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The Transbay Calendar was kind enough to include an abbreviated version of the following top ten list while being careful not to alert me to any shock or dismay at the length and quality of my narrative.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR | ABOUT THE TRANSBAY | 2004EARS

1

best show for running into the woman who wordlessly
walks by your bus stop every morning

17 January 2004
Big City Orchestra, Matt Davignon, RAJAR, and CMAU
with Tim Perkis and Wobbly, Lance Grabmiller, Jon Brumit, Recursive Heretics
21 Grand, Oakland
Neighborhood Public Radio

Come to find out, she's the mother of a Big City Musician and is really very very proud of her daughter. A quintessential 21Grand-y stylee show where the footprint of the musicians extends into seating area, and one wonder if plugging in one more thing will plunge the place into darkness. It won't. Only the utility company (or a narrow interpretation of City historic preservation ordinance) is capable of plunging 21Grand into darkness, and we continue to answer them with derisive laughter. Then. Wait for it. The sound starts (or re-commences) and all of the practical concerns fall away. Particularly riveting meta-manipulation of available radio by RAJAR, a needlessly apologetic Matt Davignon seeking the limiits of his newly acquired gear, and the snowy blue light illuminating the shrouded Big City Orchestra in a rare performance. A testament to how music changes morning rituals forever.

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2

best show for understanding what your audience really thinks of your music

tie

31 January 2004
Rova Saxophone Quartet
The Jazz House, Berkeley

27 June 2004
Daniel Popsicle
Swan's Courtyard, Oakland

The number of musicians' children growing out of their strollers has changed the composition of Bay Area Creative Music audiences over the past three years. While there remain a few armload-sized additions this year (hurray for Ezra and Stella), Creative Music Children are now by and large taller, take up more space, have begun to, or completed, the internalization of the subconscious, and have aspirations of their own that may or may not coincide with those of their Creative Music Parents. The Rova Children at the Jazz House discovered (1) how hilarious Rova's music is, at base and (2) there's a backstage area where no one can see you, and, after about 15 minutes (3) but they can hear you… really really well. Larry Ochs calmly finished his solo, jumped off stage, went behind the curtain and capped on the hooligans. When he returned to the stage to end in an incendiary ensemble chorus, now with two new seats filled in the audience, I felt the energy of six minds in it. By contrast, the color compositions Dan Plonsey created for the MOCHA Music & Art Series were meant to be presented in an outdoor painting, drawing and puppet-making studio (you can do that much with a popsicle stick, but you knew that). An imperfect experiment in synaesthesia, it was a remarkable Popsicle performance that knitted together sweet, lyrical lines, idiosyncratic meter, expressive improvisation, and the Cantonese hollering of a MOCHA child at the foot of the stage exhorting her reluctant brother in the window of an apartment above to come down and paint to music. He finally came down after the Popsicali packed up.

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3

best show for a collision of expectations

7 February 2004
Flying Luttenbachers, SpezzaRotto, and Toychestra
El Rio, San Francisco

Dalla copertura dei bordi del ferro ai maglioni di Fred Perry all'invenzione irrepressible del punk, queste tre fasce hanno assicurato una visione dello scottatura del passato, presente e futuro di musica principale del brandello 'n, senza per fornire il signage che direbbe a noi quali involucri ha rappresentato che cronometrano.
[From ironing boards to Fred Perry sweaters to irrepressible punk invention, these three bands provided a scalding vision of the past, present and future of shred 'n head music, without providing the signage that would tell us which band represented which tense.]

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4

best show for finding a bunch of drummers sitting in a row

6 March 2004
Altamont II
with Deerhoof, Triangle, X-27, Bobby Conn, Arctic Universe, Numbers, Da Hawnay Troof
Liminal Arts, Oakland

The largest assortment of creative new music performers assembled… and left off the bill. We sat on the edge of a momentarily unused stage and watch an audience nearly 75 times the size of the audience any one of us had played the month before gobble up high concept, buckets of beer, and a remarkable lack of oversight from the po-po. Altamont II did not live up to its predecessor in terms of the amount of hiking or stabbing required. At best, there was yet another Cal student walking away puzzled during the Deerhoof set because no one wanted to play Punch Me With Your Wild Punching Dance with him."I don't get it," he said, gesturing toward the stage.

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5

best show for rubbing sfalt your wounds

14 May 2004
Randy Yau, William Hooker & Moe! Staiano, and Uncle (John Shiurba & Myles Boisen)
Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco
SFAlt Festival 2004 (third night)

Uncle took a page out of Mono Pause's playbook to arrange for their set to be interrupted by creative music interlopers Bruckmann, Ingalls, Plonsey and Robair (no fake blood, next time: fake blood, or something falling from the ceiling). Moe! and William Hooker released themselves into a cinematic space that had no end, making the actual end of their set an abrupt heartbreak. But in the end it was the redemptive, caterwauling noise vocal of Randy Yau, legs braced into the sonic wind of his own feedback, sculpting his sound through a courtly dance with the amplifier. The audience limped away, uncertain whether something had been removed, or inserted, in their asses. Outstanding Hollah for your Dollah Award.

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6

speaking of asses, best show for getting a neck ache while seeing musicians spank butts

25 June 2004
Matmos
with Francis Dhomont, Richard Chartier, and Jean-Francois Denis
Recombinant Labs Compound, San Francisco
Dhomontos

It's hard to take advantage of the Compound's unique 360 degree multi-speaker and screen layout if you aren't the person in charge of the board. There may be no more inappropriate place to jockey for position, and all sullen glares go to those who stand resolutely in a spot with an air of knowing it to be sweet. Posers. Yet we permitted Naut Human to pack us in again to endure / enjoy diffused media, the highlight of which were three site-specific pieces by Matmos. The provocative, sequenced visualization of "Variations From A Stroke And A Spank" gave a last word in how music and nakedness can go together, with sound and vision carrying equal weight in the co-creation of the work.

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7

best show for keeping it together until
something really gets you and you can't keep it together no more

12 July 2004
Tom Djll, Ron Heglin, Toyoji Tomita
with OrcheSperry, Matthew Sperry Trio, et alia
21 Grand, Oakland
2nd Annual Matthew Sperry Memorial Concert

What should have been a stage manager's nightmare became, for the listener, an effortless series of contemplative, creative acts to center community memory of Matthew Sperry. A well-deserved outburst of applause came at the close of Brassiosaurus' performance of hope and mourning, wrapping a universe of small, complicated stars in their cloak.

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8

best frith cover ever performed in front of frith

3 September 2004
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
with Toychestra, Death Ambient, and Carla Bozulich
Mills College Concert Hall, Oakland
Rock and a Hard Place

More valient efforts from Mills to break down the walls of its Babylon, Rock and a Hard Place more correctly describes the leg room in the back row of the hall, which is, unlike any found in the Compound, the sweet spot. Circumstances compelled Sleepytime to perform a lush encore cover of Norrgarden Nyvla, which Frith hummed as he left the theater.

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9

best performance torn from the pages of the collage made the night before

5 September 2004
Scarnella
with Che Guevara Memorial Marching (and Stationary) Accordion Band
Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock
Open Gate Theatre Presents

Equal parts genius and train wreck, this Scarnella performance was predicated on a hand-made book, and the Che performance relied in part on ciphers inked by heavenly-scented markers, created the night before. We've seen books: the Book of Heads, Fluxus instructions, the Noble Qur'an, but those books might not have been as motivating to these performers. In a world blogged down in details, Scarnella managed to authentically create and reveal. The audience strained to take in the Hockney-esque sonic pool scenes drenched in small, intimate details of childhood, only a few recoiling in modesty, or complete disdain for the jinky way Carla had mic'd her amp.

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10

best music to watch diabolical vegetable sex to

6 November 2004
Uncle Bad Touch
with I Will Kill You Fucker, Militant Children's Hour, and the PornOrchestra
21 Grand, Oakland
PornOrchestra

On the UnHoly Night where the dedicated creative music listener had no less than a dozen performances to assist in post-election recovery, Myles Boisen (guitar) and David Slusser (slussomatic) formed as Uncle Bad Touch to improvise a soundtrack to Annie Sprinkle's meadow-rolling infatuation with mud, grass, vegetables, and a dramatic dark force at the center of the 70s porn classic The Devil Inside Her. Intuitive, pyrotechnic, perverse, Uncle Bad Touch cannot be left unsupervised.

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*

and the bonus reel since submitting this list to transbay
best okie of all

17 December 2004
Moe! Staiano singing Devo's Beautiful World
Liminal Gallery, Oakland
Music and Mayhem

Most of the participants in the helium karaoke activity were volunteered, if you know what I mean. Thankfully, Moe! brought artistic restraint, a naturally listenable voice, and an intimate knowledge of the compositional opportunities in Devo's ironic hymn. He also trumped all helium karaokers by using the balloon itself as an instrument.

This was, despite the little things like the clock on the wall and police outside, one of the year's best shows simply because it contained just about everything that could go right or wrong on every level. I fixed the toilet with my bare hands... twice and didn't get sick (in the moment or after 24 hours of e. coli incubation.
2005 is going to be an outstanding year.
Outstanding Bunny Mask Award to Liz Allbee, trumpet player and vocalist in Outstanding Laconical Cymbal Buster Award Winners Le Flange du Mal
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