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July 27, 2006

HEADING Disgraced and Proud, photo fo The Shondes, The Hum by BOB DORAN,

It has been a difficult for one who the TV news every night, seeing what seems to be a war without end, even more bombs and flames causing displaced families, children crying, people dying. By chance I have been in communication recently with a rebellious four-piece rock band from Brooklyn called The Shondes, who have been working as part of the stateside resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The band's vocalist/bass player, Louisa Rachael Solomon, traveled to Palestine twice with the International Solidarity Movement and along with the other Jewish members of the band she's active in Jews Against The Occupation, which she describes as "an organization of New York Jews from different backgrounds united in fighting for justice for Palestine." She sees the recent attacks on Lebanon as "definitely connected" to that struggle. "In both cases you're dealing with Israel, which has become a major military power with U.S. funding and U.S. weapons. In both cases you have Israel attacking civilian populations, unprovoked."

Just watching the TV news one might assume that Israel's support among American Jews is universal. Not so, according to Solomon. "It's part of why a band like The Shondes is important, and it's related to why we chose that name — because shonde means disgrace. In a world where the media only portrays Jews in America rallying behind Israel, we're often considered disgraces for our views. But here and in Israel, there's a viable left that totally opposes the occupation of Palestine as well as this crazy invasion of Lebanon."

I'll admit, I falsely assumed that the band's disgrace and rejection had as much to do with sexual politics as the international kind. As they told me in a collective e-mail, "We're a queer/trans rock quartet mixing classical, feminist punk,and Jewish music with radical politics to make you dance and break your heart."

"Gender and sexuality are an issue everywhere," said Solomon, "but there are certainly out and visible queer and gay people in what you might call traditional Jewish communities. Of course there are issues there. I would say it's both things, and that those issues are connected for us. Who we are and what we believe in is all about where we come from."

Musically, the band mixes punk fervor with Yiddish elements (violin sounds, for example) creating a new form that touches on klezmer — but again, with a political twist. Says Solomon, "We consider our love songs to be political anthems just as much as songs that explicitly talk about Palestine. We try to make the music sound like a conversation. That's where our energy and passion comes from."

The Shondes have been working their way west on their first transcontinental tour. They hit Arcata Sunday, July 30, for a show at the Alibi, sharing the bill with San Francisco-based electro-rockers Dark Side of the Cop, who make quite different music. Their eponymous CD is supposedly synched to the film Beverly Hills Cop in the same way that P. Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon synchs with The Wizard of Oz, although in this case it's intentional. I have to say, while I like the grooves, I don't quite get the concept.

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The highlight of the reception at the 330 following Charlotte and Melissa's June wedding was a love song performed by an ad hoc group of local rockers with Deric Mendes on vocals, something drawn from the soundtrack to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a musical tale about a transsexual and his/her rock dreams. Deric and company have secured rights to mount a production of the play, which is planned for the near future — in the meantime, they're raising funds to support it. (Just the rights cost about a grand.) This Saturday at Synapsis Gallery, our new Eureka Mission of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence hosts the first in what will surely be a series of benefits, with antics by the cross-dressing Sisters plus music by The Ravens (Melissa's band), Sara Fae, Pure Country Gold (alt. country from Portland) and Universalia Jane. I met the Jane whose name graces the band at the Folklife festival over the weekend and she slipped me a copy of U.J.'s The Oracles of Delphi CD. Made with her old band in Arizona, it's a collection of cool, dark songs with a sonic texture I like. (I'm a sucker for cellos.) The show at Synapsis (also the space where the play will eventually run) also includes more songs from Hedwig by the local version of The Angry Inch. The Sisters encourage attendees "to dress up in Hedwig fashion or drag!" and offer prizes for best costume.

And speaking of Folklife, I was totally impressed by Colin Begell of Strix Vega, one of the writers showcased on songwriter night. His band is quite busy this weekend, playing Thursday at Six Rivers with Abe Ray's band, AcarAManAMaraca, on Friday at the Metro with The Professional Superheroes (who should cover Colin's songs) and on Saturday at The Pearl, where they share the bill with Que La Chinga, back in action after a hiatus while Brett was off in Europe spreading his grandpa's ashes on the greens of St. Andrew's, a Scottish golf course.

Another Folklife standout was guitarist Todd Krider, who closed Flying Fingers night with some totally original, most unusual, percussive work, utilizing all parts of his instrument. He's at Old Town Coffee Saturday with songwriter/yoga teacher Vanessa Ver Lee from S.F.

Algo differente sabado, 29 Julio, en Indigo Nightclub: Latino Mexican dance con banda Tierra Del Sureste, Cabina Master con DJ Acapulco tocando lo mejor de musica reggeaton y mas.

This is the final weekend for the short-lived Kelly O'Brien's Pub. House favorites Big Earl & the Cryin' Shame help them start the goodbyes Thursday night with some blues, not all of them sad. Friday Prof. Rod strums once more and Vintage Soul lays down some solid soul (and I've heard they're saying goodbye to vocalist Melody Thrash). Saturday the place closes with Midnight to 12, a rock band from San Francisco. Then the staff of Kelly O's says farewell and thanks as they turn things over to new owners Sam Magruder and Rick Crum, who are renaming the space The Red Fox Tavern and doing a bit of remodeling. "We're planning a grand reopening Aug. 17-20," said Magruder, "a four-night opening showcasing a different genre of music every night. Our plan is to have all kinds of music in there."

Two SoCal psychobilly bands, The Rocketz and Mad Marge and The Stonecutters, invade the Boiler Room Sunday, July 30, bringing in a blast of rockin' tattooed madness. The Rocketz are your basic Stray Cats-esque trio, with Tony Slash out front on his red hollow-body Gretsch and an upright bassman. As you might guess, The Stonecutters from Victorville (where my dad was in the service during WWII) have vocalist Mad Marge out front — she moves things away from rockabilly toward Pretenders-style rock.

Can you tell anything about a band by their top eight MySpace friends? The Upsidedown, a neo-psychedelic rock combo from Portland counts The Dandy Warhols, Brian Jonestown Massacre and The High Violets among their friends, along with Reverb Records (their label and The High Violets'). I dug the Upsidedown tunes posted on MySpace — they show the band has sonic connections to their friends, although with a difference: a pair of female vocalists who provide lead and harmonies. Should be a cool show this Sunday at Six Rivers, although it seems more like something you'd find at the Alibi.

You might think that Duane Flatmo has already had the 15 minutes of fame promised by Andy Warhol. The internationally renowned Kinetic racer (also Humboldt's most prolific muralist) was declared the "most interesting person in California" by Tom Green on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and now, as Duane detailed in an e-mail this week, he "will be heading down to Hollywood again! Yes... the same act, but a different show." The TV show America's Got Talent is kind of a cross between American Idol and the old Gong Show, with assorted oddball acts dueling for top spot and Regis Philbin as host. Duane's talent? "I'll be playing Flamenco guitar with the electric egg mixer," he noted, "live on stage with a viewing audience of 15 million people. Exciting and a little scary! Should be fun!" Tune in this Thursday, July 27, at 9 p.m. and root him on.

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