December 6-13, 2006

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Billy Bang

Photograph by Lisa Predko
Anyone who had a harp: Joanna Newsom performed her new 'Ys' album at a sold-out Rio show.


Wide World of Misfits

By Bill Forman

STRING-DRIVEN THINGS If Joanna Newsom has gone from solo performances to immaculately arranged (by Van Dyke Parks, no less) 12-minute epics brought to the stage by an immaculately rehearsed band, her hand-picked opening act, Bill Callahan, is moving in the opposite direction. After more than a decade of recording and touring as Smog--or, as his band was sometimes billed, (Smog)--Callahan is venturing out under his own name with nothing more than his acoustic guitar, resulting in one of the stranger Rio performances in recent memory. While Callahan sang in a striking baritone with a clarity that recalls folk legends like Fred Neil and Tim Hardin, he insisted on keeping his guitar accompaniment to an almost embarrassingly childlike strumming. Likewise, while his performance of Smog classics like Riverguard (with its eerie opening line, "When I take the prisoners swimming/ They have the time of their lives") suggested the work of an original and often affecting lyricist, they almost invariably strayed off into ambiguous directions understood, one suspects, only by Callahan himself. Newsom's lyrics are also idiosyncratic, but her Bjork-meets-Kate Bush vocals, her elegant harp playing and her ensemble's chamber-pop rendering of the entire Ys album enraptured a sell-out crowd of MySpace-age devotees. Who knows? Maybe Callahan will come back in a year or two and do the same.

WHY AM I SUCH A MISFIT? If a Danzig show comes to the Catalyst, and Glenn Danzig isn't there to play it, does anybody care? Apparently not, judging by the response to the heavy metal dwarf's no-show in Santa Cruz last week. The story going around town is that the former Misfit's equipment took a little detour en route to the Catalyst. A source involved with the show says that, two nights earlier, the tantrum-prone Danzig fired his tour manager, whose loyal road crew subsequently drove Danzig's equipment "to Timbuktu." Meanwhile, Danzig's website continues to insist it was all simply a case of influenza. In either event, all was not lost. Catalyst promoter Eddy Dees says a quarter of the fans who showed up turned down a refund because they were there to see Danzig's Blackest of the Black tour mates Lacuna Coil, The Haunted, Belphegor and Asesino and couldn't care less about seeing Danzig anyway. Anyway, you can always catch Danzig himself in that YouTube clip where North Side Kings singer Danny Marianinho decks him (

GET OUT OF THAT KITCHEN Friends and fans of Gillian Harwin will want to catch her homecoming gig next week at the Kuumbwa. A singer/songwriter who also plays upright bass and--like most Santa Cruz artists--a mean musical saw, Harwin is a longtime Kuumbwa Jazz Center volunteer who recently set out to make a name for herself in New York City and has been gigging there regularly. You can check out her website at and witness her rise from the kitchen to the stage at Dec. 7 at the Kuumbwa, where she will no longer be asked to wash dishes.

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