Thick Red Wine :: Homesick Homecoming

Mike Wojciechwoski plays DNA Lounge this Friday, 8/29/14, under the moniker THICK RED WINE with Halcyonnaire, Mild Meddle, and Portland’s The Weather Machine.

It’s a long holiday weekend. Many people are heading out of town to camp, attend weddings, or maybe they’ve already been raptured to the Playa. For those of us happy to stay in The City, might I suggest kicking off the Labor Day weekend by listening to the labors of THICK RED WINE at DNA Lounge tomorrow night?

The brainchild of San Francisco’s Mike Wojciechowski, THICK RED WINE pairs the intensity of adolescence with the reflection of grown-ass adulthood.  Taken at face value, the music is utterly enjoyable with its simple, repetitious chords and middle school nostalgia pushed through gritty, rambling vocals. As with most things in life, however, you get what you put into it and investing in the THICK RED WINE catalog unearths a depth that can be glossed over if you’re impatient. Some of my favorite moments from Wojciechowski’s last album, Never Wanted To Be Cool, come back to back with “If I Had a Shotgun” and “Never Find the Time” which speak to our generation’s paralysis in the face of seemingly limitless options that are tempered by fewer opportunities. We are eager, we are earnest and we just can’t seem to get over.

I feel this intimately, and Thomas Wolfe’s words “you can’t go home again” often rattle around my brain. Thankfully, THICK RED WINE provides an antidote to the depression Wolfe can trigger. No, we can’t go home again…but we can sure as hell remember it fondly, and we’ll always have our friends. In the last song on Never Wanted To Be Cool, Wojciechowski drops an impressive Marquis de Sade reference (brilliant) and provides a fantastic summary of his music: “I guess the moral to the story is you can’t hope to explain just what it means to be human or grow up or be sane…So I steal pennies from the dirty fountains of my checkered youth, hopin’ someday all these words I write will mean something to you.”

If this last album is any indication, I expect his forthcoming EP–Homesick–will mean much to me (this is, after all, a blog based on nostalgia), and I’m excited to announce Wojciechowski has agreed to be part of the Nostos Algos oral history project, Soundbyte. Tomorrow’s official release of “Marathon”, his first Homesick song, is hosted by Mutiny Radio and is a Bourgeois Productions joint. I will be there, and I will be in it to win it.

 

Phono del Sol: Music Festival Savior

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White Fence performing at Phono del Sol, where the livin’ is easy.

I enjoy Outside Lands every year, but, at the risk of sounding like a grumpus, the Summer of 2014 may be the season that music festivals jumped the shark. I say this in spite of loving the concept of music festivals. What could be better than listening to music while enjoying the great outdoors with delicious food and drinks? Particularly at Outside Lands, you descend into another realm free from the urban cyclone that whirls away just outside the park perimeter. You can wander through psychedelic circus-lit canopies holding a rice crispy treat the size of your face in one hand, a watermelon cocktail in the other, and end your journey with a pyrotechnic light show soundtracked by a Beatle, in person. If you live in the Outer Sunset, like this little lady, you can then stumble home in a haze of disbelieving glory and wonder aloud, “Was this all a dream?”

Yes, I drink the Outside Lands Kool-Aid every year, however that doesn’t erase my memory of the inevitable claustrophobic panics and the annoyance of youngins rolling on molly who indiscriminately pee where people want to sit. In many ways, it seems to me these big festivals have grown too big for their britches. Each successive year of Outside Lands becomes more corporate and crowded with people who are more drunk, more rude, and more oblivious to the music. Sadly, this is a recurring theme where music has become a secondary distraction at music festivals. Coachella broke Instragram this year when the barrage of blogging fashionistas, there to see-and-be-seen, all simultaneously uploaded photos of their outfits (#ootd). And if you’re an optimist willing to endure the downsides of large festivals, you’d best be quick to buy tickets because they sell out in a matter of minutes only to be found for sale on Stubhub at double the cost mere moments after they officially “sell out”.

The glorious antidote to these maladies is Phono del Sol, the feel-good festival that won’t tax your budget or your patience. Co-hosted by The Bay Bridged and John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone, this one-day, $25 event held on July 12th was just the right size–never overcrowded, always relaxed. It was held at Potrero del Sol, which is located a stone’s throw away from Tiny Telephone at the base of Potrero Hill, and includes a skate park that was packed for the entire festival. A hill in the middle of the park separated the two stages, and offered the best seats in the house. A mere pivot to either side of this hill gave you the perfect view of killer sets from Nick Waterhouse, which sparked an old-fashioned dance party near the stage; from Wye Oak, who showcased her flawless, bass-driven new sound alongside some old Civilian favorites; and from local favorites Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, who ended the day with their infectious indie pop. Phono del Sol also introduced many people to lesser known notables such as White Fence, A Million Billion Dying Suns, The Tambo Rays, and Tony Molina.

The success of Phono del Sol ultimately lies in its authenticity. The Bay Bridged is a nonprofit music blog devoted to covering and promoting Bay Area music, while John Vanderslice opened Tiny Telephone to give local, independent musicians access to affordable hi-fi recording. This dedication to local music was mirrored in the dedication of those in the audience who were as attentive to the musicians who played as they were respectful of their fellow listeners. We ate amazing sliders with garlic sweet potato fries courtesy of Voodoo Van, and sipped beer from a souvenir turquoise koozie–all with ample elbow room that provided maximum enjoyment. Compare that to a day at Outside Lands that begins with Esurance bracelets, drains your bank account and your faith in humanity, and then spits you out onto Lincoln Way to begin your arduous journey home. To me, despite my affection for Outside Lands, that’s Phono del Sol for the win.