? You probably said something cliché like "electric bass" or "cello". Those are both wrong. The one guy in the back who answered "skin flute," your mom called and she wanted me to tell you she can't give you a ride to soccer practice after school today. You're going to have to catch a lift with Gary.

The correct answer is "accordion". Now you're probably thinking, "accordions are lame like Weird Al is lame."

Here's the thing--you could not be more wrong.

In the in the very capable clutches of Sex With No Hands (the single greatest erotically-named, dueling accordion, klezmer-funk band to ever come out of the city by the bay), accordions are the foundational elements of epic, sweat-drenched dance parties powered by inventively oddball covers. Let's just say if you've never heard Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" sung in Russian and played with two accordions, a vocoder and a keytar, then you've never really heard "Folsom Prison Blues."

Sat, 7/16 - Phono del Sol @ Potrero del Sol

Every time a new music festival pops up in San Francisco an angel get its wings. Then, depending on the festival, that angel either drops acid, puts on roller skates, covers itself in glitter and proceeds to immediately trip over a curb and break its arm or stands virtually motionless, sipping a PBR while telling its friends how whatever band its currently watching was way better when it saw them at SXSW two years ago.

Angels are insufferable.

While this particular new festival, the first annual Phono del Sol Music and Food Festival, may create one of those aforementioned angels, the festival is undoubtedly going to strike a happy balance between those two extremes. Put on by the local music blog The Bay Bridged and nearby Tiny Telephone recording studio at the Potero del Sol skate park, the festival features performances by Aesop Rock, Mirah, Man/Miracle, Magik*Magik Orchestra, Religious Girls and Appetite.

Sun, 7/17 - The English Beat @ Stern Grove

They do not make ska bands like they used to. And by "they" I mean "British people".

Although, come to think of it, "they" could be applied to pretty much everyone now days. In 2011, people are too busy with their dubstep or their post-dubstep or their second-wave post-dubstep revival to go back and appreciate the transcendent, pogo-inducing power of multi-racial crews of punk rockers with horn sections playing some of the catchiest music ever.

Also, checkered pants were usually somehow involved.

Now is the perfect time for some enterprising youngsters to form a ska band and watch The English Beat play Stern Grove. It's important for this fresh-faced new band to see the genre's masters perform hits like "Save It For Later" and "Mirror in the Bathroom". Hopefully, they'll realize at this early stage, no matter what they do, they'll never be as good as the English Beat and promptly give up ska in favor of making chill-core on their laptops.

Like I said, they do not make ska bands like they used to.

Mon, 7/18 - Stay home and read a book

Seriously, it'll be good for you.

Tue, 7/19 - Parenthetical Girls @ The Hemlock Tavern

You know the moronic old saying, "those who can't do, teach"? A more accurate version is, "those who can't play music, write about music."

Fact: behind the steely-eyed glare and black-framed glasses of your average jaded rock critic sits long, shattered trail of pretentious rock 'n roll dreams. It's important to be extra skeptical of any musical project involving a rock writer--the music's target audience is almost invariably other music critics and, as a result, is probably a stone cold drag.

Ira Kaplan, who wrote for Spin before forming Yo La Tengo, is simultaneously an exception to this rule and its living embodiment.

While the Parenthetical Girls count rock writer Zac Pannington as one of its founding members, the band's music tempters its artier, more experimental impulses with an engagingly melodramatic pop flare.

Wed, 7/20 - Liturgy @ Bottom of the Hill

A lot of people in the obsessive metalhead community have serious problems with Liturgy. They don't like it that the band plays black metal dressed in skinny jeans and trendy t-shirts instead of performing in the traditional ensemble--looking like the members of KISS went on a shopping spree at Hot Topic and then took a three-hour nap in a gutter during a rainstorm. Added to that: they're from Brooklyn, are more ambivalent than they are adversarial towards religion, are beloved by the Pitchfork indie music hive-mind, strive for the joyously precise execution of mathematically complex arranges instead of dark heaviness and, I really can't emphasize this enough, are from Brooklyn.

If you want your band to be accepted by legit denizens of the United States of Metaltopia, none of these things are advisable.

On the other hand, you could just do what Liturgy does and back up your affronts to black metal orthodoxy with serious chops, raucously energetic live shows and legions of devoted new fans from across the musical spectrum who like well-played music that engages both the intellectual and head-banging sides of the brain.

Thu, 7/21 - Zodiac Death Valley @ The Independent

Every member of San Francisco's Zodiac Death Valley has a ZDV tattoo somewhere on his body. When SF Weekly asked the band whose idea the tattoos were, multi-instrumentalist Nathan Ricker answered, "Mine, I don't need to pretend it was a good idea."

This is because the local five-piece are bona fide rock stars. The band's particular brand of psychedelic sea shanties effortlessly walks the fine line between freewheeling noise and deft pop smarts.

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