August pop music picks | Culture

Hazel English at Great American Music Hall

Student Exchange Programs — do those city-swapping cultural relocations actually work? Are they even a thing anymore? The ethereal Melbourne-bred artist known as Hazel English swears by them, and admits she owes her entire career to one that occurred back in 2013, when she tentatively left Australia to study in San Francisco.

Before long, the singer (born Eleisha Caripis) had moved to Oakland, met Jackson “Day Wave” Phillips at a bookstore where she worked and created the collaborative dream-pop persona of her pseudonym, starting off with their aptly dubbed first co-write , “Never Going Home.”

Following that spark, they began issuing EPS, leading to her 2020 full-lengther “Wake UP!,” and followed by this year’s new EP “Summer Nights,” which was composed entirely on Zoom, now that both parties have relocated to more bustling Los Angeles. And so far, this self-starting Sheila, now 31, has no pending plans to return home after nearly a decade abroad, knock on wood. Catch her back in The City on August 18.


Hazel English

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., SF

When: 8 pm Tuesday, August 18

Tickets: $15


Florist at Bottom of the Hill

When it comes to culture-shock relocation, Brooklynite Emily Sprague knows a thing or two. In 2017, after the death of her mother, this frontwoman for the quiescent folk-pop combo Florist chose to deal with her grief in a radical way — by moving, alone, clear across the country to Los Angeles, something she would never have had the courage to do when her parent was alive.

Leaving her father behind was hard, she says. But she had a specific goal in mind at the end of the journey. “I really wanted to start surfing, so that was a big signpost that I set my sights on. I just had a … a feeling about it,” she adds. “I don’t know how else to describe it. And I’ve always made my decisions that way — I decide I’m gonna do something, and I just do it.”

Once Sprague got into the rhythms of the ocean, cathartic songs flowed, enough to include 2019’s “Emily Alone,” essentially a solo album but issued as Florist’s third set. Feeling both confident and at peace (therapy helped, too, she admits), the 4AD-gentle vocalist moved back to the Catskills to be near her dad. And in June 2019, regrouped with her bandmates in a rented Hudson Valley live/work space to record the group’s new eponymous set, a generous 19 tracks long. In the meantime, Beyonce had discovered them, and used an instrumental portion of their older cut “Thank You” in her 2019 Netflix documentary “Homecoming.”

Now what does this ex-hodad do when she craves the surf? “I don’t know — I’m trying to figure that out,” she says. “But I live seven minutes away from a lake, and I have a pass to the lake, so lately I’ve been taking my surfboard up there and just paddling around in the lake.” It may not be cawabunga-crazy, she adds. “But for now it’s the next best thing.”



Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF

When: 8:30 pm Thursday, Aug. 11

Tickets: $15 advance, $18 door


Psychedelic Furs at The Masonic

Everything that’s happened in his career has been a gift of good fortune, reflects Richard Butler, at 66. This includes the charismatic, sandpapery singing voice he first showcased on the Steve Lillywhite-produced debut of his band The Psychedelic Furs, along with the over four decades of the group’s totally unique sound.

“I think it was the result of having two guitarists and a saxophone player — it created an unholy racket,” he said in retrospect. But the same serendipity also applies to his artwork, oil painting portraits that look like human faces warped through a child’s kaleidoscope.

These images commanded so much of his free time, in fact, that it took until 2020 for the Furs to finally release its new “Made of Rain” masterpiece, its first in 29 years. And now, lockdown-belated, Butler and company finally hit town on a support tour at the Masonic Auditorium this month. And if you thought the signature “Pretty in Pink” smash was sonically surreal, get ready for the grim but ethereal new material — this group just keeps improving.

And as a concert bonus? Punk legends X just happen to be opening.


The Psychedelic Furs, X

Where: The Masonic, 1111 California St., SF

When: 8 pm Aug. 11

Tickets: $20-$65


Sonny and the Sunsets & Tav Falco at The Great Northern

If budget is a factor in your concert ticket purchases, a nice cash-saving way to close out August might be a great c-headlining bill with San Francisco’s own Sonny Smith (fronting his great Sonny and the Sunsets outfit) and the volatile R&B rockabilly firebrand Tav Falco, anchoring his classic combo Panther Burns.

Last time we spoke to the foppish Falco, the Philadelphian had moved, first to Paris and then to Vienna. But during the pandemic, he’s relocated to an even more exotic location: Bangkok, Thailand, where he conjured up the trash-rocking new EP “Club Car Zodiac.” And all of this entertainment can be yours for the nominal fee of five bucks. Not a bad investment for one guaranteed-to-be-a-hoot night out.


Sonny and the Sunsets, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns

Where: The Great Northern, 119 Utah St., SF

When: 8 pm Thursday, Aug. 25

Tickets: $5


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