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BACKSTAGE WITH MARIAN
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Story outtakes, celebrity confessions and the latest pop culture news in the Bay Area

About Me
I'm a pop music writer for the San Jose Mercury News. I cover pop, hip hop, punk, rock, dance, and ethnic - well, basically everything you can dance to.

My Articles

MY PICKS
CD: Common:"Be"
Music Video Eminem: featuring Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
Trailer: The Year of the Yao
TV: Harvey Birdman
Videogame: Fable

MERCURY REVIEWS
Art: The New Art of India
Bar: Boswell's
Book: Jill Scott
Club: Forum
DVD: Kinsey
Movie: Cinderella Man
Music: Sleater-Kinney
Restaurant: The Melting Pot
Theater:The Mambo Kings

SICK SITE
Earth and Sun Kiss

MY PLAYLIST

1. R. Kelly: "Trapped In The Closet"

2. Weezer: "Hold Me"

3. Bright Eyes: "First Day Of My Life"

4. Ringside: "Miss You" and "Criminal"

ENTERTAINMENT RESOURCES
  • Billboard Charts
  • Encyclopedia
  • iticket.com
  • Moviefone
  • Music Dictionary
  • MTV
  • Pollstar
  • tickets.com
  • Urban Dictionary
  • ticketmaster.com
  • VH1

  • BLOGROLL
  • Adisa Banjoko : San Jose's Bishop of Hip hop
  • Angry Asian Man: Asian American media watchdog
  • Berkeley Blogs
  • Black Electorate : Inside Cultural, Economic and Political industries
  • BLT's Parry
  • Crayone: the trials and tribulations of a graffiti artist
  • Dan Gillmor : Grassroots Journalism
  • Dat Phan : Last Comic Standing season 1 winner
  • East Bay Livin' : Ellen Lee's EB hunt
  • Davey D: Hip Hop Daily News
  • Fortt: black american gen x journalist musician multicultural christian technophile
  • Jeff Chang: fellow Asian hip hop writer
  • Joe Grimm : Ask the Recruiter
  • In Passing : Random Street Conversations
  • Pacific Standard: Bay Area hip-hop
  • Pop And Politics
  • Pop Licks : O-Dub, a cultural critic
  • Scape: San Jose graffiti artist
  • SiliconBeat: News about tech money and innovation
  • Friday, January 28, 2005

    Chinese New Year Events in the South Bay along with the History of Scratch Tour

    Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the rooster, and the celebration often goes on for weeks.

    So celebrate with these events:

    WHAT: PKU Student Art Troupe Performance
    WHERE: Stanford University Memorial Auditorium, Memorial Way, Stanford
    WHEN: 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29th
    TIX: $10; (650) 576-6452; pkualumni.org
    WHY: One of the first Chinese collegiate performing art troupe to ever tour the US

    WHAT: 2005 Lunar New Year Celebration Party
    WHERE: Hayward Centennial Hall, 22292 Foothill Blvd, Hayward
    WHEN: 11 a.m. - 5:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 29th
    TIX: $12, Adult: $15, Child (12 yrs & under): $8.; tafnc.org
    WHY: It's the 32nd annual celebration for the Taiwanese American Federation of NC, and will feature lunch, speech, performing show and a raffle.

    WHAT: Chinese New Year Flower Fair
    WHERE: Great Mall, Milpitas
    WHEN: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; Jan.29-30th
    TIX: free; more info
    WHY: Stock up on all the New Year things you need

    Plus, here are some hip-hop events worth ch-checking out:

    WHAT: Return of the Bboy//Pt. 9
    WHERE: Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
    WHEN: 4 - 8 p.m. contest, 8 - 10 p.m. after-party, Saturday, Jan. 29th
    TIX: $5
    WHY: Check out some open cyphers and the 2 on 2 break dance competition

    WHAT: History of Scratch Tour
    WHERE: DNA Lounge, 37 11 St. @ Harrison, SF
    WHEN: 10 p.m. - 2 a.m. Saturday, Jan.29th
    TIX: $20 advance; flyer
    WHY: Check out the DJ pioneers: DJ Q-Bert, Jazzy Jeff and GrandWizzard Theodore


    Thursday, January 27, 2005

    Jermaine Dupri heading Virgin Record's urban music division

    On yesterday's topic of tsunami news, I found a whole blog devoted to tsunamis.

    And in hip-hop news, popular producer (and Janet Jackson's beau) Jermaine Dupri has been recently named the new president of Virgin Records' urban music division.

    Virgin is home to artists like Lenny Kravitz and Janet. Dupri's move follows the the lead of other artists like Jay-Z, the president and CEO of Def Jam, the label created by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons.

    On one hand, I think it's good for artists who are at the top of their game to manage the game, but on other hand, being the top boss entails other business responsibilities. Let's hope it's a worthwhile union.

    For tonight, ch-check it out:

    WHAT: TREMOLO Benefit Concert
    WHERE: Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco
    WHEN: 8 p.m., tonight 1/27
    TIX: $8; www.tremolomusic.net; www.freetheslaves.net
    WHY: The Oakland rock band's concert benefits FREE THE SLAVES, a non-profit organization working to end modern day slavery domestic and abroad


    Wednesday, January 26, 2005

    Hot 97 defaming Asians with a tsunami song

    It has been great to see the world doing so much to help Tsunami victims. But, even with all the good, the bad seems to find a way of rearing its ugly head.

    Last week, New York hip-hop station Hot 97 aired an inflammatory tsunami song, poking fun at Asians.

    The song was made to the melody of "We are the World" and contained lyrics with derogatory words and depictions of Asian (though the song ignorantly assumed that all the Asians are Chinese).

    Here's a sample: "..All at once you could hear the screaming (expletive toward Chinese) and no one was safe from the wave there were Africans drowning, little (expletive toward Chinese) swept away you could hear god laughing, "swim you (expletive) swim" Click here to see the uncensored lyrics.

    The station owned by Emmis Communications has since posted an apology on their website and said the morning team who aired the song, has also been indefinitely suspended.

    This is not the first time the morning team's host, Miss Jones, has made defaming comments toward Asians. After the board game Ghettopoly, which was created by David Chang, she suggested a Chinese version with a derogatory name. Leaders of some Asian American groups denounced the game and what it stood for.

    In response to the tsunami song, Chinese American rapper Jin, fired a response with lines like "Thousands are still getting discovered each day/ how dare you compare a life to a week's pay" and is rapped to the melody of Jay-Z's "Breathe Easy." Click here to hear the song and here to see its lyrics.

    In other tsunami news --

    In Australia, a youth radio station called Triple-J, had a different reaction to their country giving tsunami aid, saying that it shouldn't take a tsunami to trigger help.

    Finally, Michael Savage, who when SARS hit, linked it to the demise of Asians, goes off about the tsunami not being a tragedy.
    Tuesday, January 25, 2005

    Party at DJ Q-Bert's house in Daly City!

    Last night, I was lucky to catch GrandWizzard Theodore @ the NorCal DJ Academy in SF.

    The man known as the "inventor of the scratch" talked about how it all started - how he was on two turntables in his room, replaying the groove over and over, when his mother knocked on his door - and basically said - You either turn it down or turn it off! At this point, his hand moved - created the sound "wigga wigga" - and the scratch was invented.

    He says that even though the scratch was found by accident, it was something he had inside him and something he ultimately perfected. He then showed us a demonstration, placing his hand on the turntable as if it was the face of a clock, at 9 o'clock and at 10 o'clock. He scratched with such ease - he's been at it for 30 years.

    Back in the day, he said, it wasn't so easy - they didn't have felt protecting the turntables - they would cut up undershirts. And the knobs were not so easy to turn; they were big and bulky - making the DJ look like he was having a seizure as he was trying to mix the music.

    Then, Q-Bert, another DJ pioneer, went on the turntables and juggled some beats using a drum record. He said he's been listening to a lot of jazz lately to imitate their improvisation with scratching.

    Someone asked Q if he played any "traditional" instruments. He said no. Q compared it to mastering a videogame - in his case, Street Fighter. Instead of spreading out his skillz, he basically practiced all his moves with the character Ken and perfected it - so like that character; he concentrated on the turntables and nothing else.

    Later, I went to his house party in Daly City, where a lot of the scenes from the documentary "Scratch" was shot. Inside, there were eight turntables and all kinds of DJs from the very local and indie to the very famous like GrandWizzard Theodore and DJ Flare. Many of them worked the tables.

    Besides turntables, the theme of the house was robots: robot paintings and old skool robot figurines. Many of them were from the Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

    I felt fortunate to be there.

    Monday, January 24, 2005

    Chinese new year concert in San Jose and the inventor of the scratch, Grand Wizard Theodore, in SF!

    Last night I was at the 2005 Chinese New Year Sing Along Concert at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

    The concert stretched more than four hours, and held possibly the largest group of Chinese Americans I have ever seen in the Bay: more than 6,000.

    There were artists from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, singing everything from traditional Chinese folk songs to pop songs.

    Out of more than a dozen artists, my favorite had to be Zhang Di. He was in his 60s but he was a sharp freestyle performer. The artist asked the audience to ask him a question and he would turn it into a song. They asked everything from - Does your wife mistreat you? - to - Where are the most beautiful ladies? Then, as swift as Wayne Brady (from the show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?), Zhang summed up the questions and answers in a folk song.

    For tonight, ch-check it out:

    WHAT: GrandWizzard Theodore Demonstration
    WHERE: NorCalDJMPA, 600 Townsend St., Suite 190W (Macromedia Building)
    San Francisco
    WHEN: 7:30 p.m., tonight 1/24
    TIX: no cover
    WHY: GrandWizzard Theodore invented the scratch, the basic DJ technique!

    Friday, January 21, 2005

    Jon B in San Jose's Club Deep

    Ch-check out my EYE cover story on my high school favorite, Jon B.

    He was very sweet on the phone and very open about his divorce, the fire to his studio and how he's getting back on his feet.

    Check out that story and clips from his latest album "Stronger Everyday."

    And, this weekend, ch-check it out:

    TONIGHT

    WHAT: Digital Underground
    WHERE: Zoe Nightclub, 417 South First Street, San Jose
    WHEN: 11 p.m. tonight, 1/21
    TIX: $5; ticketweb.com
    WHY: A chance to do the humpty hump.

    SATURDAY

    WHAT: THE BIG PAYBACK
    WHERE: DNA Lounge, 375 11th St. (@ Harrison), SF
    WHEN: 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Saturday; 1/22
    TIX: $10 general, 5 w/ flyer or on guest list
    WHY: It'll feature an All-Star Cast: Mind Motion, Pam the Funkstress, Wisdom, Ivan, Mike Nice, DJ Fuze, Vin Roc, Teeko, Mr. E, Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist, plus more... (Click on the links to find out more about the artists.)

    SUNDAY

    WHAT: 2005 Chinese New Year Sing Along Concert
    WHERE: HP Pavilion, 525 West Santa Clara StreetSan Jose
    WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday, 1/23
    TIX: $85-280; ticketmaster.com
    WHY: Check out Taiwanese and HK singers:
    A-Mei Chang
    , Fei Yu Ching,Priscilla Chan,Leo Ku, Mao A Min, A-Ya, Liu Huan, Chang Ming Min, Qian Bai Hui, Zhang Xing, Tian Zhen, Samuel Tai, Steve Chou, Wen Chang, Chen Hong, Li Gu Yi, Han Hong, Rene Liu, and David Wu. (Click on the links to find out more about the artists.) Concert promoters are still not sure if A-mei will be present, but will know for sure tomorrow - I'll keep you posted.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    Asian Linkin Park and MTV's P Diddy's Makin Da Band "Malika"

    While we're still on Chinese music, there's one band that has become a favorite of mine. Aadia is like an Asian version of Linkin Park with rock, rap, and an added element: Chinese opera.

    And, also in the news, the article I reported on about popular Taiwanese aborigine singer coming to San Jose's HP - according to the concert promoter Connie Pan-Yu, A-mei has recently changed agents, so her appearance at the concert may be in jeopardy. She is, however, in the U.S. (in Boston to be specific) already.

    I'll let you know when I know for sure whether or not she is going to be at the concert.

    And, for tonight, ch-check it out:

    WHAT: Live appearance by MTV's P Diddy's Making The Band "Malika"
    WHERE: Club Agave, 2033 N Main @ Ygnacio above 24 hr fitness, Walnut Creek
    WHEN: 9pm-2am, tonight
    TIX: $12 adv./$15 door, 21+ w/ ID, 21 and up No Sports Apparel; intrigueparty.com; (925) 864-385
    WHY: Check out what Malika's been up to lately.


    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Chinese music making it mainstream

    I have a story on how the Bay Area is quickly becoming the hub for Chinese music (and many hope Asian music as well). They're moving up from using venues like hotels, casinos and campuses to well-known mainstream clubs and arenas like the HP Pavilion.

    Here's the link again. It includes multiple song clips.

    For this story, I looked into the singers: A-Yue, A-Mei, Priscilla Chan, Jay Chou, MC Hot Dog, Wu Bai, and Twelve Girls Band. These groups are more American than Asian, and are fast becoming something we, second generation immigrants, can proudly pump out of our cars rather than roll up the windows in embarrassment, says George Trivino, Rock Records producer (the no. 1 label in Taiwan, no. 9 indie label in the world).

    This is also the first in a series of cultural arts stories reflecting the Bay Area. So keep checking the page out and email me if you have suggestions.

    Here's one more event on the subject of the story,

    WHO: Mayday, Taiwanese boy band
    WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20
    WHERE: San Jose State Event Center Arena, 209 S. 7th Street, San Jose
    TIX: $40-75; ticketmaster.com

    Also, there are those concerned with the potential political implications of such concerts (ie. concert promoters from a communist country bringing acts to a non-communist country) - if you have comments, email me at mliu@mercurynews.com
    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Street Style at the Great Mall

    Hope everyone had a wonderful Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

    Yesterday, I went out with my partner in style, Stephanie Grace Lim, to the Great Mall to report on Street Style, a weekly feature in the Mercury News' Style section about Bay Area fashion.

    When we asked the people what fashion meant to them, they came up with interesting definitions:
  • Fashion is like a "salad" that is not only colorful but worth "digging into."
  • Fashion is being good looking
  • Fashion is an expression of the inside, but on the outside.


  • For you fashionistas out there, we don't look for:
  • Big labels
  • Bagginess


  • Fashion to us means:
  • Nice fit
  • Originality
  • Accessories
  • Someone you give a "double-take" to.

  • By the way, tomorrow I have a front page story on a Bay Area trend, so ch-check it out!

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    Harold & Kumar and The Game

    I finally watched "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was upset with myself for not watching it on the big screen. I can totally relate to the themes because I have friends that behave the same way. For my group of Bay Area friends, however, the popular hangout wasn't White Castle -- it was Nation's.

    The DVD extras are also hilarious. There are funny outtakes, plus interviews with the actors. I liked how the bad guy who kept taking "extreme" measures against the White Castle duo, seemed more like a scholar than a stoner. Also, you need to catch the "Art of a Fart" featurette.

    IN MUSIC
    Coming out today is 50 Cent's very hyped G-Unit artist, The Game. I was terribly disappointed with The Game, because he was over-hyped. Much of the album sounds the same with the exception of different beats. I did like the last track on the disc, "like father, like son," about the birth of his son -- it softens his rough gangsta edges.
    Friday, January 14, 2005

    Tsunami relief, Martin Luther and the SF Sketchfest

    Early this morning, I participated in The Improv / KEZR Tsunami Relief Benefit. The fundraiser was hosted by KEZR, at San Jose's Impov downtown from 6 to 10 a.m. It was a lot of fun. We got fed (yummy things like egg and potato burritos), entertained by very very funny comedians (including Tracy Morgan) and helped out the tsunami relief effort. At the end of the event at 9:30 a.m., KEZR producer Timothy Bednarz said the fundraiser raised $2,000 and was still getting donations.

    Also this morning, I'm interviewing soul singer Martin Luther, anybody have any questions or thoughts about him? He's coming to the Paramount in Oakland Feb. 10-11th.

    Here's his ticket info as well, if you're interested:

    WHAT: Martin Luther with Jill Scott
    WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland
    WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; Feb. 10-11
    TIX: $40-$75; ticketmaster.com

    This weekend, ch-check it out:

    FRIDAY

    WHAT: Special Ed
    WHERE: Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St. (btwn. 17th & 18th St.), San Francisco
    WHEN: 9pm-2am, tonight
    TIX: $12 adv./$15 door, 21+ w/ ID, http://www.true-skool.org/
    WHY: Rapper Special Ed is known for such hits as "I Got It Made," "I'm the Magnificent" and "Taxin'." He's also appeared on "The Cosby Show" and in the urban drama, "Juice," and most recently on on Snoop Dogg's 2002 Doggystyle All-Stars "Welcome to the House Vol. 1."

    SATURDAY

    WHAT: ?uestlove dj-ing live
    WHERE: Zoe Nightclub, 417 South First Street, San Jose
    WHEN: 9pm-2am, tonight
    TIX: Only $5 with this passs
    WHY: Hear the renowned drummer from The Roots show display his deejaying skills. He mixes everything from N.E.R.D. to Nirvana.

    And all weekend

    WHAT: SF Sketchfest
    WHERE: Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., San Francisco; and Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., San Francisco
    WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight-Sunday and Jan. 24 and 26, 10:30 p.m. Fridays -Saturdays, 3 p.m. Jan. 30
    TIX: $10-25; (866) 468-3399, www.sfsketchfest.com
    WHY: Laugh your head off with Dana Carvey and "Kids in the Hall" member Bruce McCulloch
    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Kung Fu Hustle and DJ lessons

    When I was in Hong Kong, I was lucky to catch "Kung Fu Hustle," Stephen Chow's latest comedy that was just released in parts of Asia. As far as I can find, it's scheduled for release in New York and Los Angeles March 18th.

    His last picture, "Shaolin Soccer," was disappointingly missing from the big screen here in the states. Miramax had reportedly dropped the ball, and the movie went straight to video. I caught a bootleg version before it was released here and thought it was hilarious. That movie was about some has-been Shaolin monks who use their martial arts skills to win at soccer.

    "Kung Fu Hustle" is in the same vein. Some scruffy martial artists go against the notorious Axe Gang, who dance before they kill. Computer graphics grant all the killers superhuman abilities.

    I couldn't stop laughing during the whole movie (my stomach hurt from all the laughing) but some locals that I spoke to thought it was totally wack.

    But for you kung-fu die-hards, remember this movie, because it's worth checking out.

    As for entertainment here, ch-check it out:

    WHAT: NorCalDJMPA Open House
    WHERE: 600 Townsend St., Suite 190W (Macromedia Builiding), San Francisco
    WHEN: 6-8 p.m. tonight, 1/13
    TIX: No cover
    WHY: Find out more about DJ courses. After the seminar, there's also an open scratch session

    Also, if you're an early riser, ch-check this out:

    WHAT: The Improv / KEZR Tsunami Relief Benefit
    WHERE: San Jose Improv, 62 S. Second Street, San Jose
    WHEN: 6-10 a.m. tomorrow (with breakfast), live comedy show starts at 7 a.m., 1/14
    TIX: No cover; donations accepted to The Red Cross Tsunami Relief Fund
    WHY: Get a free breakfast, a comedy show, and a chance to help others.

    Karaoke love

    When I was in Hong Kong, I made sure to stop by a karaoke club. Embarrassingly, I'll admit, I love karaoke. In college, after finals, I spent almost a full day at a karaoke club with 20-some other friends.

    In Hong Kong, locals informed me that after shopping and eating, karaoke is one of the more popular forms of entertainment.

    I'm not talking about the type of karaoke where you go in front of the whole bar and sing your lungs out. I'm talking about the kind where you get your own room and sing privately with some friends.

    Unlike karaoke joints of that type here in the Bay Area, the one in Hong Kong was much more luxurious. Its lobby looked like one for a fancy hotel.

    It was also more tech savvy -- instead of searching printed books filled with songs, a second screen, next to the karaoke one, provided lists of songs you can choose from. All you had to do was use its remote. Also, it was much cheaper. At a typical karaoke place here, it could cost upwards of $20 during the non-happy-hour times. But for four hours there was about $10 - this included two non-alcoholic drinks.

    And although they were stocked up on all kinds of Asian songs, they didn't have many popular top-40 English ones. We made do with Eminem's "Lose It" and "Grease"

    If you're looking for some good karaoke here in the Bay Area, here are some of my favorite joints:

    Music Tunnel KTV
    Pacific East Mall
    3288 Pierce St. #A-128, Richmond
    (510)526-8810, (510)526-8048

    Music Box Karoake
    4390 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
    (510) 658-8995

    And, if it's really too embarrassing, check out the videogames Karaoke Revolutions and Get On Da Mic - those two are sure party pleasers that you can try out in the privacy of your own home.
    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Mr. Eyeball of Taiwan and Coach Carter

    When I was in Taiwan, another reporter (Max Woodworth of the Taipei Times) recommended I listen to Taiwanese artist, Mr. Eyeball. (click on the bolded words to find out more about the man behind the eye)

    Mr. Eyeball is the alter ego of musician and eccentric fashion designer Chen Bo-wei.

    Several theater groups have worn costumes he designed and his art sometimes hangs in pubs and galleries around Taiwan.

    His music is an interesting mix of spoken word, Chinese opera, and Taiwanese folk song - all spun together with a sense of humor. The glossy album cover alone is worth collecting. On one side is a happy man with a giant eyeball for a head walking his dog and singing while the other side shows a much darker eyeball man with skulls. The poster that comes with it is as weird. As eccentric as he is, I think Mr. Eyeball grows on you and soon you find yourself humming along.

    But, if you're into more mainstream rap, the soundtrack for Coach Carter comes out today. It features singles by Fabolous, Chingy, Ciara and Kanye West. It's a fun listen. The album also showcases newcomers Red Cafe (sounds a bit like Jay-Z) and The Game (from G-Unit whose album drops next Tuesday, Jan. 18th). Coach Carter (featuring Samuel L. Jackson) comes out this Friday. The story happened in our own backyard of Richmond.

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    Back to Reality

    I'm back, back in Cali, Cali, and still feeling the time difference from my trip to Asia -- when it's day here, it's night there.

    Yesterday, I spoke on UC Berkeley's station, 90.7-FM (KALX), again. I discussed with radio emcee Billy Jam the differences between here and Taiwan.

  • According to Taiwanese music producer/manager George Trivino, in the states, we go to clubs to dance, there, they go there to drink - so the dance floors here are much larger.

  • Also, here in the states, most artists play in different genres. In Taiwan, pop artists tend to play multiple genres.


  • I also brought some music for KALX to play. If you didn't get a chance to listen, here is some Taiwanese hip-hop.

  • "Suck School," by Monkey Insane: rock riddled rap

  • "Politic Sucks," by Stone: Taiwanese sounding Beastie Boys

  • MC HotDog: Taiwanese and Mandarin hip-hop

    I'm going to be a regular guest on KALX, coming back every 6-8 weeks or so, so I'll tell you when I'll be on the next time.

  •  
    Photo of Marian Liu by Stephanie Grace Lim, Mercury News
    You can e-mail me at mliu@mercurynews.com.