Ah, fall in San Francisco. The kids go back to school, the pumpkin beers and lattes make their first appearances, the leaves…um, mostly stay the same color, and the weather usually gets a little warmer.
OK, so maybe we don’t really do fall the way most of the country does fall. You know which part we do really well, though? Music. Art. Festivals. Excuses to drink pumpkin beers outside while taking in a live performance. Pick up this week’s big Fall Arts preview issue (on stands now!) for a guide to the best the Bay Area has to offer these next few months in music, theater, film, dance, visual art, and more.
If you want an easy tip, though? The jewel in the Pumpkin IPA Excuse crown is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, now in its 14th year and free as ever, thanks to the legacy of one mister Warren Hellman. After a month of teaser medleys, the folks from the Slim’s/Great American Music Hall family (who book HSB) announced the full lineup today for this year’s party in Golden Gate Park, which runs Friday, Oct. 3 through Sunday, Oct. 5.
At first glance we’re seeing a lot of big-name veterans (Emmylou, of course, plus the irreplaceable Chris Isaak, Mavis Staples, and more) alongside a number of unexpected but very welcome newcomers, like Sun Kil Moon and LA punk legends X. Other top-shelf indie-folk young’uns adding fresh blood to the scene: Dawes, The Apache Relay, Sharon Van Etten, Waxahatchee. And we’ll never complain about seeing Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, Yo La Tengo, or Deltron for free.
We’ll have more to come in the weeks leading up to the fest, but for now — make sure you know where that cooler is. We’re gonna put on some Lucinda Williams. See you in the park.
Franz Ferdinand, the band, has shaken up some summer music festivals in recent times, but 100 years ago in the summer of 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination shook up the world. In Chris Kraus’s 2010 drama film The Poll Diaries, young Oda (Paula Beer) rejoins her aristocratic German family in Estonia. Throw in an Estonian anarchist and a society on the brink of World War I and you’ll find there isn’t too much hope for love. The Poll Diaries is the first film in the Goethe-Institut’s weekly WWI film series and is an apt film to spearhead the selection of poignant, beautifully melancholy wartime movies. (Amy Char)
Do people still write with No. 2 pencils? Maybe not, but some people sure as hell make music with them. A pencil’s just as handy to whip out as a tiny violin but a little more ingenious, and Danny Dechi definitely has it down. He claims he can perform any tune, ranging from classical to rock ‘n’ roll, by using his cheek as the drum. He’s a San Francisco-based comedian and regularly performs a pencil musical act to go hand-in-hand with his clean stand-up comedy routines. While he’s performed in renowned SF comedy clubs such as Punch Line, tonight’s show is at a more intimate location — and free. (Amy Char)
Combining elements of garage rock and punk with dark organ lines and caterwauling vocals, Seattle rockers The Murder City Devils were a musical powder keg from 1996 to 2001, just waiting to be lit by a live audience. After a five-year break up, the band has sporadically reunited for concerts here and there, but hadn’t put out a new record until this month, dropping The White Ghost Has Blood On Its Hands, its first album release in 13 years. Fans can look forward to hearing the new material, along with old favorites, when Spencer Moody and cohorts hit the stage in what always promises to be a gloriously unpredictable and incendiary performance. (Sean McCourt)
A visual art non-profit that presents gallery shows, Root Division recently relocated from its Mission Street home because of rising rent costs. Without missing a beat, the collective has found a pop-up location in Civic Center for its shows. Root Division’s first offering in its new space is “Magical Thinking,” an exhibition that focuses on the inexplicable leaps in human logic that lead to bizarre trends — the gallery comments, for example, on the fact that less than 5 percent of New York high-rises have a 13th floor. Ten artists showcase their work in the exhibit, which young artists Erin Colleen Johnson and Karl Marboe both participate in and curate. The curators, who met while working towards their MFAs at UC Berkeley in 2011, challenged eight fellow local artists to explore other instances of magical thinking. Root Division and the artists have planned a Third Thursday reception to honor the work — the walk-through and discourse will present visitors both with a provocative visual examination of human nature and a chance to see Root Division’s new space. (David Kurlander)
By the sheer power of its title, Ruggero Deodato’s 1979 Cannibal Holocaust triumphs in its aim to offend and horrify — and that’s without even considering all the gross-out elements (including very iffy depictions of “natives” and actual animal torture) that pack the oft-banned film itself, which remains the ultimate example of the short-lived yet indelible exploitation subset of cannibal films. The Clay turns into a gory, graphic grindhouse this weekend, with star Carl Gabriel Yorke — one of the film’s “missing” documentarians in Holocaust’s found-footage plotline — in person, hopefully bursting with insane behind-the-scenes tales. (Cheryl Eddy)
The God of Dub may be pushing 80, but his live shows and constantly evolving studio production are not slowing down. Lee “Scratch” Perry, who helped to transform reggae into an aurally and technologically complex genre while virtually inventing “the remix,” released a new album, Back at the Controls, earlier this year. The work was a true group effort, both because it was a collaboration with Rolling Lion Studios’ producer Daniel Boyle as well as the fact that it benefited from a thriving Kickstarter campaign. To complement his new record, Perry embarked on an ongoing world tour, which hopped over to Europe for a three-month stint starting in March. Now back in the States, Perry looks to continue dazzling audiences with his idiosyncratic fashion, pulsating beats, and exhilarating reworkings of timeless classics from every kind of music. (Kurlander)
How many YouTubers have baked brownies with Mary-Louise Parker (of Weeds fame) while drunk? Hannah Hart, the mastermind behind the “My Drunk Kitchen” YouTube channel, has come a long way since her first video, in which she set out to make grilled cheese — getting by with a little help from her friend, wine — and realized mid-video that she didn’t have any cheese in the house. She appears this evening to promote her new cookbook, which is chock-full of tasty recipes (ones she made up while writing and hasn’t tasted) and spontaneous fun. And hey, she has drunk Jamie Oliver’s stamp of approval, so what more could you ask for? (Amy Char)
The power of pup positivity reigns at Bark for Life of San Francisco, an American Cancer Society fundraiser that unleashes (ha!) some creative fundraising techniques, including the hotly contested “My Dog is Cuter” photo contest (donate to vote!). Events also include a lap around Hellman Hollow to honor cancer survivors, SFPD K-9 and SF SPCA guide dog demonstrations, talent and costume contest, a doggie photo booth, a silent auction, and more. (Eddy)
Small Packages at the SF Conservatory of Music The works of Stockhausen and Grisey can sometimes be tough sells. The composers, who dominated the world of experimental music during the second half of the 20th century, cared more about consistent sonographic representations and aleatory development (look them up) than melody. The results, highly mathematic and often jarring pieces, are entirely unique and difficult to play and extremely diverse — although the two composers occupied similarly heady realms, their works do not usually sound similar (and often are islands even within their own outputs). Thus, sfSound’s choice to present Stockhausen’s seminal and towering “Kontra-Punkte” alongside Grisey’s more atmospheric “Périodes” is challenging. How does a collective effectively tie together works that share little in common besides their chronology and avant-garde tendencies? sfSound, a group of disturbingly knowledgeable local musicians who have been delivering experimental performances since 1999, answer this question through their own works, a series of “small packages” inspired by Stockhausen and Grisey that will be performed alongside the more monumental works. (Kurlander) 8pm, $15 San Francisco Conservatory of Music 50 Oak, SF (415) 864-7326 www.sfcm.edu Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks Animal Collective’s Avey Tare might look unassuming with his soft features and adorable, curly hair. But give him a microphone and some instruments and his mad genius will make itself known. With a love of organic, slimy textures and a voice like Dionysus at the height of spring, Tare is one of the most uninhibited and unhinged psychedelic auteurs working today. His new band Slasher Flicks confounded even the most seasoned Animal Collective fans when they dropped Enter The Slasher House last April — a bizarre mishmash of psych-rock, pulp horror, and carnival-ride theatrics. Though Tare’s accompanied in the band by Dirty Projector Angel Deradoorian and Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman, not even they can keep him in check — Tare truly answers only to himself. (Daniel Bromfield) 8pm, $16 Great American Music Hall 859 O’Farrell, San Francisco (415) 885-0750 www.slimspresents.com MONDAY/25 Slint When Slint recorded Spiderland over one weekend in 1990, the band hardly expected it to become the holy scripture of the burgeoning post-rock movement. But as their associates (Will Oldham, Steve Albini) became famous, the rock world began to pick up on this unassuming Louisville, Kentucky band. Within 10 years they were legends, and their influence continues to this day. The band didn’t initially last long, with drummer Britt Walford joining The Breeders and guitarist David Pajo playing with…well, just about everyone. But Slint has reunited time to time, and coinciding with this year’s reissue of Spiderland as a box set, they’re touring once again. The upcoming show at the Fillmore should provide a rare opportunity to see a truly legendary underground rock act in the flesh. (Bromfield) 8pm, $29.50 Fillmore 1805 Geary, SF (415) 346-6000 www.thefillmore.com TUESDAY/26 Men Without Hats If you don’t know the band, you know “The Safety Dance,” and if you think you don’t know “The Safety Dance,” you’d know it if you heard it. Practically synonymous with ’80s music, the Canadian New Wave band’s 1983 hit is as ubiquitous as a party-starter as it is as a meme and an artifact from their weird, coldly distant decade. But while Ivan Doroschuk and his crew could have just sat back and enjoyed their shiny new houses throughout the ’80s, the band has soldiered on with a stream of albums that have been largely absent from record collections in the States but still fly off the shelves in their home country. If you count yourselves among these loyal American fans, leave your friends behind and come see them at the DNA Lounge. (Bromfield) 8:30pm, $15 DNA Lounge 375 Eleventh St., SF (415) 626-1409 www.dnalounge.com The Guardian listings deadline is two weeks prior to our Wednesday publication date. To submit an item for consideration, please include the title of the event, a brief description of the event, date and time, venue name, street address (listing cross streets only isn’t sufficient), city, telephone number readers can call for more information, telephone number for media, and admission costs. Send information to Listings, the Guardian, 835 Market Street, Suite 550, SF, CA 94103; or e-mail (paste press release into e-mail body — no attachments, please) to email@example.com. Digital photos may be submitted in jpeg format; the image must be at least 240 dpi and four inches by six inches in size. We regret we cannot accept listings over the phone.
While hordes of people were packed into Golden Gate Park for Outside Lands Aug. 9, the all-American quasi-collective known as Snarky Puppy made the walls of the SF Jazz Center made ring with their particular frequencies of jazzy, instrumental fusion.
It had been a long day, one in which Snarky Puppy set a personal record by playing a total of four shows in 24 hours. The shows were split between three venues; they started the day in San Jose and closed out the night with two back-to-back sets at the SF Jazz Center. Despite how tired the band members must’ve been, their riffs kept the audience on the edge of their seats, literally leaning forward to watch the band members’ hands and mouths make music.
Beyond the awe-inspiring amount of technical skill SP demonstrates, what makes their live show special is their brotherly presence on stage. It comes through in their interactions, like when Cory Henry shouted, “Take your time” at guitarist Bob Lanzetti, as he began a long, soulful solo. Or when the two keyboardists of the evening — Cory Henry, in bronze-rimmed glasses, and Mike Maher, with sunglasses hanging from his shirt — battled it out on stage, taking turns trying to out do each other with ever faster riffs, until their fingers were twirling so quickly through the notes that it felt like the whole room was flying through space.
Or in the middle of each song, when they’d really start to get into it. The band’s composer and bassist Michael League bobbed with a coy smile while Mike Maher rolled his head around as if he was sniffing a glass of wine, and the guitarists had practically become the strings they were playing. Corey Henry started to clap, and the horn players’ cheeks were puffed out to nearly full capacity, and Robert Seawright was smiling like he was the definition of happiness from behind his drum set, and percussionist Nate Werth was shaking a hand as if to signify “it’s okay.” Then suddenly what had seemed to be a runaway train of never-ending rhythm fell off a cliff, and a split second of silence was filled by someone in the audience shouting, “YEAH!” before the rest of the song dropped over everyones’ heads like chains shattering around the room.
All of this to say that the members of SP demonstrate of level of intimacy that can only be explained by the fact that many of the band members met in college, and have since spent roughly a decade touring and playing music together.
Sometime between the middle and the end of their first set at the SF Jazz Center, Michael League made the audience groan by announcing that this would be the “last tune of the show.” Then he clarified, “It’s okay, cause it’s 46 minutes long,” and the groans were replaced by cheers. Already, anticipation of the last song hung like static in the air around the room, with many of the audience members knowing which song was coming.
SP recently was awarded a Grammy for “best R&B performance” with Lalah Hathaway, but they are still in the process of garnering attention from mainstream listeners. Hence the creation of “Lingus,” the catchiest tune from their latest album, We Like It Here.
Michael League said onstage that the song was his attempt at writing the SP version of a dubstep song, adding that it was named after an airline on which he had been riding when he composed the song — while an obnoxious fellow passenger drank beer after beer in the seat next to him and left a pile of cans by his feet.
The fact that the track isn’t in the right time signature for dubstep, as League pointed out, makes it all the more impressive that the influence of computer-generated music comes through on a song played entirely on live instruments. As the song began and the horns came in, lurking behind the beat like a secret agent, I closed my eyes to take it in and, had I not known better, I might’ve imagined that the sounds I was hearing were the result of Beats Antique pairing up with Miles Davis’s band. Sweet fusion, indeed.
Were you there? Were you among the approximately 200,000 human bodies smashed together for warmth at Golden Gate Park this past weekend, because you somehow couldn’t stand the idea of wearing anything but your midriff-baring tube top with your whimsical animal hat and/or flower crown?
Whether you spend this week recuperating from 72 straight hours of partying at Outside Lands or patting yourself on the back for steering clear of the whole thing — never fear, we were there to capture the weekend for you. Check our review here, and click through the slideshow above for some of our favorite live shots by Guardian photographers Matthew Reamer and Brittany M. Powell.
Were you there? Were you among the approximately 200,000 human bodies smashed together for warmth at Golden Gate Park this past weekend, because you somehow couldn’t stand the idea of wearing anything but your midriff-baring tube top with your whimsical animal hat and/or flower crown?
Whether you’re recuperating today from 72 hours of partying at Outside Lands or patting yourself on the back from steering clear of the whole thing — here’s our critic’s take on the weekend’s best five sets…and the rest. Check this week’s paper (on stands Wednesday) for more live shots.
5. Mikal Cronin
Local boy Mikal Cronin. Photo by Brittany Powell.
If 28-year-old Mikal Cronin had signed a recording contract three decades ago, his breakthrough LP, MCII, just might have coexisted peacefully with Kiss’ Alive in “Freaks & Geeks”-y record crates across America. Arguably the greatest contributor to California’s recent wave of late-’70s power-pop revivalism, Cronin assuredly challenges 2014’s largely tongue-in-cheek fascination with the “me decade,” recalling arena bombast and dank basement charm with great conviction. Lead guitarist Chad Ubovich’s high-flying, joyously unironic guitar theatrics sealed the deal at the Panhandle stage on Friday afternoon, as Cronin and his three-piece backing band delivered the festival’s most wholesome slice of straightforward rock.
4. Jonathan Wilson
Saddled with the unenviable noon opening slot at the Sutro stage on Sunday, LA’s Jonathan Wilson treated a criminally small audience to another set of California rock revivalism with great strength of purpose. Evoking something in between late-’60s acid idealism and early-’70s comedown disillusionment, Wilson and his four-piece backing ensemble delivered a quietly confident, elegantly restrained set of swirly, jam-based rock headiness, devoid of the excessive noodling and uptight baroqueness that plagues so much of the competition. It takes serious talent to make such complex musical interplay sound so natural and relaxed. My favorite new discovery of 2014’s Outside Lands.
Two of three sisters Haim. Photo by Matthew Reamer.
If there’s one complaint to level at Haim’s live show, it’s that the Phoenix-y Botox-pop production of last year’s Days Are Gone is so immaculate and superhuman that replicating those songs onstage, in their recorded form, is damn near impossible. However, the sisterly trio has come a long way after a year of touring, and as Saturday’s main stage appearance triumphantly showed, Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim’s live approach is closer than ever to reproducing these Fleetwood Mac-indebted pop gems with the glossy sheen intact. From “The Wire,” to “If I Could Change Your Mind,” to ” My Song 5,” Haim delivered an hour-long hit parade, and a masterclass in guitar rock via R&B viscosity. Bonus points to Este’s rabble-rousing stage banter and uninhibited rubber-face while plucking the strings, and the generous thump supplied by Alana’s freestanding bass drum.
2. Jagwar Ma
Given the sheer amount of music-circa-2014 that exists in the gaps between genres, and electric/acoustic/electronic approaches, one might expect a zeitgeist-y festival like Outside Lands to reflect this sense of fusion onstage. For the most part, though, we were given the same old binary of traditionally outfitted rock bands on one hand, and laptop-driven hip-hop and electronica on the other. Australia’s Jagwar Ma, however, bucked that trend by supplying the biggest patch of middle-ground at the entire festival. Indebted to the Ecstacy-addled dance-rock hybridization of Primal Scream, Happy Mondays, and other mainstays of the UK’s Madchester scene, the three-piece’s Saturday afternoon set at the Twin Peaks stage perfectly combined guitars, synths, and other gadgets to reflect the sugary hookiness of ’60s psychedelia and the four-on-the-floor thump of acid house, without the slightest hint of awkwardness or contrivance. Performing sequencer-based music onstage, that’s also tactile and involving, is arguably the great challenge of modern live music, and Jagwar Ma effortlessly rose to the occasion.
1. Kanye West
Kanye, who wouldn’t let photographers shoot from anywhere but the sound booth, and who performed as a silhouette for a good chunk of the set, because he is Kanye. Photo by Matthew Reamer.
Whether you think of him as a mad-truth-speaking shepherd of pop culture, a vapid, window-dressing egomaniac, a bizarro performance artist, or a world-class troll, no one in the Grammy/VMA tier of the music world thrives on the ambiguity of their persona like Kanye West. In a landscape of major-label artists with carefully maintained PR images, delivering live shows akin to a federally regulated product, there’s a sense of uncertainty and precariousness about a Kanye performance that makes every moment captivating. Whether he was instructing the audience to “make circles!” and mosh during one of three playthroughs of “Blood on the Leaves,” freestyle-autotuning for 10 minutes over a bare piano track with video of a waterfall in the background, slipping his Robocop helmet/mirrorball mask on and off, or stopping midway through “Clique” for an impromptu rant aimed at the media that scrutinizes his every move, one couldn’t shake the palpable feeling that this train just might derail at any moment. Both tightly curated, and seemingly hanging by a thread, Friday night’s headlining set was bewildering and exhilarating in equal measure. In other words: pure, unfiltered Kanye.
“This ain’t no radio shit. This ain’t no shit made to please motherfuckers. This ain’t no concierge, maitre d’ music and shit trying to sound smooth as possible,” West declared during one of numerous manifesto-ish rants between songs, presumably referring to the lean, grating electro-thrash of last year’s hugely divisive Yeezus. That record made its mark with renditions of “Black Skinhead,” “New Slaves,” and “Bound 2,” and largely defined the show’s aesthetic, to the chagrin of many a festival-bro pining for “that 2007 shit” circa Graduation. Crowd-pleasers like “Good Life,” “Jesus Walks,” and “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” acted as a welcome counterweight to Yeezus’ radical aggression while putting that album’s adventurousness in perspective. As suggested by the solid, monumental blocks of color on the projection screens, Kanye’s presence was commanding and singular when the fragility of his ego didn’t get the best of him.
Explaining the reasoning behind his continued use of autotune, Kanye declared, “Same thing as Andy Warhol said: it’s easier.” Much like Warhol, or punk rock, the cultural import of Kanye’s current output lies more in the values and attitudes it represents, and the debate it generates, than its actual content. His set certainly wasn’t the festival’s most competent, nor its strongest on purely musical terms. But as pure spectacle, and as a launching pad for contemplation and discussion about the value of “art” and where it’s going, Kanye’s set reigned supreme. “It’s Yeezy season,” whether you like it or not.
Flaming Lips. Photo by Brittany Powell.
Despite recent rumors of intra-member infighting, and allegations of Wayne Coyne being a racist asshole in the midst of a druggy midlife crisis, the Flaming Lips put on a stellar, perfectly charming show. Their signature, jerry-rigged stage theatrics were as gloriously gimmicky as ever, and their musicianship onstage has rarely been tighter. Their closing cover of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” brought out SF’s fearlessly freaky vibes like nothing else at the festival.
Petty, bein’ Petty. Photo by Brittany Powell.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers delivered two hours of faithful takes on 40-ish years worth of rock anthems. So faithful, in fact, that the whole set seemed weirdly copied and pasted from an FM station at some dad’s backyard barbecue. A solid set, nothing more or less; lthough, the high standard set in years past by headliners like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder left a bit of star-power to be desired in the headlining slot.
Disclosure. Photo by Matthew Reamer.
Disclosure, the UK house revivalists whose hugely successful debut, Settle, can be heard over intercoms in Apple stores and Uniqlo franchises across America, drew an uncommonly huge crowd to the main stage for a Friday afternoon. Despite the undeniable quality of anthems like “When a Fire Starts to Burn” and “Help Me Lose My Mind,” the lack of live vocals and the inherent dullness of watching two dudes mess with laptops made for a slightly underwhelming set.
The Queen of Bounce herself, Big Freedia. Photo by Matthew Reamer.
Big Freedia lent her party-rap talents to the GastroMagic stage, while Brenda’s French Soul Food made beignets for a handful of hungry, twerking audience members. A low-key but surreal collaboration that resembled a wacko “happening” more than a standard festival show, hinting at the new food-centric stage’s full potential.
Described as a “gourmet” festival like no other, Outside Lands had some shockingly tasty food options to offer this year. Wise Sons’ Deli’s “Pastrami Cheese Fries” and Michelin-starred AQ’s “Highbrow Spaghetti Sloppy Joes” were prime examples of smartly, expertly crafted dishes that still felt unpretentious and festival-ready.
Beer, beer, and more beer! Given the Bay Area’s distinction as one of the world’s epicenters of quality and invention in craft beer, the polo field’s Beer Lands station rose to the occasion admirably. A good selection of highly drinkable, floral “session IPAs” (from Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Stone), robust porters and stouts (most notably High Water’s s’mores-flavored Campfire Stout), and even barrel-aged brews (Fort Point’s Westfalia, a complexly funky take on an amber ale) presented just a few of many options.
Outside Lands detritus, after the storm. Photo by Matthew Reamer.
Too bad Ireland’s CHVRCHES had to C@NC€L after getting stuck at customs in Vancouver. I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.
One of Kanye’s many rants touched on the poison of negative criticism, and the press’ fixation on identifying the flaws in well-intentioned art. Going into Outside Lands, I promised myself to focus on the positive, to give each and every band the benefit of the doubt. However, the Killers gave me no choice but to break that rule.
What is this, 2004? What business do the Killers (a band that’s spent over a decade coasting on the fumes of its debut LP) have headlining a festival that prides itself on the relevancy of its lineup? We don’t see the Pitchfork Festival giving its premier slot to the likes of Interpol anymore. Also, how has this band (surely Las Vegas’ least hedonistic export) earned headlining power with its brand of aggressively “inspirational” secular Christian rock with no undertow of mischief, adventure, or much of anything? They couldn’t even cover Creedence’s “Bad Moon Rising” without giving off a big whiff of American Idol sterility. Sure, the synthesizers in the background make for some nicely textured rock music, but U2, even Coldplay, deliver the same goods far more substantially.
If the Killers were the “best choice” for Sunday night’s headliner, either 100 more worthy bands were busy, or the Outside Lands booking department could use some fresh blood. It’s 2014. There are bigger, fresher fish to fry.
Photo by Matthew Reamer.
Disagree? Have at us in the comments. We didn’t mean to insult your whimsical animal hat.
LEFT OF THE DIAL Can you smell it in the air? It’s that late-summer, chilled pinot grigio-tipsy, organic ice cream-sticky scent of Outside Lands, just around the corner.
Yes, it’s that time in our fair city’s annual trip around the sun when we get the chance to show Austin and Indio and those warm summer New York nights exactly what we here in San Francisco are made of when it comes to music festivals: Namely, expensive, gourmet food, wine, and beer stands, a commitment to slapping the word “green” in front of everything; and a beautiful, natural outdoor venue in which, should you forget to bring three extra layers in an oversized bag, you will absolutely freeze your ass off by nightfall.
All snark aside, one thing I’ve always appreciated about OSL in its six short summers is that, nestled amongst the sometimes overwhelmingly corporate feel of the thing — something that was maybe inevitable, as Another Planet Entertainment grew from little-promoter-offshoot-that-could into perhaps the most influential promotions company in the Bay Area music biz — is a commitment to bringing local bands along for the ride whenever possible.
Sure, everyone’s excited to see Kanye. I’m excited to see Kanye. Anyone who’s going to see Kanye and tries to say anything more intellectual about it than “I’m really fucking amused in advance and very excited to see Kanye” is lying. But nothing fills me with more hometown pride than watching a band I’ve been rooting for since they were playing living rooms or parklets take the stage in Golden Gate Park in front of thousands of paying, attentive potential new fans.
With that in mind, here’s your guide to a few of our favorite local folks representing the Bay Area at this year’s fest. Show up for ’em. In most cases, they’ve been working toward this for a long time. And if you don’t have the funds to make it to this year’s OSL? Lucky for us — unlike Kanye — these kids play around the Bay all year round.
Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers
The unofficial queen of Bay Area alt-folk has had a good year since August 2013, when her band’s debut LP took to the airwaves and then to the national stage, with Bluhm’s killer vocals and long, tall mishmash of Stevie/Janis appeal at the helm. Fri/8 at 4pm, Sutro Stage
SF’s own Scott Hansen has also been riding high this year, since the release of Awake in March propelled him from bedroom artist to something else entirely with its lush, ambitious landscapes of color and sound. We still think we prefer him in headphones to outdoor festival-style, but we’ll take it. Sat/9 at 3:40pm, Twin Peaks Stage
If you don’t know his solo stuff (and you should; last year’s MCII was one of the best local records of the year), you probably know him as Ty Segall’s right-hand man. Either way, Cronin is one of the most authentic voices in the Bay Area’s indie scene right now, with just enough power-pop sweetness and strings coloring even his scratchiest garage-punk anthems. Fri/8 at 4:30pm, Panhandle Stage
Did you love Girls (the SF indie powerhouse, RIP, not the HBO show)? Of course you did. Did you love Christopher Owens’ solo debut, Lysandre? We did too. He’s giving us another one in September; now’s your chance for a sneak preview of some likely highly emotional and lushly orchestrated songs. Sat/9 at 2:30, Sutro Stage
This 27-year-old rapper and SF University High School graduate has been gaining attention with his whiplash-inducing flow, which he honed in his teens as a slam poetry champion. His most recent album, June’s All You Can Do, is poised to take him from Internet and Ellen-famous to just famous-famous. Sun/10, 2pm, Twin Peaks Stage
Trails & Ways
Bossa nova dream pop, Brazilian shoegaze, whatever you call it: This Oakland quartet (and Bay Guardian Band on the Rise from 2012) draws inspiration from all over the globe for its undeniably catchy, never predictable, harmony-drenched melodies. Sat/9 at 12:40pm, Twin Peaks Stage
“This is not your father’s gypsy jazz,” warns Beso Negro’s bio, which — while we’re pretty sure our dad doesn’t have a kind of gypsy jazz — does a pretty good job of explaining the modern sounds infused into this Fairfax five-piece’s musical vocabulary. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days, check the website for details
As if we didn’t have a big enough soft spot for this East Bay alt-soul-folk outfit already, there’s the fact that they got their start busking outside of festivals for their first few years — including Outside Lands. Seeing them on the inside will be sweet. Sat/9 at noon, Sutro Stage
El Radio Fantastique
With horns, theremin, and just about every kind of percussion you can think of, this Point Reyes-based eight-piece is a mish-mash of everything dark and dancey and nerdy and weird, describing themselves as “part rumba band in purgatory, part cinematic chamber group, part shipwrecked serenade.” Serious cult following here. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days
Sultry, jazzy, rootsy — we’re excited to see what this mainstay of “voodoo blues” nights at small rooms like Amnesia can do on a bigger stage. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days
Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra
O’Reilly, a singer-songwriter who’s clearly done his Delta roots, gospel, and traditional folk homework, played OSL last year — well before putting out a debut studio album, the aptly titled Pray For Rain, in March of this year. This is a three-piece with arrangements that make the band seem much bigger. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days
A citizens’ initiative that would block the project this week qualified for the ballot after turning in more than 16,000 signatures, collected by the Coalition to Save Golden Gate Park. Yet city officials and supporters of the project — including the City Fields Foundation, which has been installing artificial turf on playing fields around the city in recent years — aren’t taking any chances, creating a rival measure sponsored by six members of the Board of Supervisors.
Not only would the supervisors’ measure invalidate the citizens’ initiative if it gets more votes — it contains a so-called poison pill, an increasingly common electoral tactic — but it would make it more difficult to challenge future trail, playground, and playing field projects that would increase the number of users by 50 percent or more. “We think it’s a terrible measure that disenfranchises voters all over the city,” Jean Barish, a spokesperson for the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park, told the Guardian. “It would give the Recreation and Park Department a lot more authority than they have now.”
Patrick Hannan, a spokesperson for the City Fields Foundation, worked with supervisors on the rival measure and he denies that it would limit citizens’ rights to challenge future projects.
“The legislation in no way curtails any kind of appeals process,” Hannan said. “It says you can’t pass a law to stop projects from going forward after they’ve been approved.”
But Hannan couldn’t cite any examples of approved projects being later stopped by legislation, and the vaguely worded measure doesn’t make clear whether it would preclude citizens from challenging approved projects by initiative or referendum.
Mike Murphy, the official proponent behind the iniative that seeks to stop the Beach Chalet project, said the intent of the supervisors’ measure seems to be to limit the public’s right to challenge artificial turf projects, which the city measure explicitly said city bodies “shall approve” if they increase playing time and have an approved environmental impact report.
He called on the supervisors sponsoring the measure — Sups. David Chiu, Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, Katy Tang, Scott Wiener, and London Breed — to remove their names before next week’s electoral deadline.
“This is a highly politicized issue and it always has been,” Murphy said. “We need to refocus the debate not on why [the city needs more playing fields] but on what’s being done at this site.”
Opponents of the Beach Chalet project say articificial turf can be toxic and unhealthy and that it shouldn’t replace natural grass. But supporters of this and other artificial turf projects say that they substantially increase the available playing time on fields that are desperately need to keep up with demand, particularly by youth sports.
“Artificial turf is safe and this project is cleared to proceed,” Hannan said. “The question is whether the city wants to give more kids more fields they can use.”
He cited studies showing that because the artificial turf his group has installed on city-owned fields since 2011, available playing time on fields has increased by 30 percent: “That’s a direct result of our project.”
And now, voters will get their chance to weigh in on this ongoing, highly charged turf war.
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Mission Bay Hidden Water Walk Meet at CalTrain station (south side plaza), Fourth St at King, SF; www.laborfest.net. 10am, free. Walking tour of the rapidly-changing Mission Bay area. Part of LaborFest 2014.
James Nestor Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post, SF; www.milibrary.org. 6pm, $15. The author discusses Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves.
“Taxi, Tech, and Rideshare” Redstone Building, 2940 16th St, SF; www.laborfest.net. 7pm, donations accepted. Forum and video screening on the subject of Uber and similar companies that are affecting the taxi industry. Part of LaborFest 2014.
Tom Barbash Hattery, 414 Brannan, SF; www.booksinc.net. 7pm, free. The author discusses his work and writing, including Stay Up With Me, his recent short-story collection.
State of the City Forum Modern Times Bookstore Collective, 2919 24th St, SF; www.mtbs.com. 7-9pm, free. Discussion of gentrification issues with SF poet laureate Alejandro Murguia and community guest panelists.
“Bike Design Project Reveal Party SF” PCH Lime Lab, 135 Mississippi, SF; www.oregonmanifest.com. 6-9:30pm, free. Check out next-generation bikes created by top designers and bike craftspeople at this reveal party, featuring custom-brewed, “bike-inspired” beer from Deschutes Brewery.
Gilroy Garlic Festival Christmas Park, Gilroy; www.gilroygarlicfestival.com. 10am-7pm, $10-20. Through Sun/27. Garlic is the pungent star of this annual food fair. Garlic ice cream gets all the press, but don’t sleep on the garlic fries, 2012’s most popular purchase (13,401 servings!)
Squeak Carnwath University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft, Berk; www.universitypressbooks.com. 6pm, free. The Oakland-based painter discusses her new book, Horizon on Fire: Squeak Carnwath Works on Paper, 1977-2013, containing over 90 images of her works from the past 35 years.
Berkeley Kite Festival Cesar E. Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina. www.highlinekites.com. 10am-6pm, free. Through Sun/27. Because where else are you gonna see the world’s largest octopus kite?
Oakland 1946 General Strike Walk Lathan Square (meet at fountain), Telegraph at Broadway, Oakl; www.laborfest.net. Noon, free. Revisit key sites of Oakland’s historic “Work Holiday,” the last general strike ever to occur in the US. Part of LaborFest 2014.
“Off the Wall” Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; www.missionculturalcenter.org. 7:30pm, free. Mission Grafica hosts this closing reception for its current screenprinting and woodcut exhibition, with a silent auction of pieces from the archives.
Ohtani Summer Bazaar Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, 1524 Oregon, Berk; www.bombu.org. Today, 4-8pm; Sun/27, noon-5pm. Free. Japanese food is the focus of this two-day fest, with homemade Kushikatsu, sushi, teriyaki chicken, and other tasty treats. The temple is also known for its (American-style) chili.
Pedalfest Jack London Square, Broadway and Embarcadero, Oakl; www.pedalfestjacklondon.com. 11am-7pm, free. Celebrate biking at this festival, with bike-themed entertainment (“daredevils performing in a 30-foot Whiskeydrome”), “pedal-powered food,” a vintage bike show, bike demos, and more.
“Perverts Put Out! Dore Alley Edition” Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF; www.sexandculture.org. 8pm, $10-25. Readings by Jen Cross, Princess Cream Pie, Philip Huang, and others; hosted by Dr. Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard as a benefit for the CSC.
Vintage Paper Fair Hall of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, Ninth Ave at Lincoln, SF; www.vintagepaperfair.com. Today, 10am-6pm; Sun/26, 11am-5pm. Free. Huge vintage paper fair featuring antique postcards, prints, photography, Art Deco items, movie memorabilia, and more.
LaborFest Book Fair Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; www.laborfest.net. 10:30am, free. Numerous authors share their labor- and union-themed books and this day of readings and discussions. Part of LaborFest 2014.
Up Your Alley Fair Dore between Howard and Folsom, SF; www.folsomstreetfair.com/alley. 11am-6pm, $7 suggested donation. Folsom Street Fair’s naughty little brother fills Dore Alley with leather-clad shenanigans.
Christopher Pollock St. Philip’s Catholic Church, 725 Diamond, SF; www.sanfranciscohistory.org. 7:30pm, $5. San Francisco History Association hosts this talk by the author of Reel San Francisco Stories: An Annotated Filmography of the Bay Area. *
When Susan King attends the Aug. 24 Sunday Streets in the Mission District — the 50th incarnation of this car-free community gathering, coming the week before her 50th birthday — it will be her last as director of an event she started in 2008.
That successful run was made possible by King’s history as a progressive community organizer who also knew how to do fundraising, a rare combination that has made Sunday Streets more than just a bicycle event, a street faire, or a closure of streets to cars that the city imposes on its neighborhoods on a rotating basis.
Instead, King took the ciclovia concept that started in Bogota, Colombia in the late ’70s — the idea was creating temporary open space on streets usually dominated by cars (See “Towards Carfree Cities: Everybody into the streets,” SFBG Politics blog, 6/23/08) — and used it as a tool for building community and letting neighborhoods decide what they wanted from the event.
“I regard the organizing as community organizing work rather than event organizing, and that’s significant,” King told the Guardian. “We’re creating the canvas that community organizations can use.”
San Francisco was the third US city to borrow the ciclovia concept to create open streets events — Portland, Ore, was the first in June 2008, followed quickly by New York City — but the first to do one that didn’t include food trucks and commercial vending, which Sunday Streets doesn’t allow.
“It’s not a street fair, it’s about meeting your neighbors and trying new things,” King said, referring to free activities that include dance, yoga, and youth cycling classes and performances. “It’s a really different way of seeing your city. A street without cars looks and feels different.”
Now, after seeing how Sunday Streets can activate neighborhoods and build community, and watching the concept she helped pioneer be adopted in dozens of other cities, King says she’s ready for the next level.
“I want to apply what I know on a larger scale, ideally statewide,” King said of her future plans. “This really opened my eyes up to the possibilities.”
WORKING WITH COMMUNITIES
After a lifetime of progressive activism — from grassroots political campaigns to city advisory committees to working with the Green Party — King knew the value of listening to various community stakeholders and earning their trust.
“We try to be culturally competent and work with each neighborhood,” King said. “We want to work with the neighborhood instead of dropping something on the neighborhood.”
That distinction has been an important one, particularly in neighborhoods such as Bayview and the Western Addition, where there is a long history of City Hall officials and political do-gooders trying to impose plans on neighborhoods without their input and consent.
“We worked really closely together and she gave me a lot of leeway to do Sunday Streets in a way that it worked for the community,” said Rebecca Gallegos, who managed public relations for the Bayview Opera House 2010-2013. “I can’t say enough great words about Susan. She was a truly a mentor to me. They’re losing someone really great.”
The first Sunday Streets on Aug. 31, 2008, extended from the Embarcadero into Bayview, opening up that neighborhood to many new visitors. King cited a survey conducted at the event showing 54 percent of respondents had never been to Bayview before.
“Susan wore a lot of hats. Not only did she create community in all the neighborhoods in San Francisco, but she knew how to go after the money,” Gallegos told us. “She walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk.”
Meaghan Mitchell, who worked with the Fillmore Community Benefits District, also said King’s skills and perspective helped overcome the neighborhood’s skepticism about City Hall initiatives.
“Susan came in and was very warm and open to our concerns. She was a joy to work with,” said Mitchell, who went on to work with King on creating Play Streets 2013, an offshoot of Sunday Streets focused on children.
The neighborhood was still reeling from a massive redevelopment effort by the city that forced out much of its traditional African American population and left a trail of broken promises and mistrust. Mitchell said King had to spend a lot of time in community meetings and working with stakeholders to convince them Sunday Streets could be good for the neighborhood — efforts that paid off as the community embraced and helped shape the event.
“It was nice to know the Fillmore corridor could be included in something like this because we were used to not being included,” Mitchell told us. “Community organizing is not an easy job at all because you’re dealing with lots different personalities, but Susan is a pro.”
It wasn’t community organizing that got King the job as much as her history with fundraising and business development for campaigns and organizations, ranging from the San Francisco Symphony to the San Francisco Women’s Building.
At the time, when city officials and nonprofit activists with the Mode Shift Working Group were talking about doing a ciclovia, King was worried that it would get caught up in the “bike-lash” against cyclists at a time when a lawsuit halted work on all bike projects in the city.
“I thought that would never fly,” King said. “We started Sunday Streets at the height of the anti-bike hysteria.”
But her contract with WalkSF to work on Masonic Avenue pedestrian improvements was coming to an end, she needed a job, and Sunday Streets needed a leader who could raise money to launch the event without city funds.
“I know how to raise money because I had a background in development,” said King, who raised the seed money for the first event with donations from the big health care organizations: Kaiser, Sutter Health/CPMC, and Catholic Healthcare West. And as a fiscal sponsor, she chose a nonprofit organization she loved, Livable City, for which Sunday Streets is now a $400,000 annual program.
King had a vision for Sunday Streets as an exercise in community-building that opens new avenues for people to work and play together.
Immediately, even before the first event, King and Sunday Streets ran into political opposition from the Fisherman’s Wharf Merchants Association, which was concerned that closing streets to cars would hurt business, and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors who were looking to tweak then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose office helped start the event.
City agencies ranging from the Police Department to Municipal Transportation Agency required Sunday Streets to pay the full costs for city services, something that even aggressive fundraising couldn’t overcome.
“We were in debt to every city department at the end of the second year. It was the elephant in the room going into that third year,” King said.
But the Mayor’s Office and SFMTA then-Director Nat Ford decided to make Sunday Streets an official city event, covering the city costs. “It was the key to success,” King said. “There’s no way to cover all the costs. The city really has to meet you halfway.”
King said that between the intensive community organizing work and dealing with the multitude of personalities and interests at City Hall, this was the toughest job she’s had.
“If I would have known what it would be like,” King said, “I would never have taken the job.”
SUNDAY STREETS SOARS
But King had just the right combination of skills and tenacity to make it work, elevating Sunday Streets into a successful and sustainable event that has served as a model for similar events around the country (including at least eight others also named Sunday Streets).
“The Mission one just blew up. It was instantly popular,” said King, who eventually dropped 24th Street from the route because it got just too congested. “But it’s the least supportive of our physical activity goals because it’s so crowded. It was really threatening to be more of a block party.”
That was antithetical to the ethos established by King, who has cracked down on drinking alcohol and unpermitted musical acts at Sunday Streets in order to keep the focus on being a family-friendly event based on fitness and community interaction.
Even the live performances that Sunday Streets hosts are required to have an interactive component. That encouragement of participation by attendees in a noncommercial setting drew from her history attending Burning Man, as well as fighting political battles against the commercialization of Golden Gate Park and other public spaces.
“It was my idea of what a community space should look like, although I didn’t invent it…We really want to support sustainability,” King said. “We’re not commodifying the public space. Everything at Sunday Streets is free, including bike rentals and repairs.”
As a bike event, the cycling community has lent strong support to Sunday Streets, with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition strongly promoting it along the way.
“The success of Sunday Streets has been a game changer in showcasing how street space can be used so gloriously for purposes other than just moving and storing automobiles. At every Sunday Streets happening we are reminded that streets are for people too,” SFBC Director Leah Shahum told us. “Susan’s leadership has been such an important part of this success.”
This morning (Wed/16), outside the San Francisco Community Recycler’s Center in the parking lot of the Safeway at Church and Market streets, a group of protesters stood in a cluster, chanting: “Cans not condos!”
As the Guardian previously reported, Safeway is in the process of evicting the recycling center, which continued to operate up until yesterday. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, which carries out evictions on Wednesdays, had signaled to the center’s operators that they could be forced out anytime after July 16.
That led supporters and volunteers with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness to show up at 5:30am in a bid to beat the sheriff there. They stood on the sidewalk outside the recycling center’s locked gate, waving signs.
“We’ll be holding space as long as we can,” Lisa-Marie Altorre, of the Coalition on Homelessness, told the Guardian a little after 7am. Calls to the Sheriff’s Department were not returned, but Altorre said around 12:15 that supporters had received “official word” that the eviction would be going forward, “likely later in the day.”
[UPDATE: Sheriff’s Department deputies showed up at 7am the next morning to enforce the eviction, and the center is now closed.]
Sup. Scott Wiener told the Guardian in an earlier interview that his District 8 constituents had complained about the recycling center’s presence, saying the facility draws too many unruly patrons, who are often homeless. A new condominium development looms over the recycling center from one direction, while a mixed-use condo development with a Whole Foods on the ground floor lies just across the street.
But recycling center operators argue that the eviction will be harmful to patrons, who need the extra money to get by, and that it will erode the city’s environmental goals. There’s also an issue of impacts on surrounding small businesses, which could be required under state law to accept recycling in-store, a burdensome task for smaller retailers, or to pay fees.
“Eliminating community-based recycling has grave impacts on San Francisco, from public safety to huge environmental fails, including moving us away from goals of being Zero Waste in 2020,” said Ed Dunn of the San Francisco Community Recyclers Center. Dunn was previously affiliated with the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center, which was evicted from a parking lot in Golden Gate Park. “It is sad to think any elected leader would support a move like this,” Dunn said, “and a corporation like Safeway would get away with turning their back on their corporate civic responsibility to something as vital as recycling.”
SUPER EGO Some of us fabulous fairies caught flailing in the ratty-tutu-and-trucker-cap tornado of Pink Saturday, during this year’s Pride celebrations, were like, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Castro, anymore.”
Indeed, the radical roots of the huge 24-year-old celebration — it began as an ACT-UP protest and party — seemed all but washed away in a sea of urine, puke, and shrieks at some points. And, while no one got shot like in 2009, violence tainted the roiling street affair: Even one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the charitably benevolent gay nuns who host Pink Saturday, was physically attacked along with her husband.
(Alas, homophobic violence was everywhere that weekend: Two lesbians were beaten senseless in SoMa, and my friend in Nob Hill got jumped by an SUV-full of assholes. Gross.)
I adore our young allies — and I ain’t mad about straight dudes ripping off their shirts to show support, neither. ‘Mos before bros! I know they’re not all to blame for flooding the Castro’s streets with, er, pink. Hey, we invited them to join us. However. The bad outfits, the worse liquor, and the pushy elbowing need to be checked at the door. (Looking at you, too, mouthy gays.)
Has this year ruined it for everyone? Now that Pink Saturday seems out of control, will it go the way of Halloween in the Castro?
“The Sisters don’t get nearly enough credit for Pink Saturday,” Castro supervisor Scott Wiener told me over the phone. “They plan all year round, working closely with my office, the Police Department, and the Department of Public Works to try to make sure that it’s welcoming and safe. That said, I think we can acknowledge there were a lot of problems — and while the general level of violence was kept low, the attack on the Sister and the human waste issue were definite takeaways as we consider how to keep this event accessible in the future.
“The Sisters meet every year to vote on whether to put on this now-150,000-plus event every year,” Wiener continued. “Pink Saturday holds enormous importance for the LGBT community and raises tens of thousands of dollars in funds. Ten percent of the police force were assigned to it this year.
“But Castro residents put up with a lot. And I think we really noticed how the vibe changed after 9pm, after the Dyke March crowd had filtered away. I’ll be meeting with the Sisters and Police Chief Greg Suhr about viable plans for next year — and nothing’s being ruled out right now.”
NIGHTLIFE LIVE: WATER
The biennial Soundwave Fest sweeps over the bay with an awesome series of esoteric-cool sonic installations and head-trip voyages. (This year’s theme is “water,” very prescient in a time of drought.) Your aural-aqueous immersion kicks off at the Cal Academy’s Thursday Nightlife party, with performances by Rogue Wave and Kaycee Johansing and sonic installations throughout the museum. Submerged turntables! Underwater zither! Coral reef data-surfing! Full bar!
Thu/10, 6pm-10pm, $10–$12. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., SF. www.soundwavesf.com
BARDOT A GO GO
Can’t have a Bastille Day celebration without a little Swingin’ Sixties “ooh-la-la.” This insanely fun, 16-year-old annual soiree dazzles with Franco-groovy chic — and classic, decadent French pop tunes (Bardot, Gainsbourg, Dutronc, etc.) from DJs Pink Frankenstein, Brother Grimm, and Cali Kid. Plus, Peter Thomas Hair Design will be there 9pm-11pm to fluff your coiffure for free.
When gay bar Esta Noche closed in March after 40 years, it was a Latin drag tragedy. (The closure, not the bar itself.) In honor of the de Young Museum’s essential show of vintage ’70s photos Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay, the Esta Noche scene is being resurrected for a night, with comedian Marga Gomez hosting, classic Noche tunes and drag performances by Lulu Ramirez, Persia, and Vicky Jimenez — aka Las Chicas de Esta Noche — that will shake a few tailfeathers.
Fri/11, 6pm-9pm, free. de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, SF. deyoung.famsf.com
THE WIZARD OF OZ
Drag doyenne of darkness Peaches Christ is hosting a screening of this classic at the Castro Theatre. But, as with all Peaches productions, you get an extravaganza. A live pre-show “Wizard of ODD” promises to be bananas, featuring the Tin Tran, The Scare-Ho, Glen or Glenda the Good Witch, and more. Bonus: Peaches herself playing “Peachy Gale” (aka Dorothy?) and one of the only RuPaul drag thingies I can remember the name of, Sharon Needles, as the Wicked Witch of the West. Don’t ask what happens to Toto.
Red explosions and yellow starbursts lit the sky, accompanied by the requisite oohs and aahs.
San Franciscans sat by the beach at Aquatic Park celebrating our nation’s independence, eyes fixed upwards. But all around them, a team of independent scavengers, mostly ignored, methodically combed the wharf, plucking cans and bottles from the ground and overflowing trash bins.
Often derided as thieves or parasites, these workers are cogs in a grand machine instituted by California’s Bottle Bill in 1986, forming a recycling redemption economy meant to spur environmentalism with market principles.
The concept is simple. Taxpayers pay an extra five cents when they buy a can or bottle, and may redeem that nickel by trading the used can or bottle in at a recycling center. Thus, more recycling is spurred.
But now a wave of recycling center evictions is causing San Francisco’s grassroots recycling economy to crumble, and newly released numbers reveal just how much stands to be lost by the trend.
San Franciscan recyclers may miss out on millions of dollars in redemption, local mom-and-pop stores could wind up on the hook for millions of dollars in state fees, and neighborhoods stand to be besieged by recyclers flocking to the few remaining recycling centers.
Recycling activists and local businesses are pushing for change, but NIMBY interests are pushing for more of the same.
SOLUTION IS THE PROBLEM
San Francisco Community Recyclers is on the parking lot of Safeway’s Church and Market location, and after months of legal entanglement, the recycling center’s eviction draws near. Still, SFCR is making a show of resistance.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is set to evict the recycling center within a week or so, as the rebel recyclers have so far refused to vacate voluntarily.
Sup. Scott Wiener says he’ll be glad to see them gone.
“This recycling center caused enormous problems in our neighborhood,” he told the Guardian. This particular Safeway lies within the boundaries of his district, and Wiener says his constituents complain the recycling centers draw too many unruly patrons, who are often homeless.
“There is problem behavior around the center in terms of camping and harassing behavior, defecation, urination in a much more concentrated way,” he said.
This animation shows the areas around San Francisco where recycling centers remain, which are often overburdened with customers as other centers close. The red zones indicate areas where supermarkets are mandated by state law to host recycling centers, but have chosen to pay fees instead.
But others say the not-in-my-backyard evictions only serve to create a ripple effect. The catalyst is a story we’ve reported on before: As well-heeled Golden Gate Park neighbors complained of homeless recycling patrons and waged a successful campaign to shutter the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center two years ago, the clientele adjusted by flocking to the Church and Market recycling center. New numbers illustrate this outcome.
Susan Collins is the president of the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit that conducts analysis on recycling data. On average nationwide, Collins said, one recycling center serves about 2,000 people.
But since 2012 the number of recycling centers in San Francisco has been reduced from 21 to 7, causing Church and Market’s service population to boom closer to 40,000, a difference that has more to do with the closures than the density of the area. Data from CalRecycle shows almost half of the city’s populace lacks a recycling center within close proximity, forcing patrons to overwhelm the few remaining centers.
“This makes it a chicken and egg process,” Collins told us. “For people to have the perception that the site is attracting so many people, they have to realize it’s because there are so few sites to begin with.”
Late last month, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano wrote to Safeway Chief Executive Officer Robert L. Edwards, urging the grocery chain to reverse its decision to evict San Francisco Community Recyclers from the Church and Market Safeway.
“Safeway has such a long history of supporting sustainability efforts,” Ammiano wrote, “and I truly believe that it can do so again.” Safeway, however, has other concerns.
“As curbside recycling has increased in San Francisco and around the state,” Safeway Director of Public Affairs Keith Turner wrote to Ammiano, “Safeway’s focus on recycling has evolved as well.”
Safeway is now also flouting local and state laws to throw recyclers off its back. CalRecycle, the state’s recycling agency, performed an inspection in April of the Diamond Heights Safeway. It found that the grocer failed to accept recyclables and offer state guaranteed redemption, despite signing an affidavit with CalRecycle pledging to do just that. CalRecycle cited that location and two other San Francisco Safeways for noncompliance with the bottle bill.
And that’s just the violations CalRecycle has documented so far. Ed Dunn, owner and operator of San Francisco Community Recyclers, has initiated his own investigation into Safeway statewide, filing complaints with CalRecycle alleging that as many as 75 Safeway stores aren’t following the mandates of their affidavits and offering redemption for recyclables.
On the other side of the fence, Safeway and other recycling-center critics (such as Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius) are essentially saying, who cares? Don’t we all just use blue bins nowadays?
The short answer: Nope.
MAKING GREEN, GOING GREEN
“Why do we need recycling centers if we have curbside recycling?” Sup. Eric Mar asked the deputy director of recycling at CalRecycle, point blank.
Jose Ortiz responded in less than a beat. “While some communities think curbside operations ensure the state’s goals of collecting [recyclables], the reality is that 90 percent of recycling volume is collected through recycling centers, not curbside programs,” he said from the podium.
That number came as a shock to many at the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee June 19, including Sups. Mar, David Campos, and Norman Yee. Only 8 percent of recycling statewide comes through blue bins, CalRecyle confirmed to the Guardian.
Nor is that limited to California: Data from the Container Recycling Institute shows that the 10 states with recycling redemption laws produce such a high rate of return that they account for 46 percent of the nation’s recycling. And since California Redemption Value recycling is pre-sorted, experts note, the bottles are often recycled whole (as opposed to broken) which can be used for higher-grade recycling purposes.
So for the city with a mandated goal of zero waste by 2020, the case for keeping recycling centers open is an environmental one. It’s also fiscal.
San Franciscans make $18 million a year selling back recyclables, Ortiz said, most of which went directly into the pockets of recyclers. Those scavengers at the Fourth of July festivities may have only collected five cents per can, but that’s enough to buoy the income of many poor San Franciscans.
At the recycling hearing, David Mangan approached the podium to speak. His red hat was clean and his grey sweatshirt was ironed, but his face was worn with worry-lines and creases.
“I can’t walk more than about eight blocks at a time, and I’m unemployable because of my disabilities,” he told the committee. Recycling centers are a lifeline, he added. “I need this job, I’m on a limited income. I need the help they offer. I need them to stay open, please.”
Critics say some poor and homeless depend on a black market of recycling truck drivers who trade drugs for cans and bottles, then turn to recycling centers to make a profit. But those at the hearing said the extinction of recycling centers actually helps the mobile, black market recycling fleets bloom, as motorists have an easier time shuttling recyclables across the city.
So recyclers are increasingly forced to rely on these so-called “mosquito fleets” for far-flung trips to cash in their bottles.
SMALL BUSINESS BUST
Meanwhile, recycling center evictions are becoming a source of anxiety within the small business community.
State law establishes a half-mile radius called a “convenience zone” around any supermarket that annually makes more than $2 million. The supermarket is mandated to provide recycling on-site, accept recyclables in-store, or opt to pay a $100 a day fee.
With the eviction of SFCR from Church and Market, Safeway may opt to pay the fee. But that gap would leave surrounding businesses inside that convenience zone with the same options: accept recyclables in-store or pay $36,000 a year.
Miriam Zouzounis of the Arab-American Grocer Association said those options are daunting for liquor stores and mom-and-pop grocers.
“We just don’t have the space for [recycling],” she said at the hearing. If SFCR were to close, the total of small businesses shouldering the burden of state recycling fees would jump from 100 to more than 360, said Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of the city’s Office of Small Business.
All told, San Francisco small businesses would be made to send $12.96 million in annual fees to California coffers because a few supermarkets didn’t want to handle recyclables. Mar is now calling upon all involved to step up and solve this glaring problem.
SOLUTIONS ON THE WAY
This week the Board of Supervisors is tentatively set to vote on a moratorium of recycling center evictions, introduced by Mar on June 24. The pause would give Mar time to form a work group with those involved: Department of the Environment, Department of Public Works, CalRecycle, local supermarkets, grocers, the Coalition on Homelessness, and others to come together to form a compromise solution.
Department of the Environment proposed a mobile recycling center, which Wiener called an equitable solution that would help distribute recycling responsibility evenly across the city. While that agency did not provide a timeline on the creation of a mobile recycling center before our deadline, it’s been in the works since 2012, when then-District 5 Sup. Christina Olague said it was the answer to the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center’s closure.
It’s been a long wait for a solution. And in the meantime, many more stand to lose.
THE WEEKNIGHTER Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart (www.brokeassstuart.com) will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?
There’s something romantic about San Francisco’s summertime fog. Those damp and chilly nights belong only to us, and the atmosphere they create is what dreams are made of. While the rest of the country simultaneously shares the same experience of panting and sweltering, we bundle up in scarves and coats and hoodies and boots just to run to the store. Maybe that’s the real reason San Francisco feels like a bubble. Maybe it’s not just that we’re this bedrock of progressivism and technological innovation. Maybe it’s that, like living inside a shaken snow globe, our lives are defined by the fact that the rest of the world is obscured from us by the mists floating in the air.
I’ve been telling Noah for a while that I’m gonna go visit him at the Fireside Bar (603 Irving, SF. 415-731-6433). We used to work Thursday nights together at the Golden Gate Tap Room until we didn’t anymore, and I’ve been meaning to catch up with him during one of his shifts at the Fireside. Situated at the corner of Seventh and Irving, the Fireside may be the perfect neighborhood bar. It’s got a dive bar feel without being rundown and smelly, the drinks are stiff and cheap, and the regulars are friendly enough. But most importantly it’s got a motherfucking fireplace.
Imagine this: You’ve decided to get out of your regular routine and go explore somewhere else. Maybe you wandered around Golden Gate Park or decided to check out the Inner Sunset. Or you just walked to the end of Upper Haight and decided to keep on going into the unknown. It’s July in San Francisco, and the sun is starting to go down, and you’ve been wandering around all day with someone who makes you feel all warm and gooey inside. Let’s grab a drink, one of you says as your feet start to hurt and your mouth feels parched and the top of the ear where you just kissed your special person is cold to the touch. And then you see the Fireside Bar. While San Francisco summers have been around far longer than the Fireside, it’s weird to imagine one without the other. You think about this as the two of you order drinks before sitting down to make love-eyes at each other near the fireplace.
I first moved to San Francisco in the summertime, and considering I lived in the Upper Haight, the fog was like a visitor who showed up towards the end of each day. My friend Maria lived a block down from me so one night we got drunk at her place and decided to go on an adventure. I grabbed my skateboard, she put on her roller skates and we headed west to explore parts of SF neither of us was familiar with. Cutting through the fog and the shadows of UCSF we eventually found our way to the Fireside, where we stopped for drinks and so Maria could clean up the scrapes she received from falling repeatedly on her skates. We got warm by the fire and then managed to get our drunk asses back to our respective homes without either of us cracking our heads open. It was a romantic night, not in a sexual way, but in a way where we both knew we were two people falling in love with San Francisco and its foggy ways.
I think it’s time I finally get my shit together and go visit Noah. Maybe I need a little fog and the Fireside to remind me of all the reasons I fell in love with this city in the first place.
Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com
STREET FIGHT With most city officials supporting the accommodation of private transit in some form, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is now vetting where tech workers should board and egress the private corporate commuter buses that ply the 101 and I-280 between San Francisco and Silicon Valley suburbs. A list of proposed bus stops was circulated in June, and the first round of bus stop proposals is set for approval in August.
Short of a proper environmental study, which is the subject of ongoing litigation, the list deserves more scrutiny and deliberation because certain areas of the city — such as Hayes Street in the Western Addition and 18th Street in the Mission — might be effectively made into Google Bus sewers.
I hope SFMTA is open to reconsidering some of these proposed bus stops.
Rather than jamming oversized interstate highway-scale coaches on human-scaled, walkable, and bikeable streets with important Muni routes, SFMTA ought to steer them where they are more appropriate: on the wider, car-oriented streets that bifurcate the city.
For example, the current proposal for private commuter buses in the Western Addition is to have these mammoth and incongruent buses running on Hayes Street using Muni stops at Clayton, Steiner, Laguna, and Buchanan.
This is bad news for passengers on the 21-Hayes, a key neighborhood-serving electric trolley bus that has gotten short shrift in the city planning process. With 12,500 boardings daily, the 21-Hayes is often at capacity every morning before it crosses Van Ness.
Just last week, I was on a packed 21 that was blocked (illegally) by a huge corporate bus on Hayes. With an already dense and slow traffic situation, this added at least 30 seconds to the trip before the 21 could access its stop. Repeat that multiple times in the morning and afternoon and you can see that this will be a mess. It’s not worth the dollar the SFMTA collects for such stops, that’s for sure.
Concentrating the private buses on the 21 line (or the 33 in the Mission) will block Muni where Muni is already slow, unreliable, and overcrowded. It will also diminish walkability and bicycle safety on Hayes and other streets identified in the current list (including the commercial corridors on Divisadero and 18th Street in the Mission.)
Rather than streets such as Hayes, SFTMA should redirect the private buses to the multilane, one-way couplet on Fell and Oak streets, only one block south. Along the corridor, SFMTA could collaborate with the private systems to establish new bus stops (red paint) at Clayton, Masonic, Divisadaro, Fillmore, and near Octavia. This scheme would limit clunky turn movements onto neighborhood streets by oversized buses and contribute to traffic calming.
In the mornings, the buses would pick up passengers on Oak Street, starting along the Panhandle, then travel towards Octavia Boulevard before swinging onto the freeway southbound. In the evenings the buses would exit the freeway at Octavia, and stop at drop-off hubs on Fell, between Octavia and Laguna, and then stop incrementally toward Golden Gate Park.
Additionally, the city needs to consider a space for the underpaid, nonunionized drivers to pull over and rest before and after long segments of freeway driving. We want these buses to be safe.
Similar arrangements should be made to spare 18th Street in the Mission from reverting to a Google bus sewer, with emphasis on private corporate bus stops on South Van Ness or Guerrero-San Jose. Surely there are other examples in other parts of the city.
The urgent affordable housing crisis aside, this could be a win-win from a transportation perspective. Tech workers would no longer get blamed for blocking Muni and they can know that while waiting for their bus, they are contributing to calming erstwhile hazardous streets.
There’s a lot of opportunity to combine these new bus stops with traffic calming at dangerous intersections such as Fell and Masonic or Oak and Octavia, all without mucking up Muni or diminishing the walkable human scale of nearby neighborhood commercial streets. And hey, since this is all a “pilot program,” no pesky and expensive EIR is needed — right?
Thinking long-term, this scheme could be a template to jumpstart making this ridiculous private transit system into a regional public bus system modeled on AC transit or Golden Gate Transit, a service open to all. Our car-centric streets are ripe for express bus service and this would help relieve parallel lines like the N-Judah, while enabling the city to attain its aspiration of 30 percent mode share on transit.
And for Mayor Ed Lee and pro-tech-bus members of the Board of Supervisors, it helps with their “vision zero” rhetoric of increasing pedestrian safety because placing the buses on car-centric one-way couplets can help calm traffic.
With a little cajoling by the mayor, he could get his tech sponsors to underwrite streetscape and beautification at the bus stops along these kinds of streets.
After all, Mayor Lee needs to find the money, because last month he betrayed pedestrian and bicycle safety and Muni when he abandoned support for increasing the Vehicle License Fee locally this fall, all the while misleading the public about the important role of Sunday metering. Perhaps it’s time for a tax or license fee on the ad hoc private transit system?
Speaking of vision zero, Sup. Eric Mar deserves hearty thanks for proposing to reduce speed limits citywide. This is one of the most effective ideas to come from the progressive wing of the Board of Supervisors in a long time and should be implemented yesterday. Higher speeds maim and kill, and the faster cars go the more voracious the appetite for both fuel and urban space.
With reduced speed, the motorist would still be able to drive, just more slowly, perhaps with less convenience than now. But over time the options of cycling, of walkable shopping, and improved public transit would synchronize more seamlessly as car space is ceded to separated cycletracks and transit lanes.
My suggestion is to make the city navigable by car at no greater than 15 miles per hour, a speed deemed not only to be comfortable on calmed pedestrian streets, but also to minimize injury and fatalities when there are collisions. Ultimately, our efforts to curb global warming, reduce injury and death from automobility, and make the city more livable obliges us to slow down, so looking at speeds is a step forward.
Street Fight is a monthly column by Jason Henderson, a geography professor at San Francisco State University and the author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.
QUEER ISSUE It’s Pride month, so it’s time for me to come out of the closet. I’m one of those people. It used to be if I told certain folks that I was a queer, I’d fear getting shot. Now it’s this: 20 years ago this week, I moved to San Francisco with nothing but a backpack, a haircut, and a copy of James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover — and within a few months I was comfortably situated in a grand, rent-controlled, shared three-bedroom apartment in Hayes Valley for $250 a month. It was awesome. I survived on a part-time bookstore job and spent the rest of my time either writing abstract poetry or partying my brains out. Don’t shoot!
That’s a situation so different from the one young queer people encounter today that every time I mention it I feel like I’m either lying, bragging, ancient, or crazy. I often have to refer to old pictures just to assure myself it was true.
Despite the to-die-for living arrangement, not everything was hippie-hunky-dory, of course. I was a Detroit kid with a bright punk streak who’d put himself though college by throwing raves in abandoned buildings. SF was really the last place I would have thought to move — I despised the Beats, never heard a Grateful Dead song, thought nature was flashy and embarrassing, and was mortified to hear that people here started their own raves with a prayer circle. Hoo boy.
Then there was the gay thing. Ever since I was an eighth-grade Boy George impersonator, assholes had told me to move my faggot self to San Francisco. Did actually moving here mean I was the butt of some cosmic joke? And then there was the gay gay thing. Everything about mainstream homosexual culture grossed me out, from the pink spandex-clad gym scene that seemed to be exploding everywhere to the horrid racism and misogyny — not to mention awful jock jams — of the typical Castro bars. (To be fair, the gay scene had absolutely no idea what to do with me, either.)
Oh yeah, and I moved here at the height of AIDS, when meth was taking off and even ACT-UP was admitting defeat. Good times.
But I’d found myself basically homeless back in Detroit, not to mention incredibly lonely, so when my bestie announced he’d bought us $44 train tickets to SF I jumped. Finally, more than three people to date! Maybe I would get published! Perhaps some dreamy queercore hip-hop Viking would swoop down on a Honda Hawk and carry me into the Pacific sunset! Who the hell knew what would happen, and wasn’t that the point. I’d fling myself west, into the arms of this strange, beautiful city and see what was up.
I arrived here on the blindingly sunny Solstice day after Pride, and the first thing I thought was, “Man, this joint is trashed.” The city looked like a drag queen apocalypse. False lashes, mismatched heels, wadded up denim booty shorts, and broken Zima bottles everywhere. We didn’t really have a Pride parade back in Detroit — instead, we celebrated venerable gay African American holiday Hotter Than July with a big picnic — so all this was tantalizingly new.
But I remember two Pride-related things immediately grabbed my self-obsessed attention, and made the world seem incredibly large. One was a huge picture of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on the front page of the Chronicle, illustrating a recap of the festivities. I’d never seen the word “gay” written so big, not to mention fabulously charitable quasi-drag queens featured so prominently, in print, in pure celebration. (This was in weird contrast to the super-specific, fetish-heavy personal ads in the back of the Bay Area Reporter, which both excited me and scared me to death.)
The other: leftover flyers and stickers protesting then-governor Pete Wilson’s heinous Prop 187, which would deny undocumented immigrants healthcare, education, and social services. Like many young queers, AIDS and the recent Gulf War had radicalized me, but I was too young and isolated to really find my protest voice. Here was evidence of the politically expressive, multicultural gay community I was yearning to join.
Though there were some rough times ahead, I soon found a loving family twirling on the floor at the EndUp, running off zines at Kinko’s, protesting in the Mission, hustling the Polk, shelving books at Green Apple, singing along at the Fillmore, sleeping in Golden Gate Park. I said tragic goodbyes to a lot of friends, burned through a few bright loves, went to grad school, ran a bookstore, connected with my spiritual side, edited a famous gay dating site, wrote a book, got married…. Oh my god my life did become a Grateful Dead song after all.
Is this kind of life-defining SF experience available to young queers now? Those of us who lived through AIDS know, survivor guilt is very real. I feel it coming on now from being able to hold on so long in San Francisco. Everytime I hit up my Facebook or duck into a bar, I learn someone else, another vital spirit, is fleeing this hyper-expensive town for somewhere with a diversified job market that can support creative growth and personal exploration. When I see a young person arrive full of hope, even one with a job at Google, it’s hard not to react cynically — up to a third of our homeless population is LGBT, and that includes hundreds of youth. Our arts and music scene is undergoing profound transformation, and the tech world has turned away from freaks and geeks toward slick Ivy League degrees.
But then I’ll see someone post something that makes me cry with joy. “Fuck that noise about moving. I’m not giving up that easy, San Francisco. I still believe in you!” Right on, sister. We all need to fight for that dream.
Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at email@example.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.
Anne Germanacos Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7:30pm, free. The author discusses her latest book, Tribute.
“Litquake’s June Epicenter” Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter, SF; www.litquake.org. 7pm, $5-15 suggested donation. Geoff Dyer launches his new nonfiction book, Another Great Day at Sea, and discusses it with Chris Colin.
“Radar Superstar” San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin, SF; www.radarproductions.org. 6-8pm, free. Michelle Tea hosts this celebration of the Radar Reading Series’ 11th birthday, with Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Anna Margarita Albelo, Achy Obejas, and Martin Sorrondeguy.
“After Hours: Thursday Night at the Jewseum” Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission, SF; www.thecjm.org. 6-8pm, free with museum admission, $5 after 5pm. Happy-hour fun with live music, specialty cocktails, a vintage-couture installation using live models, a challah braiding demo, and more.
Robert Dawson Hattery, 414 Brannan, SF; www.eventbrite.com. 7pm, $15. The photographer discusses The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.
Walter Mosely Book Passage, 1 Ferry Bldg, SF; www.bookpassage.com. 6pm, free. The acclaimed novelist reads from his racy new work, Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore.
“Shipwreck: Tournament of Champions” Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7pm, $10 (includes drinks). Six writers “destroy one great book, one great character at a time;” this episode unites a cast of Shipwreck all-stars to take down Gone With the Wind.
“The Sketchbook Project” Classic Cars West, 411 26th St, Oakl; www.sketchbookproject.com (check website for additional dates and locations). 6-10pm. Also Sat/7, 1-5pm. Free. The Sketchbook Project Mobile Library visits First Friday Art Murmur and Saturday Stroll with its collection of thousands of handmade sketchbooks.
Philippine Independence Day Celebration: Lumago Lampas (Grow Beyond) Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding, Alameda; www.rhythmix.org. 7pm, $15-25. Celebrate with performances by Parangal Dance Company, musician Ron Quesada, artist Kristian Kabuay, and more. Presented by the American Center of Philippine Arts.
“Reflections of Me and My World 2014” Oasis Gallery at American Steel Studios, 1960 Mandela, Oakl; www.ahc-oakland.org. 3-6pm, free. ArtEsteem’s 16th annual exhibit highlights work created by local youth in collaboration with West Oakland artists.
Union Street Festival Union between Gough and Steiner, SF; www.unionstreetfestival.com. 10am-6pm, free (tasting tickets, $30-35). Through Sun/8. This 38-year-old festival features tasting pavilions highlighting Bay Area craft beers and wines. Each block of the fest will also have a themed “world,” centered around fashion, culinary arts, tech, locals, crafts, and fitness.
Yerba Buena Art Walk Between Market and Folsom and Second and Fifth Sts, SF; yerbabuena.org/artwalk. 12:30-6pm, free. Yerba Buena Alliance presents this neighborhood showcase, highlighting galleries, exhibitions, and institutions throughout the downtown cultural center.
Haight Ashbury Street Fair Haight between Stanyan and Masonic, SF. www.haightashburystreetfair.org. 11am-8:30pm, free. Live music on two stages, plus over 200 vendor booths, highlight this groovy tradition.
Queer Comics Expo Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission, SF; www.cartoonart.org. 11am-5pm, $6-8. Learn about the LGBTQ world of comic books at this first-time event, featuring artists, authors, and costumed fans. Part of the National Queer Arts Festival.
Sunday Streets San Francisco Great Highway, SF; www.sundaystreetsst.com. 11am-4pm, free. Head to the edge of San Francisco and Golden Gate Park to enjoy car-free streets.
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7:30pm, free. The editor discusses new collection Singapore Noir
Sheila Bapat Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7:30pm, free. The author discusses Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers’ Rights.
Eric Baus City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; www.citylights.com. 7pm, free. The author celebrates The Tranquilized Tongue, the latest in the City Lights Spotlight Poetry series. *
Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.
Cassandra Dallett Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck, Berk; www.pegasusbookstore.com. 7:30pm, free. The author celebrates her poetic memoir, Wet Reckless.
Madison Young Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7:30pm, free. The author and sex-positive activist reads from her memoir, Daddy.
“BiConic Flashpoints: Four Decades of Bay Area Bisexual Politics” GBLT History Museum, 4127 18th St, SF; www.glbthistorymuseum.org. Opening reception 7-9pm, $3-5. A new multimedia exhibit explores the history of bisexual activism in the Bay Area since the 1970s.
“Chemical Reactions NightLife” California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, SF; www.calacademy.org. 6-10pm, $12. “Think before you drink” with author Adam Rogers (Proof:: The Science of Booze), get a close-up (like, microscopic) look at beer brewing, dance to disco with DJ BANG!, and more.
“Babylon Salon” Cantina SF, 580 Sutter, SF; www.babylonsalon.com. 6:30pm, free. With readings by Kathryn Ma, Dave “Davey D” Cook, Porter Shreve, and Kirstin Chen, plus a musical performance by singer-songwriter Ying-sun Ho.
Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival Shattuck between Rose and Vine, Berk. www.anotherbullwinkelshow.com/chocolate-chalk-art. 10am-5pm, free. Chalk artists compete for prizes while turning the sidewalks into eye candy — and speaking of candy, sweet tooth-ers can pick up ticket packs ($20 for 20) to sample chocolate items galore, including exotic treats like picante habañero chocolate gelato.
“Ecology Center Farmers’ Markets Family Fun Festival” Civic Center Park, MLK at Center, Berk; www.ecologycenter.org. 10am-3pm, free. Petting zoos (baby goats!), bouncy houses, an obstacle course, puppet-making using recycled materials, a zine-making station, and more green fun.
Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days Pet Food Express, 3868 Piedmont, Oakl; www.mainecoonadoptions.com (check web site for additional locations). 9am-3pm, free. Also Sun/1, 10am-3pm. Nonprofit cat-rescue organization Maine Coon Adoptions offers free adoptions of cats and kittens in honor of Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days, the largest free pet adoption event in the country.
“Poetry Unbound #13” Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck, Berk; berkeleyarthouse.wordpress.com. 5pm, $5. Reading with COPUS, Charles Curtis Blackwell, and Kayla Sussell, with a brief open mic hosted by Clive Matson and Richard Loranger.
“Invisible Hands: Voices from the Global Economy” David Brower Center, Goldman Theater, 2150 Allston, Berk; www.browercenter.org. 7pm, free. The Brower Center and Voice of Witness partner for this book launch (Invisible Hands) and panel discussion on the state of labor the global economy.
“13 Crime Stories from Latin America: McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #46” Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7:30pm, free. Editor Daniel Gumbiner and translators Katherine Silver and Joel Streiker discuss this new collection of work by contemporary writers from 10 different countries.
“Todd Trexler: A Solo Exhibition of His Legendary Portraits” Magnet, 4122 18th St, SF; www.magnetsf.org. Gallery hours: Mon-Tue and Sat, 11am-6pm; Wed-Fri, 11am-9pm. Opening reception June 6, 7-10pm. Free. Legendary poster artist Todd Trexler (the Cockettes, Sylvester, Divine) shows his work in the first exhibit of its kind in over 40 years.
“Creating Children’s Books: An Immigrant’s Story” San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin, SF; www.sfpl.org. 6pm, free. Author Yuyi Morales (Niño Wrestles the World) delivers the SFPL’s 18th annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture, discussing the need for diversity in children’s literature.
James Fearnley Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7:30pm, free. The music biographer discusses Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues. *
LEFT OF THE DIAL Earlier this month, Oakland singer-songwriter Ash Reiter was at Hipnic, an annual three-day music festival in Big Sur thrown by promoters folkYEAH!, featuring Cass McCombs, the Fresh & Onlys, the Mother Hips, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, and plenty of other Bay Area folky faves. Held at the Fernwood Resort and campgrounds, with families gathering under the shade of redwoods, it’s one of the cozier, more homegrown summer festivals in the greater Bay Area — there’s nary a Coachella-esque VIP section in sight — but a three-day pass still comes in at a cool $240.
Looking around, Reiter saw how the ticket price had shaped the crowd.
“There was obviously some great music, but that kind of boutique festival thing is so expensive that a lot of the audience seemed like older, well-off folks, parents — I mean, those are the people who can afford to go to these things,” she recalls. “I’m sure a lot of the bands playing wouldn’t be able to go to that festival, if they weren’t playing.”
It was that kind of thinking that sparked the idea for Hickey Fest, a three-day festival now in its second year and named for its location in Standish Hickey State Park in Mendocino County, “where the South Fork of the Eel River shimmers against the backdrop of the majestic redwoods,” according to the fest’s flyers. Born of the desire to curate a “musical experience outside of just your average festival, a chance for musicians to actually hang out and talk to each other and get to know each other that’s not just in a loud rock club,” Reiter launched Hickey Fest over Memorial Day weekend last year, with a lineup of friend-bands like Warm Soda, Farallons, Cool Ghouls, and Michael Musika. The goal: A festival her musician friends would actually enjoy, in an atmosphere that wouldn’t be “as overwhelming as a BottleRock or an Outside Lands.” She estimates some 500 to 600 people attended in total.
This year’s festival, which runs June 20-22 in the same location, includes another local-love lineup, including Papercuts, Sonny and the Sunsets, Black Cobra Vipers, and more. A $60 ticket gets you three days of music and camping. “I wanted it to be about community, about putting the fun back in music,” says Reiter, who will also perform. “So I did intentionally try to make it as cheap as possible.”
It’s a sentiment rarely heard from music promoters, especially as the days get longer and the work-ditching gets ubiquitous and the college kids are all turned loose for the summer. Festival season is upon us, Bay Area, and make no mistake: It’s a great way to see touring bands from all over the country. It’s a great platform for local bands, who get the chance to play bigger stages and reach new audiences. And as a music fan, it’s a great way to spend a shit-ton of money.
FIELD OF DREAMS
In the summer of 1969, when Woodstock was changing the meaning of “music festival” on the East Coast via Jimi solos and free, mud-covered love, plans were taking shape for a San Francisco festival that, had it actually taken place, would have been legendary: The Wild West Festival, scheduled for Aug. 22-24, was designed as a three-day party, with regular (ticketed) concerts each night in Kezar Stadium, while other bands performed free music all day, each day, in Golden Gate Park.
Bill Graham and other SF rock scene movers and shakers worked collaboratively on organizing the festival, which — had it happened — would have seen Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, the Steve Miller Band, and half a dozen other iconic bands of the decade all taking the stage within 72 hours.
Why’d it fall apart? According to most versions of the story, too many of those involved wanted the whole damn thing to be free. Graham, among others, countered that, while the free music utopia was a nice idea, lights, a sound system, and other basic accoutrements of a music festival did in fact cost American dollars. The plans collapsed amid in-fighting, and the infamous Altamont free music festival was planned as a sort of make-up for December of that year — an organizational disaster of an event that came to be known for the death of Meredith Hunter, among other violence, signaling the end of a certain starry-eyed era.
So yeah, money has always been a sticky part of live music festivals. But the industry has boomed in a particularly mind-boggling way over the last decade; never before have ticket prices served as such a clear barrier to entry for your average, middle-class music fan. Forget Hipnic: In the days after Outside Lands sold out, enterprising San Franciscans began plonking their three-day festival passes onto the “for sale” section of Craigslist at upwards of $1,000 each.
The alternative? The “screw that corporate shit, let’s do our own thing” attitude, which is, of course, exactly the kind of attitude that’s birthed the bumper crop of smaller summer festivals that have sprung up in the Bay Area over the past few years, like Phono del Sol (July 12, an indie-leaning daylong affair in SF’s Potrero del Sol Park, started by hip-kid music blog The Bay Bridged in 2010, tickets: $25-$30) and Burger Boogaloo (a cheekily irreverent punk, surf, and rockabilly fest over July 4 weekend in Oakland’s Mosswood Park — weekend pass: $50). Both pair bigger, buzzy acts with national reach like Wye Oak (Phono del Sol) or Thee Oh Sees and the great Ronnie Spector (Burger Boogaloo) with a slew of local openers.
“I’ve played a few festivals, and when it’s a really big thing, you realize there are just so many other huge bands that people would rather see,” says Mikey Maramag, better known as the folk-tronica brains behind SF’s Blackbird Blackbird. He’ll be sharing a bill with Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Nick Waterhouse, White Fence, A Million Billion Dying Suns, and others at Phono del Sol — which, judging by last year’s attendance, could draw some 5,000 to 6,000 people.
“I think at smaller festivals you have more people who take the time to really listen, appreciate the music more, really big fans,” he says. “There are fewer artists on this bill [than at large festivals] but they’re all great ones — I’m especially excited to see Wye Oak.”
Maramag will be debuting some songs from his new album, Tangerine Sky, out June 3; the show will serve as a welcome-home from a quick national tour to promote it.
Then there are the even more modest summer offerings, like SF Popfest, which takes place over four days (May 22-25) at various small venues in the city. It’s not exactly a traditional festival — you’re not likely to find slideshows online of the “BEST POPFEST FASHION!!1!” the way we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to from Coachella — but for the small contingent of super passionate ’90s indie-pop fans in the Bay Area (hi!), this is one not to miss.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from people who think it’s a very different kind of festival than it is. App people. This one guy had some kind of offer about a parking app for festivals, I think? Which would really not make any sense at all,” says Josh Yule, guitarist for SF jangle-pop maestros Cruel Summer, who received the mantle of SF Popfest organizer from his predecessor in the mid-aughts (older history of the festival is a little hazy, as it’s always been primarily organized by musicians for musicians — for fun and, says Yule, absolutely no profit whatsoever). There was talk of getting some beer sponsors at some point, but he decided against it. “We have friends working the door at most of these things. I was a punk kid in high school, I guess, I tend to stay away from things that would make this go in a more corporate direction.”
This year’s fest is centered around reunions of bands who’ve been broken up for a while, like cult-favorite Sacramento popsters Rocketship, who haven’t played together in at least a decade; the band will be at the Rickshaw Stop Fri/23 for a Slumberland Records showcase. Dressy Bessy, Dreamdate, the Mantles, Terry Malts, and plenty others will all make appearances throughout the fest, as well as a few newer bands, like the female-fronted Stockton garagey-punk band Monster Treasure.
“Obviously it’s not gonna be thousands of people, it’s not going to be outside — it’s going to be 100 to 200 like-minded individuals who all enjoy the same thing, and they all get it,” says Yule. “We got these bands back together to play and they’re all excited about it even though there’s no [financial] guarantee…It’s that community that I’ve always been involved in and sometimes I feel like it’s not around anymore. So it’s nice to go ‘Oh wait, there it is. It’s still there, and it’s still strong.'”
For local bands just starting to make a name for themselves, of course, there’s nothing like a larger and yes, very corporate festival for reaching new audiences. Take the locals stage at LIVE 105’s BFD, the all-day radio-rock party celebrating its 20th year June 1 at the Shoreline: Curated by the station’s music director, Aaron Axelsen — aka the DJ who’s launched 1,000 careers, thanks to his Sunday night locals-only show, Soundcheck, as well as booking up-and-comers for Popscene — the locals stage at BFD has a pretty good track record for launching bands onto the next big thing. The French Cassettes, one of SF’s current indie-pop darlings, sure hope that holds true for them.
“Aaron Axelsen has been really generous to us. I think we’re all clear that none of this would be happening without him,” says singer-guitarist Scott Huerta. The band will be playing songs from its newest album, out on cassette (duh) at the end of May. “But we’re super excited just to be in there. Hopefully we make some new fans. I know I used to find out about new bands by going to BFD and just passing by that stage. It’s by all the food vendors, so as long as people are hungry, we’ll be good. Don’t eat before you come.”
For the Tumbleweed Wanderers, an Oakland-based soul-folk-rock band that’s been hustling back and forth across the country for the past year, hitting the stage at Outside Lands (Aug. 8-10) — that festival everyone loves to hate and hates to love — will be the culmination of years of playing around the festival, quite literally.
“In 2011, we busked outside, and I think that’s the year [our keyboard player] Patrick almost got arrested?” says Rob Fidel, singer-guitarist, with a laugh. “Then the next year we got asked to play Dr. Flotsam’s Hell Brew Review, which is this thing in the park just outside Outside Lands, and we did that for an hour and a half every day for free. And then busked outside. I like to say we played Outside Lands more than any other band that year.
“But to be on the other side of that all of a sudden is awesome,” he says, noting that the band will be playing some tunes from a new record set for release later this year. “It was the same when we played the Fillmore for the first time — we used to busk outside of there and the venue would get super pissed, and now, oh look, that same guy’s carrying our amps…but I think the experience of working our way up like that has kinda taught us you’re gonna see the same people on the way up as on the way down. And we’ve worked really hard these past few years. It’s nice to feel like we’ve earned it.”
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say there are roughly 1,000 other music festivals happening throughout the Bay Area this summer — at the Guardian, our inboxes have been filling up with press releases and show announcements since February; check out the roundup below for a mere smattering of what’s going on. And, ticket price hand-wringing aside, you don’t need to be rich to rock out: Stern Grove’s free Sunday lineups, with heavy hitters like Smokey Robinson, Andrew Bird, Rufus Wainwright, and the Zombies, are among the best we’ve seen. In the East Bay, the Art+Soul Festival is always a source of up-and-comers in hip-hop, funk, and more — this year for the whopping price of $15.
So, yeah, we never got that Janis and Sly and Jefferson Airplane show. So be it. As a music fan in the Bay Area, there’s no better time than summer to smack yourself, remember that you’re super lucky to live here, grab a sweater (because layers), and get out to hear some music. Call it your own damn three-month-long Wild West Festival. We’ll see you in the bathroom line.
P>Because nothing screams “invest in healthcare” like an aging Sammy Hagar: The former Van Halen rocker teamed up with Metallica’s James Hetfield, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Train’s Pat Monahan, Nancy Wilson of Heart, and other rock ‘n roll veterans for a special one-time acoustic show at The Fillmore May 15, benefiting the Pediatric Cancer program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital — what organizers were calling the first annual “Acoustic-4-A-Cure” show. That’s a lot of oversized egos for one stage, but hey, we can’t knock rockin’ for a good cause.
HAIL THE TRAIL
Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the San Francisco Bay Trail — still a work in progress, with 60 percent of the “ring around the Bay” having been completed — Sat/24, at a re-dedication of the Rosie the Riveter World War II National Historic Park visitor center in Richmond. The center houses exhibits dedicated to civilian efforts on the home front during World War II, embodied by the iconic female factory worker. The festive ceremony will be a vintage-themed affair, complete with WWII-era big band jazz, swing dancing, and a costume contest. And in a nod to our current century, the event will also unveil the first Bay Trail smartphone app. Let the summer hiking season begin! www.baytrail.org
PROP. 13 PRESSURE
Public policy group Evolve California sent out a survey to California candidates for public office, and discovered that a full 80 percent support reforming Prop. 13. The nearly four-decades-old law bases property taxes on purchase price, not current market value, and is often blamed for lost revenues that could go toward, say, rescuing California’s public education system from the dregs. The vast majority of hopefuls running for federal, state, and local office said they’d support reassessing commercial properties at market value, as long as small businesses, homeowners, and renters remain protected.
GUTS OF THE CITY
A daylong conference Sat/31 will expose curious participants to some of the lesser-known aspects of city life: The design and planning of public transit, water systems, wireless networks, and other kinds of urban infrastructure. MacroCity, to be held at the Brava Theater on 24th Street in the Mission, will feature talks on everything from San Francisco’s modern military ruins, to the city’s transportation history, to water systems feeding San Francisco. Visit themacrocity.com for more.
One Bay to Breakers participant apparently heard the call of the wild, as the poncho-clad man was caught on video jumping into the Golden Gate Park bison paddock. Two officers arrested him in short order, and the SFPD Richmond station tweeted afterwards, “The bison seemed unimpressed.”
San Francisco based porn star Eden Alexander was rushed to an emergency room after a near-fatal reaction to a common prescription drug. But when she tried using crowd-funding site Giveforward to cover the cost of her treatment, she was told by its payment operators, WePay, that her fundraiser would be cancelled because its terms state “you will not accept payments … in connection with pornographic items.” Alexander only sought funding for her medical costs.
Dust off your feather headdress — it’s time yet again for Carnaval (Fri/23-Sun/25) when Harrison between 16th and 24th streets becomes one giant celebration of the music, dance, food, and art of Latin America. This year’s theme is “La Rumba de la Copa Mundial,” or a Celebration of the World Cup, which starts June 12 in Brazil. Sure, there’ll be plenty of drunken revelry, but this is also a great showcase of the deep-rooted Latino arts scene that’s holding on here, determinedly, even as the Mission changes: Look for the Arte Expo, featuring works from the Mexican Museum, Mission Cultural Center, Galleria de la Raza, Accion Latina, BRAVA, and Precita Eyes. The parade’s on Sun/25; see www.carnavalsanfrancisco.org to plan your route.
Insanely talented Chinese pianist Yuja Wang drops in on our SF Symphony once a year to tickle the ivories and steal a few hearts. Seriously: Her annual appearance here has become an event as eagerly anticipated as the return of the swallows to Capistrano or a sweet, light beating at the Folsom Street Fair. This time around (Thu/22-Sun/25, www.sfsymphony.org) she’ll be taking on Prokofiev’s magical, romping Piano Concerto No. 1 and Litolff’s whirling scherzo from Concerto Symphonique — a double treat for music lovers.
MEAT US SOON
We had doubts about 4505 Meats moving into the old Brother-in-Law BBQ #2 space on Divisadero — that hood moved upscale long ago, but a fancy BBQ in that particular space had the potential to be more sacrilegious than celebratory. Well, at least one local outlet is smitten: SFist has been drooling over 4505’s $18 “Big Mac” — “two beef patties lovingly caressing a block of fried macaroni and cheese” — and “famed bacon-studded hot dogs wrapped in macaroni and cheese and then deep fried.” We’ll let you know how all that goes down, once we can afford it!
Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at email@example.com. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.
“Carry It Forward: Celebrate the Children of Resistance” Berkeley City College, 2050 Center, Berk; www.mecaforpeace.org. 7pm, $10-20. The Middle East Children’s Alliance hosts this benefit screening of a 2013 performance (featuring Angela Davis, Eve Ensler, and others) marking the 60th anniversary of the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.
Rayya Elias Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; www.bookpassage.com. 6pm, free. The author reads from Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side.
Museum of Craft and Design curator tour of current exhibitions Museum of Craft and Design, 2569 Third St, SF; www.sfmcd.org. Noon-1pm, free with admission ($6-8). Curator Marc D’Estout leads a lunchtime walk through the museum’s current exhibits.
“The Wandering Moon” Tenderloin National Forest, 511 Ellis, SF; www.radarproductions.org. 8pm, $5-10. Michelle Tea hosts this Radar Productions reading with Juliana Delgado Lopera, Erin Peterson, K.M. Soehnlein, Ben McCoy, and Gem Top.
California College of the Arts presents the 2014 MFA Thesis Exhibition CCA San Francisco, 111 Eighth St, SF; gradthesis.cca.edu. 6-10pm, free. Exhibit on display through May 24. Fifty MFA students in CCA’s Graduate Program in Fine Arts showcase their works, in forms that include sculptures, paintings, video shorts, wiki platforms, and more.
“DIY Nightlife” California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, SF; www.calacademy.org. 6-10pm, $12. Do-it-yourself is the theme, so Maker Faire artists display their wares; the Computer and Technology Resource Center turns recycled e-waste into usable machines; the Crucible and the Green Art Workshop curate creative activities; and more.
Gabrielle Selz City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; www.citylights.com. 7pm, free. The author discusses her new book Unstill Life: A Daughter’s Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction.
Harriet Elinor Smith Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post, SF; www.milibrary.org. 6pm, $15. The Mark Twain Project editor discusses The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition.
“La Cocina: The Culinary Treasures of Rosa Covarrubias” Mexican Museum, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, SF; www.mexicanmuseum.org. Noon-4pm, free. Exhibit on display through Jan. 18, 2015. Folk art pottery, paintings, vintage cooking utensils, and other objects from the collection of Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias.
“Free Guided Walking Tour: Introduction to West Oakland Galleries” Meet at Transmission Gallery, 770 W. Grand, Oakl; www.oaklandartmurmur.org. 2-4pm, free. Visit galleries in West Oakland and get to know their curators. The event also includes a poetry reading at Transmission Gallery.
El Tecolote benefit Cesar’s Latin Palace, 826 26th St, SF; www.accionlatina.org. 9:30pm, $10. Cesar’s Latin All-Stars present a benefit dance concert to support bilingual newspaper El Tecolote.
“Yoga in the City” Marina Green, SF; sf.wanderlustfestival.com. 12:30pm, free. Multiple free outdoor yoga classes are offered throughout the day, with live music, healthy food samplings, and more.
“34th Annual Celebration of Old Roses” El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Ln, El Cerrito; www.celebrationofoldroses.org. 11am-3:30pm, free. A 100-foot display of rare and heritage roses, plus hundreds of rose-themed products for sale, display tables, activities for kids, and more.
Alysia Abbott Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; www.booksmith.com. 7:30pm, free. The author reads from Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father.
Breanne Fahs in conversation with Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz Modern Times Bookstore, 2919 24th St, SF; www.moderntimesbookstore.com. 7-9pm, free. The authors discuss their writings on radical women, with a focus on Fahs’ Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote SCUM (and Shot Andy Warhol).
Russell Simmons Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; www.bookpassage.com. 5pm, free. The Def Jam Recordings founder and meditation enthusiast signs copies of In Success Through Stillness.
David Helvarg Bay Model Visitor Center, 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito; www.acs-sfbay.org. 7pm, $5. The environmental journalist and activist discusses The Golden Shore: California’s Love Affair with the Sea.
Howard Norman City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; www.citylights.com. 7pm, free. The author reads from Next Life Might Be Kinder. *
Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.
“The Gulf of Guinea Island Expeditions: Academy Adventures at the Center of the World” California Academy of Sciences, Tusher African Hall, 55 Music Concourse Dr, Golden Gate Park, SF; www.calacademy.org. 7pm, $10-12. Cal Academy biologist Robert Drewes discusses the latest Academy research in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea Islands.
Kim Bancroft Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post, SF; www.milibrary.org. 6pm, $15. Bancroft presents a performance inspired by her new, abridged edition of early 20th century historian (and Bancroft’s great-great-grandfather) Hubert Howe Bancroft’s Literary Industries: Chasing a Vanishing West.
“Bike to Work Day” Citywide, SF; sfbike.org/btwd. All day, free. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bike to Work Day by pedaling to work. The SF Bicycle Coalition hosts 26 “Energizer Stations,” as well as bike safety classes and other related events.
“Frankly Speaking: A Book Party!” Take 5 Café, 3130 Sacramento, Berk; www.eroplay.com. 7-9pm, free. A celebration of the life and work of performance artist Frank Moore.
“The Secret Lives of Microbes: Amoeba in the Room” Koret Auditorium, SF Public Library, 100 Larkin, SF; www.calacademy.org. 6pm, free. Botanist Nicholas P. Money discusses microbial biodiversity.
Sophia Amoruso Books Inc., Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness, SF; www.booksinc.net. 7-9pm, free. The founder and CEO of popular online fashion retailer Nasty Gal shares her debut book, #GIRLBOSS.
“Fillmore Spring Fling” Check in at Kiehl’s, 1971 Fillmore, SF; fillmoreparty.eventbrite.com. 1-5pm, $20. Fillmore Street’s merchants (including boutiques like Alexis Bittar, Benefit, James Perse, Steven Alan, etc.) combine forces for this raffle giving away gift certificates, wine tastings, yoga classes, and more.
“I Was a Teenage Zombie Prom” El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; www.sfzombiebar.com. 9pm, $10. Get gussied up in your finest zombie-prom attire (tiaras, pouffy gowns, brrraaaaiiiinnnsss) and raise money for AIDS LifeCycle by enjoying performances by Ana PocaLips, Johnny Rockitt, Rita Dambook, Florence Frightengale, and others.
“Red Bull Ride + Style” Justin Herman Plaza, Embarcadero at Market, SF; redbull.com/ridenstyle. 11am-4pm, free. Fifty of the world’s best fixed gear racers and freestylers compete in this annual battle, a spectator-friendly event which also makes use of custom-built, artistically-designed race courses and ramps.
“Valencia Corridor Sidewalk Sale” Valencia St, SF; www.valenciastsf.com. All day, free. The merchants of Valencia and its adjacent streets (826 Valencia, BellJar, Mission Bicycle Company, Paxton Gate, etc.) offer deals and specials.
“Writers with Drinks” Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St, SF; www.writerswithdrinks.com. 7:30pm, $5-10. With Bich Minh Nguyen, Ariel Gore, David Winter, and Baruch Porras-Hernandez.
Nike missile site tour Park at Marin Headlands Visitors’ Center (meet at missile site gate), 948 Fort Barry, Sausalito; RSVP required to email@example.com. 11:15am, free. Congregation Kol Shofar presents this private tour by a Golden Gate National Recreation Area ranger, visiting the historic, Cold War-era Nike missile site. All ages and nonmembers welcome.
“Anarchism: Its Past, Present, and Future” Global Exchange, 2017 Mission, SF; (510) 776-2127. 6:15pm, free. Panel discussion with Ramsey Kanaan (AK Press and PM Press), Liz Highleyman (journalist and historian), and Joey Cain (Bound Together Bookstore, LGBT activist).
“The Story of the Human Body” California Academy of Sciences, Tusher African Hall, 55 Music Concourse Dr, Golden Gate Park, SF; www.calacademy.org. 7pm, $12-15. Biologist Daniel Lieberman discusses the major evolutionary transformations that have shaped the human body.
“Brown vs. Board of Education at 60: Examining Racial Equity in SF in Education” California Historical Society, 678 Mission, SF; www.californiahistoricalsociety.org. 6-8pm, free. San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, USF School of Education, and Coleman Advocates present this conversation honoring the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education court decision.
“Litquake’s Epicenter: Kaui Hart Hemmings and Michelle Richmond” Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter, SF; www.litquake.org. 7pm, $5-15. Hemmings (The Descendants) discusses her latest book, The Possibilities, with Michelle Richmond, author of Golden State.
“Odd Salon Presents: Evolve” DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF; www.oddsalon.com. 7pm, $15. Speakers Danielle Vincent, Chris Ventor, Chris Carrico, and Chris Reeves share stories of change and adaptation. *
The Guardian has learned that today’s [May 1] meeting of the Operations Committee of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission has been cancelled. Commissioners were going to discuss a single item on the agenda, the renaming of a Golden Gate Park facility at 811 Stanyan Street as the Jake Sigg Stewardship Center.
We at the Bay Guardian were alerted today that San Francisco Recreation & Parks commissioners are poised to name a Golden Gate Park building after a conservationist who blogs openly about “illegal aliens,” and has widely disseminated his view that environmentalists have been “silenced” on the subject of immigration “by intimidation and political correctness.”
But prominent members of the environmental community say Jake Sigg, who worked as a gardener for the Recreation and Parks Department for 31 years, ought to be recognized for his years of contribution to San Francisco parklands.
A single agenda item for the May 1 meeting of the Operations Committee of the Rec & Parks Commission proposes renaming a Golden Gate Park facility located at 811 Stanyan Street as the Jake Sigg Stewardship Center. The building, which recently underwent a $2.3 million renovation, houses the headquarters for the department’s volunteer and Natural Areas programs.
Sigg, who is in his late 80s, sends out a regular email newsletter to his personal list; it reportedly reaches thousands locally. He also posts content on his personal blog, naturenewssf.blogspot.com. While his emails contain an assortment of poetry and ruminations on the natural world, he’s also been known to express his point of view on immigration – and it has not been well received. It’s prompted rebukes from readers; some have characterized it as racist.
In an exchange from last May that is posted to his blog, a reader named Linda Hunter told Sigg she was offended by an installment in which he used the phrase “illegal aliens.”
In response, Sigg wrote: “I’m not clear on what offends you, other than language. Undocumented workers are illegal aliens, so I don’t understand your point. Trotting out racism is lazy and a refusal to think about a serious problem. I will repeat what I’ve said several times in the past: My concern on immigration derives solely from population pressures. If you are concerned about human numbers and what that is doing to the planet and to us, you cannot ignore immigration, especially when it is uncontrolled, as now.”
In a private email sent by environmentalist Becky Evans last year and later published by Sigg, Evans said she was “dismayed by the anti-immigrant diatribe in your newsletter,” saying, “all of us are descendants of immigrants except the few who are Native Americans.”
In response, Sigg wrote:
“I am surprised at you, Becky, especially when you use stale, no longer relevant, arguments–such as being descendants of immigrants, &c. That is a dull old saw. This country seemed limitless in space and resources and we welcomed immigrants with open arms. Can you say that today?”
When we caught up with Sigg by phone he said he did not believe his views on immigration should be at all connected to the proposal to name the building after him, which stemmed from his decades-long track record as a leader of volunteers.
When we got into a discussion on immigration policy, he said, “I think that our immigration policies are too lax. The borders are too loose, and we need to stabilize our population. If someone wants to accuse me of racism, it just doesn’t hold water. Racism is an implication that somehow and some way certain races are inferior to others and I find that idea absurd.”
Regardless of what anyone thinks, Sigg has a First Amendment right to say whatever he wants.
But things get complicated when one considers that Rec & Park is about to name a public building – owned collectively by San Franciscans, in a city of immigrants designated as a safe zone for the undocumented – after Sigg, who isn’t shy about broadcasting his opinion that undocumented people should be prevented from migrating by land from south of the Mexican border.
This idea of naming the building after Sigg has won the support of prominent environmentalists including Tom Radulovich of Livable City, San Francisco Environment Commissioner Ruth Gravanis, Nature in the City, San Francisco Laborers Union Local 261 and others in a formal letter submitted to the Operations Committee. Unclear is whether supporters know of his views on immigration, or even care or believe it should have any bearing on naming the building.
There’s also a murky political backstory. Brent Plater, executive director of Wild Equity, told us that the whole thing stems from an ongoing controversy over Sharp Park.
The idea of naming the building after Sigg originated with Phil Ginsburg, who directs the city’s Rec & Park Department. Sigg is aligned with Ginsburg in the belief that Rec & Park should move forward with a Significant Natural Resource Areas management plan, which would generally do positive things for natural lands yet contains provisions that many environmentalists oppose, given the negative ramifications they would have for Sharp Park.
“The vast majority of the environmental community opposes this plan – except Jake Sigg,” Plater explained. “To reward Jake for this, Phil wants to put Jake’s name on a building.”
In response to that idea, Sigg said it had no merit, saying, “People just imagine these things … They just want to poke Rec & Park in the eye.”
Meanwhile, Wild Equity and other environmentalists are suing Rec & Park over its planned construction at Sharp Park, the subject of a long battle over how the area’s golf course impacts two endangered species: the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog.
Sigg said he thought the lawsuit had no merit and would hold up the management plan, which he hopes to see advance.
It will be interesting to see what the commissioners do with this one. Will Sigg’s views on immigration be deemed irrelevant to the decision over whether or not to name a public San Francisco building after him, as he believes is appropriate?
We left messages for Rec & Park but we did not receive a call back by press time.
Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.
“Saving the California Condor” Zimmer Auditorium, Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Rd, Oakl; www.oaklandzoo.org. 6:30-9:30pm, $12-20. Oakland Zoo’s Conservation Speaker Series presents biologist Joe Burnett of the Ventana Wildlife Society and Oakland Zoo veterinarian Dr. Andrea Goodnight.
“Eating Cultures” SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF; www.aawaa.net. Opening reception, 6-9pm. Free. Exhibit runs Tue-Fri, noon-7pm; Sat, noon-5pm. Through May 30. As part of the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s United States of Asian America Festival, the Asian American Women Artists Association presents a juried art exhibition featuring work inspired by food and food traditions.
“Jackpot NightLife” California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, SF; www.calacademy.org. 6-10pm, $12. 21 and over. NightLife studies the statistics of luck, with visual FX wizards from Tippett Studio (Cosmos), Rat Pack-era tunes by DJ Tanoa, casino games, and more.
Ben Ross Green Arcade, 1680 Market, SF; www.thegreenarcade.com. 7pm, free. The author discusses Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism.
“Artwear” de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden, SF; www.famsf.org. 9:30am-8:30pm. Also Sat/3, 9:30am-4:30pm. Free. Shop wearable art by 16 local textile and jewelry artisans and designers.
Jo Becker Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; www.bookpassage.com. 12:30pm, free. The Pulitzer-winning journalist reads from Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.
“Bikes to Books Rides Again!” Meet at Jack London Alley, near South Park and Second St, SF; www.burritojustice.com. 12:45pm, free. Burrito Justice and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition host this seven-mile bike tour celebrating the literary history of San Francisco. Tips from the organizers: “Bring bikes with gears, snacks, and enthusiasm.”
“California Bookstore Day” Various locations; www.cabookstoreday.com. Nearly 100 bookstores across the state participate in this celebration with parties, author readings, in-store events, and exclusive day-of merch. Check website for local events.
“A La Carte and Art” Castro between Church and Evelyn, Mtn View; www.miramarevents.com. 10am-6pm. Free. Through Sun/4. This two-day festival features live music, a juried arts and crafts show, a classic car show, a farmers market, and more.
“Pegapalooza” Pegasus Downtown, 2349 Shattuck, Berk; Pegasus Oakland, 5560 College, Oakl; and Pegasus on Solano, 1855 Solano, Berk; www.pegasusbookstore.com. May 3-10. The bookstore marks its 45th anniversary with a full slate of festivities; tonight’s kick-off, in honor of California Bookstore Day, is a conversation between Dave Eggers and Malcolm Margolin at the Shattuck location (7:30pm, free).
Jenni Pulos Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; www.bookpassage.com. 11am, free. The Bravo star (Flipping Out) reads from her new memoir-advice tome, Grin and Bear It.
Shipyard Artists Spring Open Studios Hunters Point Shipyard, Innes at Donahue, SF; Islais Creek Studios, 1 Rankin, SF; www.shipyardartists.com/sos. 11am-6pm. Also Sat/4. Free. More than 125 artists participate in this 25th anniversary open studios event.
“Poetry Unbound #4” Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck, Berk; berkeleyarthouse.wordpress.com. 5:15pm, $5. Readings by Deborah Fruchey, Blanca Torres, and Carol Hogan, followed by an open mic.
Urban Air Market Hayes Valley Octavia and Hayes, SF; www.urbanairmarket.com. 11am-6pm, free. Sustainable shopping (clothing, jewelry, home décor, body products, etc.) covers Hayes Valley at this open-air event.
“Cinco de Mayo at Habitot Children’s Museum” Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065 Kittredge, Berk; www.habitot.org. 9:30am-12:30pm, $8-10. Celebrate Mexican culture with special craft projects.
“The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter” Morrison Planetarium, California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, SF; www.calacademy.org. 7:30pm, $8-12. University of Michigan physics professor Katherine Freese discusses the hunt for dark matter.
“Reclaiming Cinco de Mayo” San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, 2940 16th St, SF; www.livingwage-sf.org. 6-10pm, $5-25. Independent art and literature gala benefiting the SF Living Wage Coalition and its sister organization, Las Hormigas, in Ciudad Juarez.
“An Evening with Benjamin Jealous and Belva Davis” Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; www.ybca.org. 7pm, $20-25. The former NAACP president and the pioneering journalist meet for an onstage conversation.
“Israel’s 66th Independence Day” Justin Herman Plaza, Embarcadero at Market, SF; www.sfjcsf.org. Noon-1:30pm, free. With live Israeli music, falafel vendors, community leaders, and more. *