Volume 42 Number 26

Superlists 2008

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What’s with the obsession to possess every Daniel Johnston cassette, need to surf every beach, or desire to watch a game at every baseball stadium in America, as Stanford grads Brad Null and Dave Kaval did in 1998? Why don’t just a few do? It must have something to do with our human urge to make things complete. Isn’t that why people spend their free time updating wikis instead of, say, taking a nap?

Here at the Guardian, we have something similar: an impassioned group of listmakers bringing you this one-of-a-kind Superlist issue. Our Superlist 2008 doesn’t just give you a smattering of things to do or a hint of places to go in a category, it gives you every single screaming last one of them — the better to assist you in crossing your own personal finish line. We bring you every restaurant in the city that serves oysters for a buck during happy hour, each bar that has a karaoke night, all the marching bands looking for new members that you can shake a slogan at, barbers who will help remove your face animal, and so on. If we screwed up, write us at superlists@sfbg.com and set us straight. (Deborah Giattina)

>>Superlist No. 832: Dive karaoke bars
Increase the fame, reduce the shame

>>Superlist No. 833: One buck shucks
Dollar oyster happy hours

>>Superlist No. 834: Cultural center dining
Home cooking without the family

>>Superlist No. 835: Youth record labels
Where local kids make beats and rhymes

>>Superlist No. 836: Hot shaves
Barber shops that give a close one

>>Superlist No. 837: Step up!
Ditch your tired Chucks for new soles

>>Superlist No. 838: Queer partner dancing
Lead, follow … your choice

>>Superlist No. 839: Make some noise
Street bands you can join

>>Minilist: Organic U-pick farms
Harvest your own yummies

Minilist: Organic U-pick farms

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Can you even really call the pale hothouse imposters our supermarkets stock "fruit"? A visit to one of the local pick-it-yourself orchards might be in order to score you some succulent goodies at unbeatable prices. All of them are local, beautiful, and 100 percent organic — so make sure to bring your camera as well as your work ethic (and a few friends to help you carry it all).

A trip north to Sebastopol on Highway 101 brings you to Gabriel Farm (3175 Sullivan Road, Sebastopol; 707-829-0617, www.gabrielfarm.com), a u-pick where a fruit seeker can find 15 varieties of apples, blackberries, and Asian pears. The family-run farm uses solar energy, and each visitor receives a tour of the entire facility free. Call ahead to set a time.

An official site honored by the Landmark Society of Napa, Hoffman Farms (2125 Silverado Trail, Napa; 707-226-8938) offers a daily u-pick from August until early December. Originally the farm grew only pears, but now visitors can pick sugar prunes, peaches, persimmons, quinces, and walnuts. Though the farm is not certified organic, the Hoffmans do follow organic practices. Visitors should call ahead to make certain the owners are home.

The 200-acre spread at Swanton Berry Farm (Highway 1 at south end of Swanton Road loop, Davenport; 831-469-8804, www.swantonberryfarm.com) offers two kinds of berries for the intrepid u-picker: strawberries and olallieberries, which are a blackberry-raspberry crossbreed. Both are organically grown and both a steal at $2 a pound. These u-pick sites are run by unionized workers, and biking to either will earn you a 10 percent discount off their already low price. Strawberry seekers should report to the Swanton Berry Farm Stand, while those on the hunt for olallieberries or, in the fall and winter, fresh kiwis and Christmas trees, need to go to the Coastways Ranch (640 Cabrio Highway, Pescadero), across from Año Nuevo State Park.

Since 1922, Webb Ranch Farm (2720 Alpine Rd., Portola Valley; 650-854-5147, www.webbranchfarm.com) and the Webb family have been supplying San Mateo County with fresh produce. They now operate a weekends-only u-pick in the spring. Produce available during the summer includes raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and melons, ranging from $1–$2.50 a pound (eggplants, $2 each).

Superlist: Youth record labels

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Youth record labels are fast becoming one of the most innovative and effective ways to combine job development, skills training, and music production for many working-class youth of color. At these programs, there are no holier-than-thou "back when I was a kid" lectures from out-of-touch old fogies. Instead, kids study DJ’ing under DJ Quest and get stage-presence tips from Zion I. Teens also take an active role in the creation, production, and management of their projects and think about their work as something larger than simply entertainment. From beat-making classes to benefit concerts for immigrant rights, young folks are helping lead the cry for transformation at every level of society — all to an intricately produced soundtrack. What follows are the heavy-hitting youth record labels in the Bay.

The DJ Project (440 Potrero, SF; 415-487-6700, info@thedjproject.com) is a youth entrepreneurship program built on the foundations of hip-hop and community empowerment. As part of Horizons Unlimited, the DJ Project offers classes in DJ’ing, music production, and promotions taught by some of the Bay’s finest independent hip-hop artists. Aside from simply making hip-hop, young artists discuss how such forces as racism, love, homophobia, and anger inform their lyrics. After they record their first CD, the students learn graphic design skills in order to create their own cover art. Recently, the project produced the film Grind & Glory (2007), which showcased local young hip-hop artists competing for a chance to play at the annual hip-hop festival Rock the Bells.

Youth Movement Records (368 24th St., Oakl.; 510-832-4212, contact@youthmovementrecords.org) is one of the more popular youth record labels around. Their program offers classes such as music production and entertainment law and boasts a stellar success rate, with over 90 percent of its graduates earning their high school diplomas. Already, YMR acts have toured the country in support of Amnesty International. The program features tutelage from folks such as Zion I and Brotha Los of Company of Prophets.

Bay Unity Music Project (BUMP) Records (1611 Telegraph, Oakl.; 510-836-1056, bump@bavc.org), a Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) program, is a youth-run record label that gives its participants hands-on experience with music making. BUMP Beats is an introductory music production and composition program geared toward youth with little or no previous experience. Students get the opportunity to perform and distribute their work with local Bay Area promoters.

Cov Records (220 Harrison, Oakl.; 510-625-7800, www.myspace.com/covrecords) is a community-based music and production center serving young adults in Oakland between the ages of 13 and 25. As a project of the Covenant House community center and homeless shelter, Cov Records has produced documentaries, offered classes in video and music production, and teamed up with the Stop the Violence campaign to organize Turf Unity shows, which get young folks from rival neighborhoods to create art together.

Superlist: Make some noise

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Don’t despair if your frequent oral treatises to progressive ideals end up falling on deaf ears. Instead, let your feet walk and your trumpet talk. Armed with even an undernourished musical skill and the will to disregard noise ordinances in your neighborhood, you can find a street band, whether bawdy or principled, to soundtrack your most ardently held beliefs. Oh, you’ll be heard all right.

Bateria Lucha (www.baterialucha.org) could be loosely translated as "drums for the struggle," but essentially the passion of the Brazilian percussion tradition to which the name refers has no cognate in staid English. Catalyzed by the initial uproar over the current Iraq war, Lucha founder Derek Wright envisioned a musical force that would unify and groove-ify the chants of protesters, not drown out their message. Today, aspiring bateristas can join Wright for multilevel Brazilian percussion workshops each Thursday in Oakland in preparation for Bateria Lucha’s musical surge tactics, employed everywhere from picket lines to San Francisco Carnaval.

If you’ve ever joined a human blockade on Market or picketed the Woodfin Hotel, you’ve certainly had your marching morale boosted by the Brass Liberation Orchestra (< a href="http://www.brassliberation.org" target="blank_">www.brassliberation.org). Hailing from Oakland and San Francisco, this dedicated group takes peace and social justice activism seriously, even when enticing a city block of protesters to shake it to the Black Eyed Peas. Dispatching a spirited crew of brass, woodwind, and percussion players to rallies and events around the region, the BLO welcomes new members who can keep pace with the music and the cause.

If it’s spectacle you seek, look no further than Extra Action Marching Band (www.extra-action.com), the drum majors of San Francisco values since 1999. Credited with being among the early subverters of the once mannerly marching band aesthetic, Extra Action still manages to shock audiences with antics and braggadocio, often posing profound questions such as: why perform on a stage when you can dance naked on top of the bar?

Offering youth classes in San Francisco since 1994, the leadership of Loco Bloco (www.locobloco.org) has already raised a generation of students into its own ranks. Each year, the nonprofit’s mentors in Brazilian drumming and dance prepare a performance group for participation in San Francisco’s Carnaval. Drawing a strong contingency of players already affiliated with Loco Bloco, rehearsals preceding the May parade are open to all ages and abilities. The $5 class fee for adult Carnaval participants goes toward scholarships for youth.

Oakland’s Loyd Family Players (www.theloydfamilyplayers.com) are no purists. Beats and hooks from the band members’ own diverse musical backgrounds have found their way into this bateria’s boisterous repertoire. Nevertheless, the lineup of Brazilian surdos, snare drums, shakers, and bells still carries the distinctive thump of authentic samba at its craziest. Props go to the fiercest female percussion section around.

A spirit of cheerful anarchy sustains the Los Trancos Woods Community Marching Band (www.ltwcmb.com), which began its long life on New Years Day, 1960, in a hilltop village tucked away behind Palo Alto. The application for new members requires only "the desire to have a good time," and rehearsals are limited to once a year. You can tag along with their procession through North Beach on Columbus Day as long as your "uniform" is suitably absurd, but you’ll know you’re really in the club when you find yourself halfway to Monterey honking New Orleans–style kazoo in the Castroville Artichoke Festival Parade.

The Musicians Action Group (Magband@aol.com), a self-described circle of "old left wingers," roots its music in the history of American activism, performing songs of the labor, antiwar, and civil rights movements. Born out of a need to make noise about social justice, MAG has played at major demonstrations and protests since 1981. The group welcomes newcomers who share their mission of supporting progressive causes with music that is historically and politically significant.

Superlist: Step up!

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It’s a fact: when your sneakers are fresh, random people from the street will ask you where you got ’em. So for all the bus drivers and friends of friends who have asked, here is a list of Bay Area shops where you too can score an exclusive pair of kicks.

Female sneakerheads are usually at a disadvantage when trying to find limited-edition athletic footwear in their size, but Bows & Arrows (2513 Telegraph, Berk.; 510-649-6683, www.bowsandarrowsberkeley.com) owner Jerry Harris acknowledges the demand for smaller shoes and orders small men’s sizes whenever he can. Definitely a stop to make for all genders who are looking for Quickstrikes on the other side of the Bay Bridge.

Virtually invisible from the denser streets of North Beach, the remodeled shop formerly known as Recon/NORT, now called the Darkside Initiative (1827 Powell, SF; 415-837-1909), is too easy to miss but a pleasure to find. The downstairs sneaker heaven is closed off now, but you can still find Quickstrikes and other limited-edition styles on the main floor, such as the bright, primary-colored Nike Tier Zero "Be True" Dunks.

Along with Nike SBs and the occasional Quickstrikes, DLX (1831 Market, SF; 415-626-5588, www.dlxsf.com) also carries Vans Syndicates, which are exclusive to skate shops. Drino Man may have ranted that Vans aren’t real sneakers in his song "Fuck Vans," but the Syndicates collabo with Japanese brand W)Tap would be a nice addition to any sneakerphile’s collection.

The security glass cases at First Step (948 Market, SF; 415-693-9720, www.firststepsf.com) display unworn, retro, upper-tier Nikes and Jordans that can be purchased in their original boxes. With an average price of $500 a pair, these shoes end up in the hands of true collectors or those endowed with deep pockets. Also check out their Sneaker Art display — Air Force 1s and other favorites that have met with local artists’ paintbrushes.

While most skate shops shied away from adopting Nike’s first foray into manufacturing skateboarding shoes, 510 (2500 Telegraph, Berk.; 510-849-8600, www.510skateboarding.com) was one of only three shops in the Bay Area to carry Nike SBs when the line debuted in 2001. Its early interest in Nike SBs is the reason that the store has a premium account with Nike. Good news, ladies: 510 orders men’s sizes as small as 4, so now you can be as fresh as the fellas.

In 2006, two companies each designed a pair of shoes specifically for FTC (1632 Haight, SF; 415-626-0663, www.ftcskate.com) in honor of its 20th anniversary. And because the store has been around for 21 years, a lot of brands send it color combos that aren’t otherwise available in the United States. FTC’s obviously got clout in the footwear game, and female clients can’t complain: they’ve carried some styles in a men’s size 3.5.

It’s like stepping into a 1980s stockroom — Harput’s (1527 Fillmore, SF; 415-922-9644, www.harputs.com) has been collecting Adidas shoes for the last 20 years. That vintage pair on display that just caught your eye? They’ve been marinating in storage for decades and are no longer available anywhere else but here. To get the most out of your visit, ask Bootsy Harput about the true origin of sneaker culture.

You can’t be a self-proclaimed sneaker fiend if you’ve never been to Huf (808 Sutter, SF; 415-614-9414, www.hufsf.com). The Sutter location has top accounts with all the popular brands — Nike, Air Jordan, Adidas, and Vans — and it’s the only authorized dealer in northern California for Japanese brand Vizvim and quirky Ice Cream lace-ups. The store’s resemblance to an art gallery shows off its shoe selection nicely, and the signature lime-green bag with the Etch A Sketch city skyline is as official as your new kicks.

Only 80 pairs of the Yo! MTV Raps Pumas were made worldwide, and Shoe Biz II (1553 Haight, SF; 415-861-3933, www.shoebizsf.com) was one of the few stores deemed worthy of carrying a few pairs when they debuted this past fall. Online manager Levi Beutler invites sneakerheads to check out this Upper Haight location for limited-edition steps in various brands ranging from Asics to Pumas, and of course Nikes.

Superlist: Queer partner dancing

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Just ’cause we’re queer doesn’t mean we can’t tango, swing, and salsa with our partners. Sure, there are great places to shimmy and shake while trying not to spill our mojitos. But for those of us who wish we could work the graceful angle a little more, well, there’s hope for us yet. Parties abound where knowledgeable teachers provide a preparty lesson, then let us float (or flop) our way around the dance floor. If we’re lucky, we’ll have so much fun we won’t even remember the awkward trauma inflicted by our high school prom. No experience or partners needed for any of the parties below — just flash a smile, make a friend, and get your ass on the dance floor.

Every fourth Saturday, the Metronome Dance Center becomes Baila Conmigo (1830 17th, SF; 415-252-9000, www.metronomedancecenter.com), a Latin dance party for all. Lessons are from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., with dancing until around 11:30 p.m. Pay $15 for the lesson and party or $8 for the party only.

On the last Saturday of the month, the monthly women’s Latin dance party, Mango (El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 415-282-3325, www.elriosf.com), boasts great food to go with your salsa. Show up at 3:30 p.m. for a salsa lesson, pay your $8 at the door, and let the DJ move you.

The Queer Jitterbugs (Magnet, 4122 18th St., SF; 415-581-1605, www.queerballroom.com) present a free dance party the third Saturday of each month at the Castro’s healthy-living hang out. A lesson on the basics begins at 7 p.m. and lasts for an hour, with social dancing from 8 to 9:30 p.m.

Boot, scoot, and boogie, people. Country-and-western dancing is what Sundance Saloon (Space 550, 550 Barneveld, SF; 415-820-1403, www.sundancesaloon.org) is all about every Sunday (5–10 p.m., $5) and Thursday (6:30–10:30 p.m., $5). So practice your "yee-haw!" and shine your belt buckle. Lessons start when doors open on Sunday and shortly thereafter on Thursdays and Fridays. Everyone welcome, but be over 21.

At Trip the Light Fantastic Friday Night Women’s Dance (Lake Merritt Dance Center, 200 Grand, Oakl.; 510-763-1343, www.tripthelightfantastic.org), gay games silver medalist Zoe Balfour will lead you through a different dance style at 7:30 p.m. each Friday — salsa, country, West Coast swing, waltzes, nightclub two-step, ballroom, and line dances. The party, which costs $10–$20 on a sliding scale, starts after the lesson is over and lasts until 11 p.m. Don’t be afraid, no experience is necessary. Just be brave.

Superlist: Hot shaves

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Oh, the beard. You’ve seen it all over the city on all kinds of faces. It’s both the Scandinavian overgrowth of a hipster on a fixie and the trimmed-up, yuppified smarm of the suit sitting next to you on the 47. The bald 43-year-old in the Ozzfest T-shirt: he wears the hell out of it in an attempt to distract attention from his retired scalp.

We love it. Eventually, though, it starts to itch or begins to rub your significant other the wrong way. Here’s your answer: ooh, the hot shave. Many barbers will tell you they no longer perform this time-consuming yet important service. But the following will gladly and skillfully remove your chinstrap and leave you feeling smooth again.

A shave is a bit pricier at the Art of Shaving (845 Market, SF; 415-541-9801, www.theartofshaving.com), located inside the Westfield Mall, than at a typical barber shop. Last shave starts at 8:30 p.m., so they’re great in a pinch.

Everything, including your shave, seems to cost $16 at Asano (3312 Sacramento, SF; 415-567-3335), an appointment-only hole in the wall off Presidio Ave. With only one or two chairs going at any given time in this tiny space, you’d better call ahead.

Say bye-bye in style to last year’s neck-beard trend at the Barber Lounge (854 Folsom, SF; 415-934-0411, www.barberlounge.com). With two barbers on deck, including San Francisco Barber College graduate Rick Cortezzo, this self-described "ultrahip" full-service salon in an artsy SoMa loft can provide all the requisite new-school pamper while giving you a hot-towel shave that would make Gramps proud.

Dwayne Robinson, founder and executive director of Bayview Barber College (4912 Third St., SF; 415-822-3300, www.bayviewbarbercollege.com), teaches his young pupils everything they need to know to pass the state exam, with a five-hour evaluation that includes a practical on the hot shave. On top of such fundamentals as foot position, lather control, the 14-stroke sequence, and the all-important hot-towel finish, Dwayne stresses the importance of a polished customer-service approach to all aspects of the barbering craft. You can come in and get a super-affordable shave from one of his students any time after 10 a.m., when class instruction ends. Stick around for the joke-cutting and some half-reliable dating tips.

Ask for Victor at Exchange (435 Pine, SF; 415-781-9658). He’s the only one who performs the hot shave at this classic establishment, which is built into the side of a downtown Pine Street slope. Barber rumor has it that Victor’s shaves are the best in the city, so it’s probably worth the wait.

Founders Kumi Walker and Sean Heywood designed MR. (560 Sacramento, SF; 415-291-8800, www.mrthebarbershop.com) as a high-end local service for the manly needs of Financial District execs and other fine gents. Featuring huge plasma TVs, a shoeshine bench, plush seating, and a full-service bar, MR. provides its clientele with all the trappings of an upscale lounge. Though one-off shave arrangements can be made, MR. also offers a monthly membership, at a steep price, in exchange for 24 hours’ worth of styling service.

Ask your Mission bartender, he’ll tell you that at Willy’s (3227 22nd St., SF; 415-826-2344) they still do things the old way: a close shave, a nice hot towel, and good conversation. Although Willy no longer runs the shop, this spot is a surefire bet, and walk-in friendly.

The newly remodeled space at Sunset Barber Service (1374 Ninth Ave., SF; 415-564-4744) feels like home, what with its hardwood floors, finished counters, warm color scheme, and "mature" reading material. Jay and his father have been running this neighborhood outlay for 40 years and have seen all the fads come and go: the Faux Manchu, the Lonely Mennonite, the Mandlebar, and let us all wistfully recall the Amorous Marine.

Superlist: One buck shuck

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Oyster fanatics, rejoice: you can fulfill your fresh-Kumamoto cravings on a canned-tuna budget, thanks to a slough of restaurants in the city that offer an early-evening happy hour of one-dollar oysters. Show up early because the suckers go fast. And if you can’t do shooters without a chaser, keep in mind that most places offer house wines, well cocktails, and domestic beers at happy-hour discounts, so you can also catch a buzz without breaking the bank.

The Marina’s Cafe Maritime (2417 Lombard, SF; 415-885-2530, www.cafemaritimesf.com) gets an honorable mention for serving up a dozen oysters for $13. Mon.–Fri., 5:30-7 p.m.

The cozy lounge atmosphere of Circolo (500 Florida, SF; 415-553-8560, www.circolosf.com) features a cascading waterfall, and the restaurant transforms into a club after 11 p.m. Bamboo walls and low lighting offer the right ambience for an evening of aphrodisiacs. Tues.-Fri., 5-7 p.m.

Do not think that the bar at Bacar (448 Brannan, SF; 415-904-4100, www.bacarsf.com) is awash in bright lights and starchy white linens like the main dining area is. The candlelit front area offers a casual environment where you can feast on dollar half-shells and slingback martinis. Fri., 4:30–6 p.m.

The Pier 33 Asian-fusion restaurant Butterfly (Embarcadero and Bay, SF; 415-864-8999, www.butterflysf.com) can nurse that hangover with dollar oyster shooters, sans the vodka. But with a happy-hour menu of $3 bottle beers, $5 selected appetizers, and such $5 libations as the Cherry Blossom and the Sake Sangria, you can shoot your shuck and sip your way to nirvana. Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.

Minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, Eastside West Restaurant & Raw Bar (3154 Fillmore, SF; 415-885-4000, eastsidewest.ypguides.net) is well known for its 30-something bar scene, American seafood cuisine, and outside patio. Mon.-Fri., 5-7 p.m.

The quaint wine-bar experience at EOS (901 Cole, SF; 415-566-3063, www.eossf.com) — with sake and wine specials, sexy low lighting, and rotating art exhibits — offers the Cole Valley locals a prime date spot, casual elegance, and floor-to-ceiling windows for optimal people watching. Sun., 4:30-7 p.m.; Mon.–Thurs., 5:30–7 p.m.

Tourists and business crowds alike favor the famous Hog Island Oyster Company (1 Ferry Plaza, SF; 415-391-7117, www.hogislandoysters.com), situated in the backside of the Ferry Building. Its shucksters offer dollar Pacific oysters from the restaurant’s own sustainable aqua farm, a view of the bay, and the option to buy unshucked oysters to go. On a sunny day, grab a spot outside on the heated waterfront deck. Mon.-Thurs., 5-7 p.m.

Step inside the Hyde Street Seafood House and Raw Bar (1509 Hyde, SF; 415-931-3474. hydeseafoodhouserawbar.prodigybiz.com), tucked into a quiet Nob Hill neighborhood, and the white tablecloths, captain’s wheel, marine life decor, and fresh-cut flowers will have you feeling as though you’re in a waterfront restaurant on the wharf — even if your wallet doesn’t. Nightly, 5-7 p.m.

Central and casual, O’Reilly’s Holy Grail (1233 Polk, SF; 415-928-1233, www.oreillysholygrail.com) makes rustic European fare a Civic Center treat. Long velvet curtains and a welcoming bar give a reason to stay for the live music long after you’ve thrown back a few on the half-shells or a pint. Nightly, 4:30-7 p.m.

The Castro’s candlelit Mecca (2029 Market, SF; 415-621-7000, www.sfmecca.com) sets the mood for your belle or beau while you cozy up to the oval bar for a slurp of a Beau Soleil or Marin Miyagi. Some nights offer a resident DJ, and Thursdays are ladies’ nights. Tues.-Sat., 5-7 p.m.

Yabbies Coastal Kitchen (2237 Polk, SF; 415-474-4088, www.yabbiesrestaurant.com) in Russian Hill has both a wine and raw bar, casual elegance, and minimal wait time. The crowd is full of urban folk, from families to date-night couples. Sun.-Wed., 6-7 p.m.

Superlist: Dives with karaoke

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Here’s why dive bar karaoke is better than what you’ll find at the established venues: (1) you’re less likely to get shamed by karaoke "professionals" who hog the mic and collude with the KJ to play nothing but show tunes and ballads; (2) wait times tend to be shorter, giving you more chances to shine; and (3) the song repertoire tends to be a bit wackier, which — if you’re lucky — means finding such rare gems as Danzig’s "Mother" or your favorite Paula Abdul B-side. Now go forth and rock that mic.

With its lush red velvet glow and fine wine and Belgian beer selection, Amnesia (853 Valencia, SF; 415-970-0012) hardly feels like a dive bar, which is what makes its free Tuesday night karaoke so special. Plus, the fact that it’s hosted by Glenny Kravitz, one of the most prolific KJs in the dive bar circuit, means there will be a huge selection of music and props — à la cowbell and toy sax.

If you want a dimly lit, dive-classy karaoke spot with a great beer selection and a hipster crowd that will actually hit the dance floor while you croon Usher, then come to the Attic (3336 24th St., SF) for its once-a-month karaoke night on second Mondays.

Not only does Annie’s Social Club (917 Folsom, SF; 415-974-1585, www.anniessocialclub.com) offer the rare opportunity to sing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest at its "punk and schlock" karaoke nights, but its also pours drinks stiff enough to make you think you can actually pull off a high-pitched heavy-metal wail. Monday nights are free with karaoke on the main stage; Fridays and Saturdays you’ll pay cover for the band but can slip into the tucked-away karaoke room that holds a mercifully small crowd. Come prepared by previewing their song list online.

There’s no better way to take a Friday after-work happy hour (6–9:30 p.m.) with your coworkers to a whole new level of embarrassment than with karaoke at the Beale Street Bar & Grill (133 Beale, SF; 415-543-1961). Running 22 years strong, this Financial District spot draws a hugely mixed crowd, ranging from suits to bike messengers and construction workers.

It’s hard to name the best thing about Bow Bow Cocktail Lounge (1155 Grant, SF; 415-421-6730) — whether it’s the bartender known for getting wasted, throwing firecrackers, and forgetting to charge you for drinks; the opportunity to sing your karaoke selection in either English or one of several East Asian languages; or some of the strangest background graphics you’ve ever seen. But once you’ve been, there’ll be no mystery why it’s heralded as one of the best karaoke spots in the city. Sing until closing on Friday and Saturday nights.

Neighborhood folks and young Mission transplant types rub elbows at Thursday-night karaoke at Jack’s Club (2545 24th St., SF; 415-641-5371). Jack’s keeps it real with cheap beer, an energetic crowd, and classic karaoke tunes including hip-hop and old-school jams.

There is no better way to mourn the beginning of another workweek than to make like an Outer Mission hipster and head to the Knockout (3223 Mission, SF; 415-550-6994) for its Monday night "Krazy for Karaoke Happy Hour" (6–9 p.m.). After a shot of karaoke-induced adrenaline and a few drinks from its quirky menu — which includes hot toddies, spiked root beers, and electric limeade — you’ll start to feel like Friday’s not looking quite so far away after all.

Lingba Restaurant & Lounge (1469 18th St., SF; 415-355-0001), a swanky Southeast Asian restaurant in Potrero Hill with an adjoining bar, hosts karaoke on Sunday nights with none other than the Karaoke Shark himself, Glenny Kravitz.

Who says the Mission is hopelessly overrun by hipsters and bridge-and-tunnelers on the weekends? The Napper Tandy (3200 24th, SF; 415-550-7510) has a warm, neighborhood-sports-bar kind of feel — the kind of place where you go to catch the game, shoot pool, eat fish and chips, and sing your favorite hits on a Saturday night.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Rick’s Restaurant and Bar (1940 Taraval, SF; 415-731-8900) draws an older crowd of Sunset regulars and neighborhood folk — and occasional San Francisco State University students — for crooners, classics, and pop.

Starting at 6 p.m. on Monday nights, El Rincon (2700 16th St., SF; 415-437-9240) serves up Cuban food and karaoke, featuring music ranging from Latin and reggae to ’80s punk, pop, and goth.

Superlist: Cultural center dining

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What better way to experience the fuzzy warmth of good home cooking — and avoid the stress that sometimes comes with family — than to chow down on some authentic cuisine from the mother country. Likewise, any epicurean can appreciate the opportunity to partake in rich cuisines of different origin. Given the promise of indulging in a jumbo portion of paella or satisfying a noodle craving, the only obstacle between you and fulfillment is scrounging up directions.

Nothing brings out the joys of a French and Spanish union in quite the same way as Basque cuisine. You can taste the region’s flavors in such traditional dishes served at the Basque Cultural Center (599 Railroad Avenue, South SF; 650-583-8091, www.basqueculturalcenter.com) as lentil soup, Paté de Campagne, and Veal Forestière. In this sit-down restaurant, a staff reminiscent of your own kindly ma regularly restocks your plate with portions that fill even the bellies of growing teenage boys.

Ernest Hemingway would be proud to hear you express an interest in Spanish cuisine, and there’s no better way to dive in than at the Spanish Cultural Center’s Patio Español (2850 Alemany Boulevard, SF; 415-587-5117, www.patioespanol.com). Score both hot and cold tapas like the Calamares Fritos or the Chorizo Manchego, and if you’re craving a bigger zing in the seafood department, give its Paella Marinera a try. You can partake of this authentic experience in either its Spanish-style restaurant or bar, Wednesday through Sunday. If you’re in need of culturally enjoyable hangover sustenance, stop by on Sunday mornings for its buffet brunch.

Visit the friendly Sunday food fair at the Thai Temple and Culture Center (1911 Russell, Berk.; www.tccsfbayarea.org) in Berkeley to get a sampling of Thai cuisine. From the traditional restaurant fare like Pad Thai, various curries, and papaya salad to beef noodle soup, fried chicken, and favorite desserts like mangos and sticky rice, the selection makes it difficult to not turn dining at the temple into a habit. It starts serving as early as 9 a.m. and lasts until 2 p.m., so take your time trying everything the center has to offer.

Who doesn’t have a craving for a good Bolognese sauce from time to time? The Italian American Social Club (25 Russia Ave, SF; 415-585-8059) in the Excelsior district makes it easy to fill your tummy with a spread of antipasti and olive samplings, varying pastas, and, to top off your meal, ice cream. The low-key, quaint decor will have you longing for trips to Italy during the lazy summer months. Go for lunch or dinner — but unfortunately, it’s only open Wednesday through Friday.

Nestled in Oakland’s Chinatown, this center satisfies a sweet tooth. Located on the lower floor of the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (388 Ninth St., Oakl.; 510-637-0455, www.oacc.cc), the "Sweet Booth" features Asian-style shaved ice topped with condensed milk, boba balls, and red beans. Their sesame, avocado, and coconut ice creams, made in-house, should be sampled and accompanied by the ever-enjoyable staple of pearl milk tea. If you’re in the mood for a little something different, get a taste of its passion fruit, papaya, or mango pearl shakes.

Now “Voyager”

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› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Carla Bozulich is a force of nature. And nature in all its sweetest Central Texas manifestations — crisply twittering songbirds, spring sun glinting off the tin-sided porch, a slight breeze blowing in from the Colorado River — responds gently in kind, encircling the half-renovated cottage where she’ll be playing a small house show on the outskirts of South by Southwest. The former Geraldine Fibbers leader piles out of the van along with the rest of her virtuosic, dusty, somewhat road-dazed ensemble Evangelista. We’re a long way — more than a decade — from the time Bozulich’s disintegrating ’90s alt-rock combo opened for Iggy Pop at Austin, Texas’s largest intersection for thousands of SXSW onlookers.

"I have a potential with my voice of — I don’t know how to say this without sounding really ridiculous — but I’ve frightened bears away from attacking," Bozulich says, laughing slightly, tucked into a porch a few weeks back and tackling each question with the driving eloquence of a woman who’s spent plenty of time behind the wheel of her passions. "Wild dogs at another time when I was with Tara." She imitates the hounds barking meekly then crawling away, whining. "I just consider it something that I was born with, and a lot of times when I sing, I’m kind of holding it back because it’s sort of too much. So I just kind of decided when I started doing Evangelista that I was going to sort of work on a project where I didn’t hold back and I would try to use it to really inspire people to blow off the kind of trendy, lethargic, like, boundaries — you know, the boundaries you don’t cross in terms of not embarrassing yourself!"

We’ve ducked onto the porch as Scary Mansion plays in back to talk about Evangelista’s new album, Hello, Voyager, Bozulich’s second on the great Constellation imprint — her first, titled Evangelista (2006), was the indie’s first non-Canadian release — and the stunning show she gave the other night. It was likely one of the best of the fest, with Bozulich howling into her mic, pacing the stage during the new LP’s title opus, uncoiling sharp, eloquent shards of noise, and hopping in place with a contented smile as her band — a relatively new incarnation that includes longtime bassist-collaborator Tara Barnes, cellist Andrea Serrapiglio, and guitarist Jeremy Drake — generated a moving, glorious din. "The west is the best and the wind knows my name," Bozulich told the heavens — and you believed her.

Unfortunately the heavens opened up and poured down misfortune last November while Evangelista toured Europe. "I got hurt really bad in Paris. I was hit by a random madman on the street, who broke my cheek," Bozulich recalls of the incident, which occurred while she was singing and being interviewed on the street. Her face still feels shattered. "It was completely random. In a nutshell, he hit everybody, but he broke my cheek." But instead of crawling home to a friend’s couch and recuperating, she decided to stay on the road. "It was a weird decision, but looking back I’m really glad I did," she says. She saw Pompeii, Rome, and Tuscany, though her face was purple and swollen, and it was, she allows, "hard to sing." Yet, she adds, "I was having the adventure of my life."

Bozulich’s tactic in the face of disaster perfectly parallels her desire to venture out on a limb in every way. "I don’t take drugs or drink and haven’t for many years," she confesses. "So for me the ultimate high I’ve discovered after all these years is really — I have to say — embarrassment, doing something that might not be supercool. It separates a room, and there will be some people who will be like, ‘Yeah, fuck it! I’m sick of this, too. I really want to express who I really am.’" And in a sense Evangelista’s music is a very specific response to wartime disenfranchisement, written by an artist who describes herself as a "really, really far-left progressive, politically, and I feel like music is one of our only ways that we can organize. Fundamentalists still have that leg up on us. They aren’t afraid to join together."

Bozulich has done it before: fronting her old group Ethyl Meatplow — during which the shy girl who once sang behind drum kits "really learned to be a badass" — she changed lives: "People still come up to me saying really great things like, ‘We conceived our child in the bathroom at an Ethyl Meatplow show.’ And there’s several people who have said, ‘I came out of the closet just from listening to Ethyl Meatplow’ — and that’s political. That’s great!" She stares out at the fast-food drive-throughs that surround even this tiny show, and the sweet recording deals, massive crowds, and Iggy Pop opening slots don’t seem like much after all. "I’ve just been very lucky, you know."

CARLA BOZULICH’S EVANGELISTA

Thurs/27, 7 p.m., free

Amoeba Music

2455 Telegraph, Berk.

www.amoeba.com

Also Fri/28, 9 p.m., $10

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

www.bottomofthehill.com

FILL ‘ER UP

MIA DOI TODD


Channeling Joni Mitchell and even dreamier Laurel Canyon lasses alongside hand-drummer Andres Renteria and bassist Joshua Abrams (Prefuse 73), Todd has bewitched the Arthur mag crowd with her seventh full-length, Gea (City Zen). With Jose Gonzalez. Thurs/27, 8 p.m., $25. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. www.ticketmaster.com

DEVIN THE DUDE AND BUN B


The SXSW smoke clears as the Texas hip-hop odd mob mess around in San Fran town. With Vital, Ryan Greene, Chris Lee, DJ D, and Jamie Way. Sat/29, 9 p.m., $15. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com

LEYNA NOEL


The SF singer-songwriter serves up "tea metal" backed by Erase Errata drummer Bianca Sparta. With Ora Corgan, and Gabriel Saloman and Aja Rose. Mon/31, 6 p.m., $5. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

Battle scarred

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› kimberly@sfbg.com

TV, I: Battlestar Galactica — what the frak happened? But let’s back that Viper up: as a drooling, antsy constituent of the 12 colonies, a.k.a., a total BSG dweeb, I have to confess that I’m filled with both moist-eyed, fangirl anticipation and been-burned, skeptical trepidation, awaiting the Peabody- and Emmy–winning series’s final, fourth season, which starts April 4 on the Sci-Fi channel. This from a full-on hater of the original 1978 TV series, who scorned it for its cheap-knockoff-Star Wars patina, lousy writing, and stale characterization — with the exception of Dirk Benedict’s caffeinated Starbuck. It took plenty of intelligent storytelling, compelling character-building, and thoughtful crafting of a thoroughly re-envisioned mise-en-scène — one that pointedly reflects post–Sept. 11 political, philosophical, and spiritual issues — to pull me in. So why, at the closing moments of the last episode of season three, did I find myself sneering, "Battlestar Galactica has totally jumped the shark"?

The series set the bar high, filling out the original series’s cartoonish outlines into a shadowy, visceral war for survival between polytheistic, politicking, and imperfect humans and their creations: the genocidal and monotheistic Cylon robots who eventually evolved from tin cans into perpetually reincarnating and replicating, superhumanlike Frankensteins, intent, at the series’s start, on destroying their onetime masters. BSG played satisfyingly to a viewer’s desire for both soapy, emotional involvement and more cerebral brain-teasing, spinning its narratives around topical "War on Terror" issues and deeper ideas about belief, fundamentalist or otherwise, and wartime ethics concerning terrorism, torture, prejudice, and human and reproductive rights — in addition to such questions as: What does it mean to be human? Where does artificial intelligence end and consciousness begin? And what is life itself? Viewers could enter at all levels: one can enjoy the brash, frak-it-all sass of the new Starbuck (played with cigar-chomping machisma by Katee Sackhoff), or toy with notions of whether Dr. Gaius Balthar (portrayed by the deliciously anguished James Callis) is insane or in love or has found God or has been implanted with a Cylon chip because he sees and hears his Cylon seductress/guardian angel-devil, Number Six (gratifyingly complicated in the hands of Tricia Helfer), everywhere. Or one can wonder, sudsily, whether Sharon "Boomer" Valerii (Korean Canadian Maxim hottie Grace Park) — the beloved fighter pilot turned sleeper Cylon assassin turned Cylon/human baby-maker turned officer once more — will ever overcome the "species-ist," snarky "toaster" cracks to happily rear her bi-species hapa infant? Will the humans discover their new home, the mythical 13th colony of Earth, before the Cylons do? When they get to Terra Firma, will apes or apocalyptic scenes greet the chariots of the gods?

Sure, BSG fans have undergone moments of taste-testing hamminess: is Michael Hogan — who plays the Galactica’s alcoholic Colonel Saul Tigh — an intriguing actor because he plays his character three or four different ways, or is he simply awful? Then BSG allays your fears by forging into such thought-provoking turf as suicide bombings, which the humans resorted to during last season’s Cylon occupation. Let’s see the other humans-vs.-robots series, the faltering Sarah Connor Chronicles, top that viewer-challenging gambit.

That said, the third season managed to step up the show with both the occupation and Balthar’s transformation into a Cylon mascot aboard the machines’ hallucinatory base ship — a stylishly sleek, organic-metallic metadisco of a craft that Daft Punk would surely be glad to dock into. The final bombshell: the revelation of four of the five final sleeper Cylon agents (three of whom ironically led the suicide-bombing arm of the humans’ insurrection). But much like those would-be terrorists, that final episode undermined itself as the sleeper Cylons were awakened by the thread of a song that only they can hear — a few lines that turned into a few lyrics, then blossomed into a startlingly wretched rendition of Bob Dylan’s "All along the Watchtower." A presumed-dead Starbuck reappeared, and the scene fast-forwarded to a glistening Earth.

The tone was so drastically off — the winking, boomer-centric reference to our earthly plane was so in-jokey — that I felt like I had been kicked in my Wonder Con by a guffawing Luke Skywalker look-alike in a tie-dyed ‘fro wig, flipping me the finger. It made about that much sense. The Sopranos can leave the bad taste of "Don’t Stop Believin’<0x2009>" in your mouth because AOR rock is the soundtrack to Tony Soprano’s life. But the dark, generally straight-faced BSG has been aurally embellished only by title sequence’s version of the Rig Veda’s Gayatri mantra, reworked by composer Richard Gibbs with Enya-esque new age vocals and tribal drums, as well as archetypally Hollywood orchestral fare and the odd, let’s-get-jiggy-wit’-it Irish tin-flute. Somewhere a shark is whimpering from a severe head wound created by a misfiring motorcycle, and one can only hope season four doesn’t injure more sea creatures.

Edging toward the edge

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

A title like Tragedy: a tragedy has, you might think, promises to keep. But what exactly are they? The repetition already flags, and flogs the futility in the gesture, announcing amusingly this post-tragic age. Instead, a sardonic scene suggests itself, nothing summing up the post-tragic like the daily litany of tragic stories on the news. And still, according to New York playwright Will Eno, whose previous works include 2004’s Thom Pain (based on nothing), tragedy will out, even in the tragedy business.

Scattered over the Thrust Stage at the Berkeley Rep, where Tragedy is enjoying its sharp American premiere, stand three garrulous TV reporters. In one granite-lined corner is legal expert Michael (Max Gordon Moore); in another, home front correspondent Constance (Marguerite Stimpson) perches, just as dependably, in front of a home; and out on a jutting bit of lawn in the enveloping night is John in the Field (Thomas Jay Ryan). The three are arrayed, out on location, around the central and imposing studio-lighted, half-circle desk of anchorman Frank (a quietly impressive David Cromwell, looking and presenting very much the part of a slowly crumbling John Chancellor). One unnamed Witness (Danny Wolohan) stands by, in street clothes with a knapsack slung snug over both shoulders, more or less mute until nearly the end of the 70-minute single act.

As the scene unfolds, it’s clear this is a special news day, in fact one long day’s journey into perpetual night. The sun is missingoverdue or something — and apparently not coming back. It’s the kind of catastrophic event unfolding in real-time that musters all the energies, ego, and élan of the news professionals. It’s what they train for: the unending crisis that calls for unending comment, a filibustering of fate.

A substitute family, a set of everyday heroes, a security blanket of authoritative remarks and assurances — god knows just what we see in them. Weighing in with weightless commentary and heavy-handed air, the reporters pass the feed, the buck, the potato, and the cliché as the earth settles into darkness.

"Is the sense of tragedy palpable?" asks our anchor. "Absolutely, Frank," a reporter assures him. "You can feel it!" Constance, in charge of empathy, dutifully sympathizes in all directions, sometimes in phrases so convoluted and meandering they are all but incomprehensible, and further undermined by her own invading guilty preoccupations. Michael, erect and rapid-fire, relays the governor’s increasingly inept and despairing statements ("Let the looting begin!"). Meantime, adds John in the Field, the neighborhood dogs are doing what they, in the face of overwhelming tragedy, can be counted on to do, including "making their tags and collars jingle."

If improvising reporters have a knack for somehow coining clichés, Eno’s generally inspired dialogue succeeds partly by trading hilariously on just this cursed gift. But the barrage of verbiage, the real blanket of night over us all, slowly unravels as the play moves through its short, sure arc toward a somewhat predictable but nevertheless gently moving anticlimax. Sputtering empty phrases, our reporters begin steadily edging toward the edge (to coin a representative phrase), teetering over into the void on the precipice of some personal point of view, some secret feeling, impression or memory; something actually felt, if not fully understood.

As the reporters spend themselves over the course of an hour like guttering candles, all but flickering out by the end, our Witness finds his voice. Angling fairly nimbly past one or two well-worn conceits, Eno’s play reaches a not-unsatisfying end in a little night-blooming flower of an image, no more than a precise rendering of a mundane detail. Nothing really, but more than enough to awaken a sense of evanescence. And it’s that gentle pinprick that lets the blood flow at last.

If playwright Eno began Tragedy: a tragedy in 1999, as the program indicates, it surely picked up some thematic momentum after 2001, when principal televised upheaval gave way to an unending worldwide war against terror — just the kind of tragedy (in capital letters) that serves all the better to lull those on the home front into a dull, deflated night of everyday horrors. But Eno’s very funny play — featuring an enjoyable, expert ensemble and deftly directed by Les Waters — is no political tract. It instead remains, like his babbling newscasters, precisely vague about everything — all the better in the play’s case to sneak up on the sensation and insight hiding behind the minutely, fleetingly particular. Maybe tragedy, it suggests, is already tautology, since we’re born into it, and every peaceful little moment that brushes us so lovingly also whispers demise.

TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY

Through April 13

Wed.and Sun., 7 p.m. (also Sun, 2 p.m.)

Tues. and Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m. (also Sat., 2 p.m.), $13.50–$69

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Thrust Stage

2025 Addison, Berk.

(510) 647-2949, www.berkleyrep.org

On the rise

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Aura Fischbeck is one of those dancer-choreographers who blows into town and starts performing with more established colleagues while they create their own choreographies. At first they appear in group shows until they accumulate enough material for their own programs. Fischbeck isn’t quite there yet. Her most recent appearance at the Garage — about as underground a venue as you can have in the city — included the work of another excellent dancer, Travis Rowland, who is just expanding his career into choreography.

The three pieces Fischbeck presented confirmed an earlier impression of her as a choreographer willing to restrict her movement ideas to shape them better. It’s a process that works. Relay, performed by Fischbeck, Sarah Pfeifle, and Leigh Riley, grouped three very different performers in a kind of game in which unisons periodically acted as page-turners to reveal new permutations on given material. This rigorous, formal process enhanced the individuality of the dancers.

Compass, which took the dance into nature via a video by Chris Wise, was a fierce, space-eating solo in which Fischbeck’s arms rotated as if trying to unscrew from their sockets — when they weren’t shooting out like laser beams, that is. The dancer put herself through a whole kaleidoscope of states of being, from desiring domination to willing acquiescence.

The new Go West — a meditation on the country’s expansion toward the Pacific — is Fischbeck’s most ambitious work yet. Created for seven women, it was too big for the Garage. It’s a sprawling work, full of funny and provocative imagery (both human and animal) with a tongue-in-cheek collage score of western music. It needs work, but the bones are there.

Rowland’s duet with Michaela Shoberg, But Only If You Like Me First, was awkward, like the puppy love whose trajectory it portrayed. But let’s see what he does next.

The republic of fennel

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› paulr@sfbg.com

Fennel, like certain politicians one could name, has its pestilential, never-say-die quality: you see it growing all over the city, its feathery green plumage waving from street-tree wells or creeping up faded walls. It’s the kind of plant that could survive a nuclear holocaust, the kind of survivor the writer Jonathan Schell must have had in mind when he described a nuked United States as "a republic of insects and grass" at the outset of The Fate of the Earth (Knopf, 1982). He might have been optimistic about the republic part.

When we think of fennel, to be fair, we’re probably not thinking of nuclear war, indestructible weeds, rotted republics, or even Hillary Clinton. We’re most likely thinking about the plant’s seeds, which, when dried, are a staple of the Italian kitchen and of some of the wondrous spice blends of the Indian subcontinent. But the fennel plant has roots too, pale bulbs you find in abundance at farmers markets around this time of year. The bulbs have the feel and texture of celery root and offer a licorice flavor much milder than that of the seeds, so for these reasons fennel root, sliced or shaved, is often proposed as an alternative in recipes that call for celery.

Since celery root is the last word in necessary-but-not-sufficient foodstuffs, it’s easy not to bother substituting something else for it, and I never did — and so I never had much use for fennel root. I always had celery root on hand, and that was enough. Then, in January, a friend served slices of roasted fennel root as a before-dinner nibble. The earth shifted slightly under my feet.

Roasting, it must be said, brings out the best in many uncooperative vegetables. It deepens and softens and adds a smoky sweetness. Beets, cauliflower, asparagus — all benefit from this treatment; fennel root too.

Most of the prep work involves trimming the root end and the feathery rigging. Slice the trimmed bulbs lengthwise, about a quarter-inch thick. Rinse away any dirt, and don’t worry if the slices fall apart some. Have an oven preheated to 450 degrees. Put the fennel in a single layer on a roasting pan or cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and some dried thyme, and roast about 12 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through. Drizzle with a little more oil and serve.

Intercontinental Collaborations 3 — The Symmetry Project

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PREVIEW Have you ever heard of an "inter-corporeal kaleidoscope of flesh?" Neither have I. This intriguing mouthful is one of the labels Jess Curtis has affixed to his latest performance experiments in physicality. Yet for all his theoretical underpinnings, Curtis is a man of the theater. These days the choreographer, who started with Contraband 20 years ago and now lives and works part-time in Berlin, questions the act of performance — what it means to him, and what it means to us. Fallen (2002) and, particularly last year’s Under the Radar, offered highly imaginative and exquisitely structured possible answers to big questions on that subject. Curtis’s latest endeavor, Symmetry Study #7, premiered in Berlin last September. In it, he partners with Maria Francesca Scaroni in a series of improvisational encounters performed in the nude. The idea behind these couplings is to examine connection and separation on the most fundamental level and what they do to our perception of self. It sounds a bit like the Greek concept of the original human who was cut in two and forever tries to reunite with the other half. In contrast to the American premiere of Symmetry is the Jess Curtis/Gravity companion piece and a world premiere, Asymmetrical Tendencies, performed by Croi Glan Dance, a company of performers of different physical capabilities. Two very different Irish dancers, former Bay Area resident Tara Brandel and Rhona Coughlan of Croi Glan, also perform.

INTERCONTINENTAL COLLABORATIONS 3 — THE SYMMETRY PROJECT Thurs/27–Sat/30 and April 3–6, 8 p.m. CounterPulse, 1310 Mission, SF. $18–$20. (415) 626-2060, www.counterpulse.org, www.brownpapertickets.com

Switchboard Music Festival

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PREVIEW While something like the Treasure Island Music Festival can be summarized in a nutshell — a day of indie rock and a day of electronica — the annual Switchboard Music Festival defies classification. Traditionally, a lack of stylistic consistency is frowned upon in the music world — some artists spend years searching for their own reliable sound — Switchboard organizers say times have changed. With file-sharing and iTunes inundating fans with music, composers have the opportunity to go wild. On a song-by-song basis, good music is good music, regardless of who produced it or what genre it is.

Like many of the acts throughout the day, San Francisco’s Aaron Novik seems to put his eggs in more baskets than the Easter Bunny. Novik is a self-described "clarinetist, composer, bandleader" who clearly has a propensity toward variety, as his projects span anywhere from psychedelic jazz to metal. At the festival, Novik will lead his traditional Jewish folk band the Yidiots, which includes Guardian editorial intern Dina Maccabee on violin.

Fellow musical butterfly Amy X Neuberg, the festival’s headliner, will demonstrate her wide range of musical manifestations. Oakland composer Neuberg’s performance centers on creative uses of her own voice, including some over-the-top opera, soft jazz tones, and spoken word — all looped in real time through a sequencer to create harmonies. Genres will bend and tear within her set and those of others, only to shatter with the first note of the following act.

SWITCHBOARD MUSIC FESTIVAL With Christopher Adler, Dan Becker, Del Sol String Quartet, Edmund Wells, Erik Jekabson, Gamelan X, Ian Dicke, Ian Dickenson, Inner Ear Brigade, Jonathan Russel, Robin Estrada, Ryan Brown, and Slydini. Sun/30, 2–10 p.m., $5–$25. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF. (415) 826-4441, www.switchboardmusic.com

Shelter

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REVIEW To a certain extent, almost all surfing flicks carry undercurrents of homoeroticism — but rarely do those vibes take center stage. With Shelter, that’s not the case. Starring Trevor Wright (a TV vet making his big-screen debut) and Brad Rowe (Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss), the movie is about two young surfer dudes whose practice of spending endless hours together either half-naked in the water or bonding over neverending six-packs of beer leads to a passionate love affair. So don’t expect to see any radical wave-riding here. Instead, you should count on a sweet and tender rendering of innocent flirtation (and the awkwardness, playfulness, and silliness that come with it), and of the complex deeper emotional phases that a person falling in love goes through. Although Shelter doesn’t avoid being a bit sappy every now and then — and at times the acting feels a bit forced — the truly amazing chemistry between the two protagonists overshadows many of the film’s imperfections. The first movie to be produced under the here! Films Independent Film Initiative (which helps thematically edgy and thus noncommercial projects with all aspects of production), Shelter also marks director Jonah Markowitz’s first attempt at feature filmmaking. If you missed it at Frameline last summer, here’s a chance to make amends.

SHELTER opens Fri/28 in San Francisco.

Fune Ya

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HUNGER SET SAIL I must confess: I wasn’t planning to go to Fune Ya. I wanted to go to Namu, but couldn’t get a table (thanks, Paul Reidinger). Then I wanted to go to Burma Superstar, but after driving around the Inner Richmond for 45 minutes trying to find parking I wasn’t in the mood to wait twice that amount of time for food. So after buying a bunch of Peek-a-Poohs and Pocky from Genki’s Crepes, I walked a few doors down and saw a big banner in Fune Ya’s window: "Sushi Boat! $1.95 Rolls Special Promotion."

I love sushi boats for their interactive quality. We’re taught as kids to wait patiently; as adults, we’re taught that serious dining is a process of patience, of conversation in between plates. The whole point of a restaurant is to be served. But sometimes, as I walk starving through the restaurant to my table, I just want to grab food off the server window. I not only want what I order, but to pick off what everyone else ordered. Hence the sushi boat: you see, you want, you grab that shit. Ah, instant gratification.

Sushi boat sushi is never that good. It’s only decent when the restaurant is busy and the sushi is constantly replenished. On this visit, it was a Friday night, so everything was fresh. The shrimp tempura roll was delicately crunchy — not oily and soggy — and the shrimp was juicy and sweet inside. The spicy tuna with creamy sauce on top was delectable, as were the California rolls and other sushi standards. It was when we got into the nigiri that the quality severely dropped. The octopus was way too chewy; the salmon was fresh, but sorely lacking the high-grade buttery flavor.

A nice touch at Fune Ya normally missing from sushi boat establishments, though, was having the makings of a full meal via nonsushi items: appetizers (such as edamame) and dessert. The dessert was deep-fried tempura banana drizzled with sweet strawberry sauce. It was incredible. I am ashamed to say that my friend and I grabbed four plates, all of which were newly fried — warm, mushy banana in a crunchy, still-sizzling cocoon.

If you find yourself in the Inner Richmond (hopefully, you’ve taken the bus or ridden your bike), stop by Fune Ya. The cheapie promotion will last a few more months.

FUNE YA Mon.–Thurs., 11:30a.m.–3 p.m., 5:30–10 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., 5:30–11 p.m.; Sat., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sun., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., 354 Clement, SF. (415) 386-2788, www.funeya.us

“Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization”

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REVIEW In an age of inexpensive fashion knockoffs proliferated by stores like H&M and Forever 21, it’s become almost effortless to access catwalk trends. But while it’s a fashionista’s wet dream to possess such designer approximations, one wonders whether we’re forgetting our clothing’s origins, born from the creative genius of haute couture, which in turn found its inspiration in many of the world’s traditional garments. The Museum of Craft and Folk Art’s "Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization" assuages some of my qualms by giving viewers not only an education on the development of textiles like block printing and lace or openwork, but also an opportunity to peruse traditional and high-fashion pieces as well as some of the classic ensembles that still inspire designers today. The brilliant gold threading of a deep purple sari from India calls to mind a lamé dress in the Marc by Marc Jacobs spring line, and a Mexican women’s cream-colored coat with broad sleeves, pleated breast, and colorful embroidery reminds me of my slammin’ new outerwear from H&M. The 30-piece exhibition is divided into five themes: weaving, surface design, embellishment, and openwork/pleating, and boasts creations by the likes of Emilio Pucci and Mary McFadden. While "Fabric of Cultures" is not the largest or best-organized show one will encounter, it will help cultivate your knowledge of textiles, and there’s a sweet video presentation on pleating done at a factory in Japan. As viewer who loves clothes but can’t design them, I’d say the exhibit was better than an episode of Project Runway. Sorry, Heidi, et al.

FABRIC OF CULTURES: FASHION, IDENTITY, GLOBALIZATION Through April 27. Tues.–Fri., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Museum of Craft and Folk Art, 51 Yerba Buena Lane, SF. $5. (415) 227-4888, www.mocfa.org

Zen and the art of extreme-metal maintenance

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Meshuggah’s obZen (Nuclear Blast) is not the first example of a quality album with dismal cover art. On the other hand, it’s not that easy to think of really, er, great examples. Mott the Hoople’s Brain Capers (Atlantic, 1971), Humble Pie’s Smokin’ (A&M, 1972), and the Rolling Stones’ Black and Blue (Rolling Stones/Virgin, 1976) come to mind, but I’m not sure if these are actually good albums or just guilty pleasures. There’s also Blue Öyster Cult’s Agents of Fortune (Columbia, 1976) and Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill (MCA, 1972) — slightly more reputable records, but like the others above, they’re subject to the "Hey, it was the ’70s" defense.

Sweden’s Meshuggah occupy a whole ‘nother realm of music — modern extreme metal, generally speaking — which means I should be comparing them to their peers, not a bunch of musty classic rock acts. However, over my years of following this genre, I’ve become so desensitized to foul cover art that it seldom fazes me anymore. Skeletons being crucified on inverted crosses? Helpless, bloody victims with various orifices sewn shut? You try not to pay too much attention to it.

ObZen takes the good album–bad cover discrepancy to a new level, though. On their cover, a computer-generated image of a naked, three-armed, blood-covered mandroid sits in the lotus position, engaged in a solemn act of meditation. Apparently, it’s tied in with the title’s "obscene zen" pun. Whatever the case, it’s not good. Not good at all. The only reason I bother poking fun is because the music itself is pretty amazing.

Granted, the members of Meshuggah have been churning out this sort of sandblasting tech-metal for more than a decade, but obZen includes some of their most creative, demented riffing in years. They’re the rare extreme metal band whose sound is immediately recognizable: pick a song, any song, and you can tell it’s them within a few seconds — though it’s much harder to figure out exactly which song you’re hearing. This is partly because their music never changes all that much — externally, at least — but also because it’s so distinctive and idiosyncratic.

Meshuggah established their sound on 1995’s Destroy Erase Improve and 1998’s Chaosphere (both Nuclear Blast), and it’s essentially an industrial-tinged mutation of the tight, mechanical thrash metal of early ’90s Sepultura or pre-Black Album Metallica. While most of the far-out happenings in ’90s metal came from the seedier realms of black metal, death metal, and grindcore, Meshuggah continued as one of the few bands doing anything groundbreaking with this sort of weightlifter-metal template. In other words, they didn’t have any close peers when they emerged as a noteworthy group, and despite influencing a wide variety of metal, prog, and experimental acts in the years since, there’s no one who sounds quite like them.

They’re not without their metal-band trappings, although these don’t involve Satanism or bad horror-flick imagery. Instead, there is a sort of dystopian sci-fi thread running through much of their work, something they share with predecessors like Voivod and Fear Factory. I don’t know anyone who is specifically attracted to Meshuggah based on that aspect of their aesthetic, just as I don’t know anyone who listens to the band because of vocalist Jens Kidman, whose monochromatic bark is certainly an acquired taste.

Rather, Meshuggah’s appeal is all about "that thing" they do with their guitars and drums. It’s very specific: jackhammer drums and hiccuping guitar riffs wind around one another in an intricate fashion, with the drums and guitars usually playing in different time signatures and constantly turning around on one another. Their tracks are often more like études, which deal with complex polyrhythms, than a song with anything resembling a verse-chorus-verse form.

It would all be hopelessly nerdy if it wasn’t so darn heavy and impossibly well-executed. Perhaps, like the unfortunate dude on the cover, some of the members of Meshuggah have three arms. Listeners might find the band’s music tedious and one-dimensional, and indeed, sometimes it is. Then again, there’s often a fine line between hypnotic and monotonous. With obZen, Meshuggah are mostly on the right side of that line, even if their visual sensibilities leave much to be desired.

MESHUGGAH

With Ministry and Hemlock

Tue/1–April 2, 8 p.m., $38.50

Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000

www.ticketmaster.com

Go for baroque

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In the southern suburb of Portland, Ore., where dwell the two main men behind the ornate folk-pop of Musée Mécanique, there’s an old amusement park with a Ferris wheel, carousel, and, perhaps most strikingly, a roller-skating arena with a pneumatic-powered Wurlitzer organ that drops down from the ceiling.

"The park has all sorts of stuff that was inspiring in terms of the instrumentation we used for our record," says singer-guitarist Micah Rabwin — who also plays the keys and singing saw — over the phone from Portland in reference to their yet-unreleased debut, The Wayward Orchestrion. These various old-time amusements weren’t merely an abstract point of inspiration, however, as he excitedly explains: "We used some found sounds that we recorded at the amusement park itself. The park’s in the record!"

It’s these kinds of rusty, creaky pleasures that chiefly inspire both Rabwin and fellow multi-instrumentalist Sean Ogilvie (keys, guitar, accordion, vocals), who borrow their band’s name from the now Fisherman’s Wharf–based museum they used to visit when they lived down here a few years ago.

"We love to make a song that has its own soul, just like the machines they have over there at the museum," Ogilvie says of their tunesmithery, the products of which could be likened to a delicate Joseph Cornell assemblage. The orchestrion of the album’s title is, according to Ogilvie, "like a drum machine," except it runs on air power through paper rolls, which gives it an incidental quality that — combined with its "wayward" state — suggested to them a "wandering piece of equipment walking around, gathering little interesting tidbits into itself."

It’s an image reminiscent of freewheeling Japanese video game Katamari Damacy, yet it accurately reflects their songwriting and recording process: obviously Rabwin and Ogilvie aren’t robots or magical stuff-accumuutf8g orbs, but in the process of recording, the two would gradually incorporate new and odd bits of instrumentation — pianos, organs, et al. — to flesh out the basic tunes that they workshopped together. Once the basic tracks were laid down in their cobbled-together home studio, Rabwin and Ogilvie brought in strings and recorded drum tracks to unite the various instrumental adornments at play, pairing in serendipitous fashion the old with the new: for instance, vocal harmonies and a Mellotron choir, a singing saw with a thereminlike synth effect, and acoustic and electric guitar.

As old-timey as the frontmen’s tastes might be, The Wayward Orchestrion feels deeply contemporary throughout — sincere in its fragility, and lustrous even as it’s shielded from the brightness of the sun. One of its most affecting tracks is "Somehow Bound," on which strings and xylophone plinks buoy a lovely, sad, pink parade float of a song along. "Fits & Starts," meanwhile, is a wistful stroll through a pedal-steel sunset, exemplifying the kind of huddled, intimate feeling characterizing much of the disc. With the help of a backing band, the live rendering of their musical snow globe takes on a more rock ‘n’ roll quality, even as it often entails playing two instruments at once for a few of the musicians.

This spring tour marks the group’s first significant eastward trip, and they seem pretty darn excited at the prospect of taking their collection of keyed instruments and found sounds out on the road. Musée Mécanique sound like they’re soundtracking the eventual re-opening of the market for hot air balloons, top hats, and groomed mustaches. They shine quiet wonder through an eerie, nostalgic lens of quivering saws and keyboards, all the while providing Sufjan Stevens with formidable competition in the "Best Baroque Folksters" category. (Michael Harkin)

MUSÉE MÉCANIQUE

With Here Here and Winterbirds

Thurs/27, 8 p.m., $8

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011

www.rickshawstop.com

Volume 42 Number 26 Flip-through Edition

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Fresh flowers, warm waters

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When you talk about performers with unusual career arcs, Charles Lloyd is up there with the Scott Walkers and Alex Chiltons of the world. Lloyd experienced almost unheard-of commercial success for a jazz saxophonist during the late ’60s, only to practically disappear for the next two decades. Then in 1989, he reemerged on Germany’s ECM label and entered the steadiest, most productive phase of his career, a phase that is still in progress as he celebrates his 70th birthday this year.

Lloyd’s best-known album remains 1966’s Forest Flower: Live at Monterey (Atlantic), which sold over 1 million copies in its day, a now-inconceivable feat for any saxophonist who doesn’t play soft-porno-soundtrack ballads. Lloyd and his quartet, which included soon-to-be-stars Keith Jarrett on piano and Jack DeJohnette on drums, managed this crossover success without dumbing down their music or resorting to fusion — which, after all, didn’t really exist yet in 1966. Their music was basically a kinder, gentler version of John Coltrane’s classic quartet sound: searching, occasionally Eastern-tinged modal jazz with spiritual overtones. Where Coltrane’s playing tended to be harsh and severe, Lloyd’s approach was relaxed and unhurried, with a softer-edged, gently babbling delivery. During their brief but successful run, Lloyd’s group released albums with swirly psychedelic cover art and hippie-ish titles like Journey Within and Love-In (both Atlantic, 1967), connecting with diverse, rock-friendly audiences in the days when jazz’s market share was rapidly eroding.

And then? It’s hard to say exactly. Jarrett and DeJohnette went on to play with Miles Davis’s early ’70s electric bands before pursuing successful solo careers, while Lloyd took up residence in the proverbial "Where are they now?" file. Musically, the ’70s was mostly a lost decade for Lloyd: his albums from this era — all long out of print — are written off as new age–leaning mood music or, in the case of 1971’s Warm Waters (Kapp), ill-fated forays into pop and rock. During this era, Lloyd retreated to Big Sur and got into transcendental meditation, which fittingly coincided with involvement with Beach Boys — and fellow TM advocates Mike Love and Al Jardine. (Lloyd even lent his horn playing to the band’s 15 Big Ones and M.I.U. Album [both Brother/Reprise, 1976 and 1978], and several Beach Boys appeared on Warm Waters.) Whatever else might have happened during those dark, confusing times would surely make for interesting reading, but details — sordid or not — are scarce.

Since coming out of retirement in the late ’80s, Lloyd has undergone an unlikely transition from mystic and ’60s relic to upstanding jazz citizen and elder statesman of the tenor saxophone — though he also plays flute and tarogato. His post-comeback recordings have included younger stars such as pianists Geri Allen and Brad Mehldau as well as august veterans like bassist Dave Holland and drummers Billy Hart and Billy Higgins. Meanwhile, his tenure with ECM has yielded 13 albums during this time, ranging from small group recordings in the vein of his late ’60s music to more far-flung efforts such as 2006’s Sangam, a live trio recording with Indian percussionist Zakir Hussain and drummer Eric Harland. The latter full-length includes some of Lloyd’s most fiery playing in recent years, and indeed, if there is one complaint about any of Lloyd’s post-comeback material, it’s that it’s sometimes been a bit too mellow and placid.

His newest album, Rabo de Nube, is a live disc highlighting his current band with Harland on drums, Jason Moran on piano, and Reuben Rogers on bass, all who are roughly half Lloyd’s age. It’s a good combination, because these younger musicians push Lloyd, while at the same time his playing brings a stateliness and an overall presence that is hard to find among more youthful players, however skilled they might be. Lloyd has never been known as a technical virtuoso, but there is a hard-won emotional depth to his work. You hesitate to call any living, breathing musician part of a so-called dying breed — it’s just not a nice thing to say — but Lloyd is at least representative of a different era, and opportunities to experience that era are getting harder to come across these days.

CHARLES LLOYD NEW QUARTET

Fri/28, 8 p.m., $25–$70

Herbst Theatre

401 Van Ness, SF

(866) 920-JAZZ

www.sfjazz.org