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  • Jun 11

    *The Afterneath* in American Songwriter

    I am thrilled to have received this brilliant review of The Afterneath by Paul Zollo in American Songwriter magazine:

    A remarkable album, and great achievement. Jascha Hoffman, who is both a gifted songwriter and a journalist, has a beautiful gift for the telling detail, the small use of language that lets us see humans at their most human. This is a song cycle built on the obituaries of recently passed Americans: some famous, some infamous, some obscure. All are poignant testaments to the human spirit, to the life narrative we all write each day but is incomplete till the end, and then collected, often in haste, into these capsulized newspaper pieces which memorialize and preserve our life stories. It’s perfect song content, especially if you are a lover, as are most of us, of the dark song. These are by nature dark songs, and some darker than others, whereas some are triumphant and even heroic in the completion of a life, as in “The Mercy Machine,” about Jack Kevorkian. The music is plaintive and pianistic. Or there’s “The Atom Bomb,” about Joan Hinton, “By day on the mesa/by night at the lab…” working on the construction of the Atom Bomb, which circles around the line, “You’re still burning and I’m still breathing….” “The River” has a country swing lilt that is welcome and touching, about Will Boag, with long lyrical lines beautifully crystallized in the line, “I can almost hear the river in the rhythm of your heart,” which is at the center of this album, that in the various rhythms of all these diverse hearts we can find a pathway to the source, to the place all rivers flow. And that in the diversity of these stories there is the one story, the story of being human, that connects all songs with serious joy.

    Thank you, Paul, for your gentle and kind attention. As usual, you see to the heart of the matter.

    Jan 4

    Welcome NPR listeners!

    Welcome, listeners of NPR’s Weekend Edition! For a limited time you can download The Afterneath, ten songs from obituaries, and name your own price.

    The Afterneath

    Jan 4

    The Mercy Machine

    A dark, subtle music video about the death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian: The Mercy Machine

    Oct 3

    The Afterneath: Songs from Obituaries

    (Songs, videos and more at afterneath.org … )

    Not too long ago, I wrote a handful of obituaries for the New York Times, mostly of scientists.

    I liked obits because, rather than the usual journalistic pursuit of conflict and novelty, they required mostly curiosity about a human life, and usually some warmth. Reporting them after the fact could be a strange exercise, since the living often had imprecise memories and the only real authority was … unreachable. Calling up scientists to comment on their own advance obituaries—whether they they refused to collaborate or talked for hours—was even stranger.

    At the time I was also trying to write pop songs for my third record. I found that many got stuck in the early stages, owing to a critical sense that seemed to be blocking the music. I had been piecing together a workflow that allowed me to get out of my own way, spitting out wordless melodies in bulk, without inhibition, and later piece them together with words into real songs.

    This roundabout method seemed to be working, but there was a problem: I had no idea how to write lyrics that were about something. Drawing from my life felt vulnerable, potentially boring. What I wanted was to lure characters into my songs, real people with all their flaws and prejudices. I wanted to write songs that sketched out stories, or at least fooled you into believing they had.

    By chance I discovered that the obits had what I needed. Each morning, after pouring out the music, I would power up my phone and see whose spirits were in the air. When I sat down to write the words, I would try to channel the minds we had lost, seeking their energy and charm from every angle, and the history and landscape around them.

    This album is certainly about death: there are songs about a euthanasia-boosting doctor, a reluctant nuclear scientist, a genocide survivor, a public servant who turned to public suicide. It also shows many varieties of buoyant life: a boy dreaming of flying a model airplanes across the ocean, a love-struck cowboy, a late-career ping-pong comeback.

    But, to my surprise, the strongest character on this album has turned out to be the 20th century. From 1940s wartime hobbies, through the gender wars of the 1970s and tabloid kidnap and murder of the 80s—you could say the album is a sort of technicolor obituary for an American era, one that is slowly fading.

    “The Afterneath” is a name that came to me, with a strange sense of rightness, when my grandfather was dying. I hope these songs encourage you to take a long view of this strange pattern we call human life, to see how quickly we sweep from birth to death, and how much wonder and bullshit can fit in between.

    (Songs, videos and more at afterneath.org … )

    Mar 28

    April in NYC

    Hello friends,

    I’m happy to be returning to NYC for the month of April, working on a new culture column for the science section of the New York Times (you can read it here: http://bit.ly/15VPKJ7).

    I’ll be playing two (very different) shows at which I would love to see your faces. The first is an early set of new songs, based on obituaries and science-fiction films, at the Folk Art Museum in Midtown:

    Friday April 12
    Jascha at the Folk Art Museum
    (with Sara Lewis and Julia Barry)
    American Folk Art Museum
    2 Lincoln Square, Manhattan
    5:30pm. Free!

    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/170965896390754/

    The second is a set of lovely Brazilian songs by Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim and more:

    Thurs April 18
    Jascha sings Brazil
    with Itaiguara Brandao (bass) and special guests
    Caffe Vivaldi (full menu!)
    32 Jones St, West Village, Manhattan
    9pm, free.

    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/138101969702132/

    In addition to these shows, I would love to visit with old friends. That means you! Perhaps we could even get ourselves to singing. Drop me a line and we’ll find a time.


    Feb 26

    March Shows

    Hello friends,

    Spring is coming. I’ve been pouring my heart into some new songs. And been learning new songs in French, Portuguese and English. A number of shows coming up, including a 10-piece tropicalia tribute and some mellower Brazilian gigs. I hope we’ll have a chance to meet at one of these affairs. Don’t be a stranger.


    Tues Feb 26
    Killbossa covers “Os Mutantes” (1968)
    10-piece tribute band covers the classic album that launched Tropicalia
    853 Valencia (btwn 19th and 20th)

    Thurs Feb 28 at 8:30pm
    Jascha sings Brazil, jazz, pop
    with Hatim Belyamani (piano)
    The Rite Spot Cafe
    2099 Folsom Street (@16th), SF
    Free, 8:30pm
    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/241823195954811

    Sun March 3
    Off the Grid (awesome food carts) in Larkspur
    2257 Larkspur Landing Cir, Larkspur
    with guitar sensation Chris Peck!

    Sunday March 10
    Jascha Sings Brazil
    with Daniel Fabricant (bass) and Ami Molinelli (percussion)
    Bissap Baobob Restaurant
    3372 19th Street (at Mission)
    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/343572212429276/

    Thurs April 4 at 8:30pm
    Jascha sings Brazil and jazz
    with Hatim Belyamani (piano)
    The Rite Spot Cafe
    2099 Folsom Street (@16th), SF
    Free, 8:30pm

    Dec 21

    January Shows

    Hello friends,

    It’s been a sweet year, and a sweet month, with some rural time for pre-Apocalyptic rest and reflection. I’ve had time to breathe and take stock of the experiences I really value. My love for, and comfort with, Brazilian music is deepening. I’ve been finding the means to sing jazz in English. Most of all, I’ve been coming to value and respect the work of those who pay attention and listen deeply. Thank you for that, in past and future. And see below for some chances to come say hello.


    Thurs Jan 3 at 8:30pm
    *Jascha sings Brazil* — plus some jazz
    The Rite Spot Cafe
    2099 Folsom Street (@16th), SF
    with Hatim Belyamani, piano and Michaelle Goerlitz, percussion
    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/182035328605414/?fref=ts

    Fri Dec 21 (Tonight! American jazz feat. Hatim Belyamani on piano)
    Fri Jan 4 (Brazilian and American jazz feat. Safa Shokrai on upright bass)
    Jascha at Saul’s Delicatessen
    Select Fridays from 6-8pm
    1475 Shattuck Avenue
    Berkeley, CA


    Sep 27

    Fall Dates in SF and NYC

    Dear Friends and Fans,

    Last summer I drove many miles, learned about many kinds of music, in many languages. I deepened my handle on the guitar, rediscovered the piano, and settled as a percussionist and harmony singer. I kept writing and recording — but discovered a new joy in delving into the Brazilian repertoire and branching out to American country and pop.

    There has been so much music in the air that I’ve hardly had time to email you. But fall is upon us, and it’s time to harvest what we planted. So here are some fall shows in San Francisco and New York City. Most are Brazilian, many are free.

    The main attraction is a pair of tributes to the amazing Brazilian songwriter Caetano Veloso with a full band (on Sat Oct 27 in SF, and Fri Nov 23 in NYC). If you can only come to one, make it one of those! And if you’re not in SF or NYC, consider passing on this email to friends who are.

    With deep thanks,


    * First, the Big Event, a loving tribute to the incomparable Brazilian songwriter Caetano Veloso, at my favorite small listening room in the Mission:

    Sat October 27 at 8pm
    Jascha sings Caetano Veloso
    Red Poppy Art House
    2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street
    San Francisco, CA 94110
    $10 suggested donation


    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/417665684958580/

    * Next, a couple shows next week at lovely spots around town, featuring bassist Daniel Fabricant:

    Tues October 2 at 8:30pm
    Jascha sings Brazil
    at the Rite Spot Cafe
    2099 Folsom Street, SF
    Full menu and great desserts


    Weds October 3, 5pm-7pm
    Jascha sings Brazil
    The Page Bar
    298 Divisadero @ Page St., SF


    * A farmers market for those who like their country music cut with organic produce:

    Weds Oct 17, 4pm-7pm
    Upper Haight Farmer’s Market
    Waller and Stanyan, SF


    A dinner concert at a wonderful Berkeley restaurant. This show will feature both guitar and a rare appearance at the piano. I encourage you to reserve in advance:

    Fri October 19, 6pm-8pm
    Jascha sings Nice Jewish Boys
    (e.g. Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Leonard Cohen—and some South American goyim too)
    Saul’s Delicatessen
    1475 Shattuck Ave (at Vine) in Berkeley
    Full dinner menu, your grandmother should be such a good cook.
    Reserve today: http://saulsdeli.com/


    Overjoyed to return to Manhattan with a pair of shows, at new venues, with old friends:

    Sat November 17 at 8pm
    Jascha sings Brazil
    Path Cafe
    131 Christopher St, Manhattan
    Free, nice menu.
    Followed by Julia Barry (http://juliabarry.com/)!
    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/289223411190401/

    Last but not least, drown your post-Thanksgiving blues with a caipirinha and a strong dose of Caetano Veloso:

    Fri November 23 at 9pm
    Jascha sings Caetano Veloso
    Caffe Vivaldi
    32 Jones Street, Manhattan
    Free, full menu and bar, possible Brazilian drink specials.


    RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/144239399054193/


    Jun 23

    New music video – “Copter”

    Dear Friends,

    I’m proud to share a wild and calming music video for my song “Copter”:

    The song is about a widow of war, and her faith that her husband will return. The video was filmed in the hills outside Santa Cruz, California — on my phone.

    Please take a look. If you like it, I hope you’ll consider sharing with friends.

    Warmly, from a motel in southern Oregon,


    “Copter” video

    Download “The Future Limited” (name your own price)


    Jascha’s news and updates


    Apr 26

    Spiff & Jascha — Two Man Tour of SF Bay Area

    Spiff & Jascha — Two-Man Tour!

    Thurs 4/26 at 7:30pm — House concert in San Francisco **
    Fri 4/27 at 8pm — Plough and Stars (116 Clement in SF) with The Please Please Me
    Sat 4/28 — House concert in El Cerrito **

    Fri 5/4 at 7pm — Amnesia in San Francisco (853 Valencia St at 20th)
    Sat 5/5 at 12:30pm — Berkeley Farmer’s Market (Center @ MLK)
    Sat 5/5 at 8pm — Juice-O de Mayo House Concert in SF **

    Thurs 5/10 at 8pm — Revolution Cafe in San Francisco (3248 22nd St)
    Fri 5/11 at 8pm — Subterranean Arthouse in Berkeley
    Sat 5/12 at 8pm — Catered House Concert at Daniel’s in SF **
    Sun 5/13 at 7:30pm — Tree House Concert at Ilana’s in SF **

    ** Email jascha.hoffman@gmail.com for details.

    Spiff Wiegand is best known for his one-man-band concerts. Juggling up to seven instruments simultaneously without loops or technological trickery, he creates complete textures that are as unexpectedly musical as they are visually impressive. He has been compared to artists like Hank Williams, The Mountain Goats, Buddy Holly, Hot Hot Heat, Devo, and They Might Be Giants.


    Jascha Hoffman is a songwriter and science journalist in San Francisco. His debut album A Cure for Sleep was praised for “deceptively simple, deeply weird pop songs” that earned comparisons to Sufjan Stevens and Leonard Cohen. Jascha’s second album, The Future Limited, a collection of songs inspired by science fiction, was released in March 2012. He is currently working on songs based on obituaries and translations of Brazilian pop songs.