Starry Plough Murder Ballads Bash

Saturday, October 29th.

larger picture at bottom of this page

Doors open 8:00 pm, music at 9:00 pm


21 & over

3101 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, 510-841-0188

There is a bitter chill in the air, leaves are falling to the ground, spirits of the dead haunt the night breezes, and thoughts turn to darker things, perhaps even murder. Certainly not a pleasant thought but murder has long been in the hearts of mankind and songs have been written about it almost as long as it's been committed. Now in it’s fifteenth year, the ANNUAL STARRY PLOUGH MURDER BALLADS BASH is a tradition in itself. Ten or so gruesome acts of murder, misery, death, and despair will be musically executed for your listening pleasure... and a comedian who might just die on stage.

Featuring (but not necessarily in order): More details to follow, keep checking.

Val Esway and El Mirage: After years spent winning folks over with the ethereal soundscapes of Ramona the Pest and the twang inspired stylings of Loretta Lynch, Val Esway continues her explorations of love, liquor & loss with her band El Mirage. Whether she’s singing sweet sounding tales of liquor and despair or toe tapping ditties of revenge and loss, Val Esway will surely disarm you with her soulful siren sounds.

Shelly Doty and Vicki Randle: One of the founders of the popular West Coast band Jambay, who toured relentlessly for many years and released three independent CDs before disbanding in 1996, and labeled "a future legend" by one reviewer and a "guitar goddess" by another, Shelley Doty is considered one the best independent performers in the business. In addition to fronting her band, the Shelley Doty X-tet, she also often performs solo acoustic. Don't be fooled though - she can bring the same intensity she's known for when playing electric to an acoustic setting. Hmmm... I wonder what she and Vicki are cooking up for this night?

Misisipi Mike Wolf: American singer, songwriter and musician who has played these many years in the bay area with bands like Calamity & Main and The Midnight Gamblers as well as too many solo performances to list in a lifetime. His music has been compared to that of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. His songs have been featured on national television (True Blood, Justified, Big Love) and broadcast radio (Car Talk, that's right, I said, "Car Talk"). He has been twice voted (2011 and 2012) as "Best Singer/Songwriter" by the readers of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He's 30 feet tall and he has an ox named Blue. All true.

Nellie Bly: Detroit native Missy Gibson (vocals), along with Mike Flanagan (guitar, vocals, loops), had fronted L.A.-based indie-rock band BREECH for many years and now perform as Nellie Bly whose music is challenging, yet highly listenable, Their songs bulge with a kind of unvarnished brilliance that in the past has garnered rave reviews like, “… avenging-angel music for the jilted lover or the wronged artiste. . . it's snappy songwriting craft doused with a Tom Waits weirdness." They’ve been called creepy and elegant. Perfect, I’d say.

Danny Allen's High Diving Horses: This rootsy, rock group are song fans. They’ve got sad ones, happy ones, punky ones and (especially for you) murderous ones. You may expect a toy piano, some old guitars, an upright bass, miscellaneous drums, and whatever else is lying around their dungeon these days.

The It Thing: Beginning as an offshoot of 80’s underground folk/rock/pop/art band The Cat Heads, It Thing is former Cat Heads Mark Zanandrea and Melanie Clarin DeGiovanni. After 2 decades the duo reunited for their second album, the vinyl Kensington Way Revisited, with Josh Housh on bass. As described by Piero Scaruffi in the online publication The History of Rock Music: "Zanandrea and Clarin are two of the most independent minds to come out of the 1980s. They inherited the hippies' unbridled imagination and propensity to experiment, and steeped them in pure pop to create music without trends or boundaries."

Paul Pot's Wheel of Fortune Studio Orchestra: 1980’s DIY musician and now fearless leader of the Happy Clams brings his current bandmates together with Madelyn Covey on ukulele to bring you a set of songs of murder, retribution, misery, and the chart topper you’ll hear when you die. Spin the Wheel.

Yanqui Gumbo: Local bluesman Roger Brown teams up with early 20th century Jazz aficionado, Leslie “Thornetta” Thorne to bring you a set that will sound apparently nothing like what I just described with a pinch of what I just described tossed in for good taste. May the lord have mercy on us all.

Secret Emchy Society: The brainchild of Cindy Emch - the whiskey voiced singer-songwriter from bands Rhubarb Whiskey, Vagabondage, Feral, and more. Her heart breakin', foot stompin' old school country tunes are the hybrid child of Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Hazel Dickens - with just enough strange and esoteric influences to keep you guessing. With a heady combination of heartbreakers and murder ballads Emchy gives voice to the beauty & danger alive in America.

Madelyn Covey: Accompanied by her ukulele, this favorite of the Conan Doyle set has a sweet voice that will dazzle you with a tale of Sherlock Holmes and murder most foul.

Jesse Hett: A human comedian based in Oakland by way of central Kansas. He has appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal doing comedy while wearing a virtual reality helmet. That sounds made up but it's true, you can look it up. He has performed in SF Sketchfest and the Savage Henry Comedy Festival; is a regular at Rooster T. Feathers, the San Jose Improv, and the San Francisco and Sacramento Punch Lines. His style has been described as "observational absurdism" and one newspaper reviewer wrote that he "says very smart things in a very dumb way" which is kind of mean but print media is dying so Jesse Hett will have the last laugh.



Larger picture with list of the murdered for fun. Find 'em dead folks.

Murdered: Abe Lincoln, Alfafa Switzer, Anne Boleyn, Belle Starr, Benizer Bhutto, Biggie Smalls, the Black Dahlia, Bob Crane, Dianne Fossey, Gianni Versace, Huey Newton, Jezebel, Jimmy Hoffa, John Lennon, Jon Bonet Ramsey, Kitty Genovese, JFK, Laci Peterson, Lee Harvey Oswald, Medger Evers, Mary Pinchot Mayer, my sister, Martin Luther King, Ngo Dinh Diem, Nicole Simpson, Rasputin, Robert Johnson, Selena, Sharon Tate, Sitting Bull, Trayvon Martin, Tupac Shakur, Wild Bill Hickcock, and a gorilla.