By Tom Lanham
As 2021 slithers out, rock fans still have a reason to be happy.
First, some incredible, life-affirming music was made in the last 12 months. Because we’re not doing an official Top 10 Album List this season, here are this writer’s Top 3 records, for last-minute gift.
At No. 3, Sam Fender’s reflective sophomore set “Seventeen Going Under,” proving his anthemic “Hypersonic Missiles” debut from 2019 was no fluke; At No. 2, the unexpected return of ABBA after four anonymous decades, “Voyage” is a majestic masterpiece sure to brighten every Christmas gathering; and at No. 1, “Back In Love City,” the picture-perfect latest from Britain’s folk-punk firebrands the Vaccines, easily one of the best rock-and-roll records ever made. No joke — play it once and then just try to get its addictive hooks out of your head.
Concert-wise, San Francisco is going out in style, starting with a series of eclectic mid-December concerts that reflect The City’s cultural diversity. First up: Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Thursday, backing their new high-concept album “Screen Violence.” Vocalist/lyricist Lauren Mayberry spent a good portion of the pandemic lockdown watching horror movies, and — as a former journalism student — she began to see a story. (See “Final Girl” about a serial killer’s sole surviving female victim.)
“Final Girl” became a larger metaphor, she explains, “because there are so many films and TV shows about dead women and dead girls, but the dead girls and dead women don’t actually get any character development — they’re just a plot point to tell men’s stories.” Mayberry’s dreamy ethereal lilt almost belies the darkness lurking just beneath. Note: Arrive early to catch one of the best new bands of 2022, Wet Leg, from the Isle of Wight, who might be headlining the same venue this time next year.
IF YOU GO
Wet Leg, Chvrches
Where: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St.
To coincide with its spectacles at the imposing Chase Center on Friday and Sunday, Metallica has curated a Metallica Take Over S.F. series of shows and events, like a signing of their new coffee table book, special tastings for their personal Blackened Whiskey brand, a FridayFillmore gig from the Wedding Band (band members Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo’s side project) and — the best part of all — shows from several groups that contributed to its recent covers album, “Metallica Blacklist.”
The win-win of the whole lineup would have to be at August Hall on Thursday, where bratty Louisville garage punks White Reaper finally hit town to premiere their third “You Deserve Love” collection from 2019. Again, arriving early, of course, is recommended, given the buzzworthy opening act: Taipei Houston, a similar punk-retro outfit anchored by Lars Ulrich’s sons, Myles and Layne. Could be the last time you ever see them in a club-sized venue.
IF YOU GO
Taipei Houston, White Reaper
Where: August Hall, 420 Mason St.
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
Contact: www.augusthallsf.com, www.metallica.com
Even in the COVID era, every family longs to see their loved ones at Christmas. So renowned ex-Sacramento skate/punk publisher Sonny Mayugba and his wife, Lynn, are overjoyed that the first headlining U.S. tour of Destroy Boys — the all-girl combo of their daughter Violet — is culminating Friday in San Francisco, where the band now resides.
“My parents are the best possible people, ever,” Violet says of a household where she was encouraged to start playing punk-inspired guitar at 13, which led to the formation of her trio and now its just-issued “Open Mouth, Open Heart” salvo.
She didn’t pursue journalism, skating, or even the Filipino culture of her father, and she never had a Plan B, she swears, even though one high school teacher insisted her music was terrible and showbiz was just a pipe dream. “I’ve always wanted to be the biggest band in rock and roll — I’m not joking,” she adds. “And now I’m doing it. So that teacher’s gonna see me on a billboard in 20 years and realize his big mistake.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St.
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17
Tickets: $15 to $18; Sold Out
And finally, that classic old-town tradition is back: The Bud E. Luv Christmas Spectacular, fronted by Robert Vickers’ campy “Nutty Professor”-inspired lounge-singing persona, who can insinuate himself into just about any smarmy chestnut and make it his own. An artist who’s still able to maintain a smooth sense of humor at this point in history? Hey — we’ll take it! And it might be the perfect Yuletide cure-all you’re unknowingly craving. We’re not back to unmasked, shoulder-to-shoulder Christmas caroling yet. But we’re getting there.
IF YOU GO
The Fabulous Bud E. Luv Christmas Spectacular
Where: The Chapel, 777 Valencia St.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 23