Volume 42 Number 41

Taste the Mochi

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SONIC REDUCER "If you build it, they will come!" A few famous first words from David Wang — otherwise known as the ever-fruitful laptop lothario Mochipet — when we spoke recently, and something to ponder as I gazed around his so-chill, so-frolicsome, and oh-so-free Fourth of July barbecue bash in Golden Gate Park. In a green, leafy nook near the fields where the buffalo roam, a DJ tent is up and housing such pals as Phon.o and Flying Skulls. Funk ‘n’ Chunk fire the grill with impressive flamethrower action, and Christian of the Tasty crew plunges fish-sauce-marinated chicks into the hot grease for Filipino fried chicken. Throw a Tecate on the whole thing, pet your mochi, and call it an awesome party despite the fact that, as Wang confides, "we did get started a little late because there were some rangers sniffing around."

Mochipet, “Get Your Whistle Wet”

Wang is accustomed to building where few have ventured before — and as a collaborator extraordinaire who has worked with everyone from Spank Rock to Ellen Allien, he’s brought together communities of sorts in the most unlikely of locales (hence the name of his label, Daly City Records). Earlier that week we chatted by phone in lieu of digging into Hong Kong deep-fried pork chops and a sweet, cheap Filipino breakfast ("It’s like soul food for Asians — everything’s either deep-fried or smoked") at Gateway restaurant near the literal and spiritual home of Daly City Records. The occasion is his forthcoming Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival, an improv-y and likely collaborative performance, as well as a whopping release show at Club Six for his latest disc, Microphonepet (Daly City).

A formidable gathering of all of Wang’s work and collaborations since 2001, Microphonepet overwhelms with its awesome sonics, roving from "Tangle" with Salva and Epcot and "Get Your Whistle Wet" with the Hustle Heads, to "Vnecks" with 215 the Freshest Kids and "Lazy Days" with KFlay. Where has Wang been hiding his crazily deep-fried, deliciously bleepy hip-hop production skills all this time? "Guess it got to the point where last year I got 20 tracks, so I just put them out as a record, because some of them are really cool," he explains. "I thought they were really diverse and it would be a good segue to my next record."

Wang has been pouring plenty of energy into that coming disc, which may be released on Daly City or an imprint like Ninjatune. He describes it as more personal: he’s skating progressive, jazz, and South American musical influences off trad Korean and Chinese sounds, and acoustic guitar off heavy electronics. "I’ve always written traditional songs but I’ve never really been comfortable releasing it," says Wang, who describes his early aural interests as veering toward jazz and salsa. "All my records before this have been experiments — me trying new things. But they haven’t been as personal as this next record. I think of it as my first record, really. I’m a slow bloomer." *

MOCHIPET

MCMF show with Yoko Solo, Patrice Scanlon, and Blanket Head

July 18, 8 p.m., $7

Million Fishes Gallery

2501 Bryant, SF

millionfishes.com

Also Aug. 9

Microphonepet release show with Raashan, Mike Boo, Cikee, Daddy Kev, Dopestyles, Kflay, and others

9 p.m., $10–<\d>$15

Club Six

60 Sixth St., SF

www.clubsix1.com

BATTLE OF THE FESTS: MISSION CREEK VS. DIAMOND DAYS?

No need to create a faux feud: fests that clash by night and warehouse shows are no problem. In response to learning that Diamond Days — Heeb magazine’s hoedown, newly transplanted from Brooklyn to Oakland — goes down the same week as this year’s Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival, founder Jeff Ray said, "I think it’s great. I like Heeb magazine. We haven’t completely settled on those dates, and I randomly picked this weekend — normally we do it in May. Next time we might do it the first week of August." OK, so both fests also happen to include some of the same performers — each has its unique attractions as well. Sparkling offerings at DD’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights fundraiser include Los Angeles’ punky-garagey Audacity, Seattle’s rousing Whalebones, Ventura’s thrashy Fucking Wrath, and a mother lode of intriguing folk from the LA area ranging from the sibling sublimity of the Chapin Sisters to the resurgent pop of "Windy" scribe Ruthann Friedman.

July 17 and 20, Mama Buzz Café, Oakl.; July 17–19, Ghost Town Gallery, Oakl. For details, go to www.myspace.com/diamonddaysfest

LOUDER, FASTER, STRONGER

APACHE


The garage rockin’ good times stream off this Cuts–Parchman Farm supergroup’s debut, Boomtown Gems (Birdman). Wed/9, 9 p.m., $6. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com

KODE 9


The London dubstep artist and Hyperdub label owner with a doctorate in philosophy gives a shout out to his boroughs. Thurs/10, 9 p.m., $12. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com

QUITZOW


The multi-instrumental wiz grabs for Solex’s crown with some goofy fun, like kitty-sampling "Cats R People 2" off her Art College (Young Love). With Settting Sun and the Love X Nowhere. Thurs/10, 8 p.m., $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com

RATATAT


A kinder, gentler Crooklyn combo? Rabid fans can expect polyrhythmic rock from LP3 (XL). Thurs/10, 9 p.m., $20. Slim’s, 33 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com

20 MINUTE LOOP


The SF indie rockers chime in on tabloid culture with their new, self-released Famous People Marry Famous People. Fri/11, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

“Top of the Structure Is Not Empty”

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PREVIEW The Garage is the kind of tiny, funky, out-of-the-way theater we all thought wouldn’t be able to survive the dealings of cutthroat real estate moguls. Fortunately choreographer and arts entrepreneur Joe Landini failed to buy into the pessimism. In 2003 he founded SAFEhouse (Save Art From Extinction) and last year moved his operations into a former garage at 975 Howard Street, a block still industrial enough to have available parking at night. Drawing on his programming experience with the now-defunct Jon Sims Center for the Arts and Shotwell Studios, he has filled the space with events (dance, multimedia, theater, and performance art), workshops, and residencies — including one specifically for the LGBT community. For the first time, the multidisciplinary space hosts SAFEhouse’s third Summer Performance Fest. Through August 28, Landini presents more than two dozen choreographers in shared evenings of edgy new works that should satisfy any aficionado wanting to take the pulse of the city. Top of the Structure Is Not Empty, with choreography by Rebecca Bryant, Cathie Caraker, Kelly Dalrymple, Sonshereé Giles, Hope Mohr, Don Nichols, Jerry Smith, and Andrew Wass opens the series. What do these ever-so-different-from-each-other artists have in common? They all investigate ideas on plagiarism and authorship in their work. Expect to see references to Trisha Brown, Miguel Gutierrez, Mark Morris, Nijinsky, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Max Roach, and Meg Stuart.

TOP OF THE STRUCTURE IS NOT EMPTY Fri/11–Sat/12, 8 p.m. The Garage, 975 Howard, SF. $10–$20. (415) 885-4006, www.975howard.com, brownpapertickets.com

Port O’Brien

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PREVIEW A little more than a year ago, a "too-pretty-to-refuse-you" friend dragged me to a Bright Eyes concert. I remember almost nothing of the group’s set, and I wasn’t the drunk one. Connor Oberst, so hipster-slim you know he’s a lightweight, strutted on stage, Corona in hand, his stage presence as deflated as his sound, unsure of the notes in his repertoire’s half-octave range. His reputation as a talented musician debunked, he nevertheless justified his holding the helm at the label he founded, Saddle Creek, judiciously booking Oakland locals Port O’Brien as his opening band. Oberst isn’t the only A&R man with his eyes on O’Brien — just last year the band toured Europe with Modest Mouse, and for good reason.

With a quivering-lip, about-to-cry delivery held in common with Oberst, O’Brien frontman Van Pierazalowski sings log-cabin laments to the supporting sounds of soft-pedaled piano, back-porch banjo, and guitar strums. When drummer Joshua Barnhart turns on his snare, tightens his drumheads and polishes his crash cymbals, the sound morphs into an Appalachian anthem, the folk instrumentation swallowed by vocals sung together by the audience and the entire band. O’Brien leaves its audience members wishing their hearts had ears in one instant, and bouncing on the balls of their feet, arms held high and voices raised in song the next. If Oberst specializes in wrist-slitting emo, O’Brien cleans the wounds with a fusion of old-wives witch hazel and indie antiseptic sting: modern moonshine melodies to shout and sob our separate ways to catharsis.

PORT O’BRIEN With the Builders and the Butchers. Fri/11, 9:30 p.m., $12. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016, www.cafedunord.com

King Khan and the Shrines

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PREVIEW Local booty-shakers are hip to the musical ruler known as King Khan: when the two-member King Khan and BBQ Show played 12 Galaxies in December 2007, the joint was packed to the sweaty rafters. A bigger band calls for a bigger venue, so when the Montreal native returns to the Bay Area with his other project, King Khan and the Shrines, the faithful will no doubt follow him to the Great American Music Hall. His just-released latest, The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines (Vice), is a compilation of sorts, including an array of songs from earlier, difficult-to-track-down King Khan and the Shrines discs. "I love playing with BBQ as much as playing with the Shrines," he told me by e-mail — a necessary interview tactic due to his cell phone–deprived status in deepest Europe. "In the Shrines, we play bad-ass, ball-crushing R&B. The influences are pretty much the same, though the Shrines are more inspired by New Orleans 1960s funk and Sun Ra."

Although both of Khan’s bands are retro-influenced, he doesn’t feel stuck in the past. "I believe this music is an everlasting tradition that must be preserved and carried on," he wrote. "I don’t think we are that retro since we mix everything from free jazz to hardcore. Music is my religion, and I wanna preach the words of the masters to the masses and throw some of my own words in there too."

Khan fans may recall that his last trip to San Francisco wasn’t all rock ‘n’ roll romance, since one of his favorite guitars was lifted by some scumbag. "I am sad I lost it because it was really a Frankenstein guitar from the 1960s made by Harvey Thomas," he wrote. "I have put a hex on whoever stole it, and if you see a one-eyed man with a piece of spaghetti for a penis dangling between his legs, then ask him where my guitar is and punch him in the face."

Fortunately, he doesn’t hold it against the rest of us: "I love SF! I love America, and am so happy to bring my soul band back to where soul was born."

KING KHAN AND THE SHRINES With Jacuzzi Boys. Fri/11, 9 p.m., $13. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750, www.gamh.com

“Viva”

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REVIEW My eyes were literally popping at Viva, a time-warp back to the days of swingin’ sexploitation films by Radley Metzger, Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and similarly give-the-horny-people-what-they-want auteurs. Writer-director-producer-costumer-set designer and star Anna Biller plays Barbi, a bored Los Angeles housewife circa 1972. When her Ken doll-like hubby leaves her alone on a so-called extended business trip, adventurous Barbi becomes Viva, a frequently nude muse for every pervy guy in a neck scarf who crosses her path. Plot ain’t really important here, though — Viva is either a parody or an homage (or perhaps both), executed so perfectly it’s almost hard to tell it was made in the 21st century. Bad acting, sleazy dialogue, constant porny background music, incredible outfits and hair, drug-hazed orgies, olive-bedecked finger foods, a nudist colony, a call girl subplot, and musical numbers — Viva has everything you want to see in a movie, rendered in luridly bright Technicolor and filtered through what I can only describe as an XXX-rated scramble of The Brady Bunch. Biller is my new hero. I can’t wait to see what she does next. (Cheryl Eddy)

VIVA opens Fri/11 at the Red Vic. See Rep Clock for showtimes.

Timothy Horn: Bitter Suite

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REVIEW At some point this summer, you’ll likely be asked — or roped into — accompanying visitors to see the Dale Chihuly exhibition at the de Young Museum. It’s a pretty series of darkened rooms with enormous blown glass forms, lit to show off a floorshow of colors and whimsical shapes. There’s nothing conceptually difficult or politically offensive in this Willy Wonka–scale display. But if it leaves you craving craftsmanship and concept, a quick trip upstairs to see Timothy Horn’s installation "Bitter Suite" should cure that.

The Australian sculptor, known for his large-scale versions of 18th-century jewelry, also has a background in glasswork. But two of the three pieces he created for this part of the museum’s Collections Connections series sparkle with sugar crystals. Horn’s objects are a response to the not-so-happy Cinderella story of Alma Spreckles, widow of millionaire sugar baron Adolph Spreckles and founder of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Horn’s hefty 300-pound chandelier piece Diadem is a larger-than-life, rock candy–encrusted beast hanging near Sir John Lavery’s matronly oil portrait, Mrs. Adolph Bernard Spreckles (1932). Mirrors on either side of the room create that never-ending-hallway effect, with the honey-colored chunky chandelier echoing like a lost guest at Versailles. Big enough for a small princess to ride in, Horn’s carriage, Mother-Load, is also caked in sugar crystals and shellacked light brown. Looking like a giant baked cookie confection, it’s cousin to the museum’s sedan chair (circa 1760) that once served as a phone booth in Spreckles’ home. The third piece, Sweet Thing, a grossly magnified French baroque earring with big blown-glass pearl drops, drips with unwearable glamour. In this era of comically high-priced contemporary art and Las Vegas-as-the-adult-Disneyland, Horn points us to the intersection where beauty and greed mutate together.

TIMOTHY HORN: BITTER SUITE Through Oct. 12. Tues.–Sun., 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. (Fri., 9:30 a.m.–8:45 p.m.). De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, SF. $10, $7 seniors, $6 for ages 13–17 and college students with ID (free first Tues.). (415) 750-3600, www.famsf.org/deyoung

Sound in the balance

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"Anger is an energy," sang John Lydon in the Public Image Ltd. tune "Rise." San Francisco electronic artist Kush Arora harnesses a similar combustible force in his live shows and on the three full-length recordings that have made him an established club fixture and touring act. "I try to do something different with music and express the frustrations of the youth in this country," says the affable 26-year-old Haight District resident, who performs with Chicago’s MC Zulu July 13 at Dub Mission.

Arora’s ragga-techno fusions have struck a chord with audiences from the Bay Area to New York, while monthly hybrid live/DJ sets at Club Six’s Surya Dub night have earned him a broad audience that includes dubstep heads, bhangra fans, experimental electronic admirers, and grime listeners. It makes sense as the former Montessori School teacher has always balanced different cultures.

Born in San Leandro and educated in Orinda’s leafy suburbs, Arora ingested death metal, punk, and experimental-industrial sounds, as well as his family’s Indian and Punjab music, learning traditional instruments like the single-stringed tumbi and algoze flute. His music experience increased after interning at his uncle Aman Batra’s Manhattan hip-hop studio Sound Illusions, and later working for sound-editing software company Arboretum Systems.

In high school he formed an experimental band called Involution, which he helmed for six years before launching his solo noise project Clairaudience in the early ’00s. But it was while attending a 14-month audio recording course at Emeryville’s Ex’Pressions that he learned a signature skill: recording live vocals. "When I was writing songs for my first album [2004’s Underwater Jihad (Record Label/Kush Arora Productions)], I wasn’t impressed with my own work or where electronic music was at the time. It wasn’t badass enough," explains Arora, who also felt there was a lack of high quality, vocal-based dance music in the Bay.

Soon Arora contacted and tracked stateside Punjabi singers and ragga MCs, including Chicago’s MC Zulu, Trinidad’s Juakali, Jamaica’s N4SA, Los Angeles’ Wiseproof, and San Jose’s Sukh and Sultan. "I wanted to work with people who were dangerous and different, especially vocalists who didn’t fall into their music’s niche or category," Arora says of the often confrontational and political artists he’s recorded on full-lengths like 2006’s Bhang Ragga and 2007’s From Brooklyn to SF, both released on his Kush Arora Productions imprint. The albums brought club bookings far and near.

Over the past several years Arora has played large Indian gatherings, small IDM shows, underground warehouse events, raves, and the monthly Non-Stop Bhangra party in San Francisco. His performance breakthrough happened in 2006 at DJ Sep’s weekly Sunday-night reggae party at the Elbo Room, Dub Mission. "That changed my whole presence in the city," he says.

Arora believes his family’s roots in the often-volatile Punjab region between India and Pakistan breathes through his music. "That’s why I like bhangra. It has an element of aggression and sadness," he reflects, acknowledging that those also are traits he looks for in his vocal collaborations. "The artists I work with have a real tug-of-war between good and evil in their lives. My music is their redemption and my redemption in a fateful balance." *

KUSH ARORA

Dub Mission on Sundays, 9 p.m., $6

(Arora and MC Zulu on July 13, $7)

Elbo Room

647 Valencia, SF

www.dubmissionsf.com

Sneaky Creek

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TORSTEN KRETCHZMAR


What is it that makes Torsten Kretchzmar so different, so alluring? Perhaps it’s that he knows what girls like — as proven in the music video for "I Know What Girls Like," where the bespectacled German wins a barroom bro-down against a bunch of pool-playing dudes. Perhaps it’s because he’s the best Teutonic electropop icon since Klaus Nomi rocketed up to the sky. Or perhaps it’s because he’s — quite frankly — hot. Whatever the case, all will be screaming with Kretchzmarmaniac glee when he takes the stage. (Johnny Ray Huston) With Freddy McGuire, Justine Electra, and Katrina Lamb. July 16, 8 p.m., $5–$15 sliding scale. New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom, (415) 626-5416

JEL


Oakland sound collagist Jeffrey Logan impressed the heck outta everyone and their brothers with his artful Soft Money (Anticon, 2006). Next up, a putf8um single, which will guarantee plastic surgery for his entire family. (Kimberly Chun) With the Sixteens, the Fucking Ocean, and NED. July 17, 9 p.m., $7. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. (415) 626-0880

EXTRA ACTION MARCHING BAND VS. WHAT CHEER?


Can’t wait for the battle of the brass? The blood-spitting firestarters of the Bay’s EAMB kick off MCMF, and the 18-piece Providence, R.I., ensemble WC closes it with oodles of horn-dog action. (Chun) Extra Action Marching Band with Nurses, Fluff Girl, and Butt holes Urfers. July 18, 9 p.m., $8. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. (415) 626-0880. What Cheer? with Tiger Honey Pot, MGM Grand, and Super Secreta Especiale July 20, 3:30 p.m. (all-ages show), $5. Million Fishes Gallery, 2501 Bryant, SF. www.millionfishes.com. What Cheer? with Super Secreta Especiale July 20, 8 p.m., $10. Amnesia Bar, 853 Valencia, SF. (415) 970-0012

ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI


He’s baaack. (Chun) With Anavan, Late Young, Rainbow Arabia, and Hecuba. July 18, 9 p.m., $10-$15. Cellspace, 2050 Bryant, SF. (415) 648-7562

EARLIMART


There is life after Elliott Smith. The former Fresno-nauts have scored mucho acclaim for their layered, sonically enriched new album — pun alert — Hymn and Her (Majordomo). It’s the third most added college-radio album in the nation to boot. (Chun) With Built Like Alaska and the Parson Red Heads. July 19, 9:30 p.m., $14. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016

LADY GENIUS


Volunteer Pioneer is gone but not forgotten: this SF fivesome formed in the ashes of guitarist Jason Byers’ and vocalist-multi-instrumentalist Kyle Williams’ group, emphasizing the pop bliss of boy-girl harmonies. Wait for it, wait for it: their first EP on Gold Robot Records. (Chun) With Huff This, Gwendolyn, and the Parish. July 19, 9 p.m., $7. Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300

I’m here with lonesome

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Loneliness is invoked on three of four songs on the White Buffalo’s MySpace page: "Love Song 1" finds its narrator on an island for one, staring at the sun; "The Moon" visits the shadows and grays of solo days; and "10 ‘Til 2" revolves around hopes to screw a hooker in the morning. Yet the White Buffalo’s main man himself — a.k.a. Jake Smith — is far from some namby-pamby Elliott Smith or any number of whiny hand-me-a-tissue, I’m-not-long-for-this-tortured-life modern singer-songwriters. Though Smith admits some compositions are personal, most, he says on the phone from southern California, are "fantastic, darker, little evil journey songs that are just imagination things and aren’t inspired by anything — at least, not to my knowledge."

Venture along the White Buffalo’s dark little journeys, for they’re good ones to take — full of the character-building that comes from Greyhounding through the rolling West. You end up resigned yet hopeful, with no obligations other than dreams of your next stop. The real white buffalo is a rare creature, and the White Buffalo — at times a solo project, at others a trio — conjures a similar mythos: Smith’s bio trumpets his solid stature, heavy boozing, and ability, like that of bygone legends, to marry his lifestyle with his art. And though this sounds sort of cheesy, White Buffalo’s music is not. On the contrary, what I love about the White Buffalo is his evident sincerity. Smith’s voice plunges you into clear, deep pools: infinite, enveloping, fully resonant like Eddie Vedder at his best — by far the easiest comparison — but with hints of Cat Stevens’ whispery warble and Joe Cocker’s soulful rasp. The occasional twang is likely derived from Smith’s childhood musical diet of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Wielding an acoustic rock, alt-country folkiness that lacks pretension, Smith could’ve written the score accompanying the vast geographical and philosophical landscapes of Into the Wild (2007).

Though he now lives in Orange County, Smith’s music may ring a bell if you were lucky enough to catch one of his handful of shows during the few years he resided in San Francisco, where he "just raised hell and waited tables." Since then he’s toured the world, developed his guitar chops — which remain simple and "just a way to get the message and the vocal across" — and recorded a self-released, self-titled 2005 EP. "Let the suuunnn / Fill me up again," he croons on "Where Dirt and Water Collide." My response? Let this voiiiccce fill me up again — and again and again. Between the sun and the White Buffalo, there’s no loneliness here, really.

THE WHITE BUFFALO

With the Blank Tapes and Agent Ribbons

July 17, 9 p.m., $10

Hotel Utah Saloon

500 Fourth St., SF

(415) 546-6300

Cream-colored slumbers

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Thank you, Brian Martinez. Were it not for this mutual friend, guitarist-vocalist Laura Weinbach and violinist Sivan Sadeh may have never met, and Foxtails Brigade — perhaps best but weakly described as experimental folk — may never have formed. And the two 25-year-old, classically trained musicians would miss the synergy they possess playing à deux. As Weinbach raved over the phone while the pair drove around San Francisco: "What’s really cool about violin and Sivan in particular is it’s really like having two to three vocal lines. She totally harmonizes with me, melodically, through the violin. Every song she’s been a part of becomes 100 times better."

The duo met last September and immediately began performing: they’ve already logged about 35 shows, entertaining everyone from sweet old folks in Santa Barbara convalescent homes to Weinbach’s surrogate high school students (she’s a substitute teacher). Sadeh’s rocked the violin nearly her entire life, playing in ensembles as diverse as mariachi to garage, while Weinbach studied creative writing and music at the University of California, Santa Cruz, which is obvious in both her seemingly effortless classical fingerpicking and her lyrical storytelling.

"Porcelain" is how their friend Uni, the one with the ukulele, dubs their unmatched sound. She’s right: the pretty melodies and flower-strewn stories conjure memories of playing dress-up in vintage finery. Yet a sharp, almost violent edge is ever-present, saving the music from sugary-sweet, indie-folk doldrums. Foxtails’ consistent intensity and experimental theatrics — think Faun Fables, an oft-cited influence — are largely due to the tension created by Sadeh. Her violin melodies dance around Weinbach’s vocal ones, taunting and tiptoeing, until they collide at each song’s climax, an act that often is as beautifully dissonant as it is gracious. "I like to screech on my violin when I have a chance, and get that kind of whiny sound that people really don’t want to listen to but are attracted to for some reason," Sadeh said, adding that she’s learning to play the similarly eerie-sounding saw.

Weinbach’s lyrics never fail on the storytelling front, whether she’s channeling a scary doll that comes alive in the dark of night or writing about a psychotic student. In the latter song, "For Leo," she sings, "But I have known your kind before / You’re linked by paper cuts and sores / Rotten green banana eyes / With chocolate milk and hungry flies." Creepy yet compelling, Foxtails dare you to turn away.

FOXTAILS BRIGADE

July 20, 8 p.m., call for price

Knockout

3223 Mission, SF

(415) 550-6994

Feeding the fire of Mountainhood

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Do you know the way to … Almaden? Not many know about that tiny, once-rural cowtown-now-San Jose-incorporated bedroom community. But Michael Hilde, a.k.a. Mountainhood, can map it out for you.

"I’ve never, ever played a show where I’ve told somebody that I’m from Almaden and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ No one has ever heard of it," the affable and intense songwriter swears, sitting on a log in a breezy patch of woods at a sandy edge of the Presidio. "But it’s a wild town. When I moved there, it was straight-up country. There were stallion farms and on the edge of my block there was a Harley-Davidson bar. Every Saturday night, guaranteed, you’d see two fat, wet guys just duking it out through the window."

Love of home led Hilde to name his 2007 CD-R on Finland’s 267 Laattajaa label after his town, as well as the name of his musical project (he switched to Mountainhood after a dream spent communing with Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic on a star-filled mountain). Home also brought him to City Hall when that biker bar, Feed & Fuel, was about to be torn down. "It’s funny because when I went there, right before I was to speak, they were doing this whole bill on whether cops could have the right to bust into illegal immigrants’ houses and harass them," Hilde recalls. "And I was, like, ‘I can’t believe I’m here to, like, talk about saving a bar. There were all these people with translators weeping. So I got up and gave an impromptu speech, and then afterwards, I sat back down, and people were, like, ‘You were amazing! What do you do?’ I was, like, ‘I’m a folk singer,’ and they were like, ‘Oh, that makes sense. We get it.’<0x2009>"

And folks are starting to get Hilde’s brand of cosmic Americana — a blend of delicate Banhart-esque rusticity, 1960s-era transcendental instrumentals, and modern-day home-recorded drone experimentalism. After a handful of lower-fi releases, his next two albums, Thunderpaint the Stone Horse Electric and Wings from a Storm, will be put out this summer on 180-gram vinyl, with stickers of Hilde’s impressionistic paintings by Time Lag. Yet despite the fact that Hilde has been building a community of sorts with his monthly Story night at the Stork Club — each performer adds a bit to a running narrative during their set — Hilde seems to cherish his outsider status in the local music scene as he describes one packed Lobot Gallery performance. "I’ll never forget their expressions," he says, miming a look of opened-mouth disbelief. "It’s stayed that way ever since I started playing here."

MOUNTAINHOOD

July 19, 9 p.m., $5

Argus Lounge

3187 Mission, SF

(415) 824-1447

Sketches of Spain

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John Fahey remains the beacon of American Primitive Guitar, but Peter Walker’s two out-of-print 1960s albums — Rainy Day Raga and Second Poem to Karmela or Gypsies Are Important (both Vanguard; 1966, 1969) are benchmarks of exuberant raga-blues sure to destroy any open-tuned acolyte. Solo guitar has never been a bankable venture — Fahey himself pawned instruments to pay the rent — but the recent stream of reissues and compilations (e.g., Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series and Numero Group’s Guitar Soli) highlight the breadth and influence of this loose-knit musician’s movement, while younger disciples like Jack Rose, James Blackshaw, and Ben Chasny reanimate the tradition. Walker writes me a series of e-mails from Peru about his eye-opening experience touring with Rose: "I had no idea I could work in this country or that anyone cares about what I was playing…. All of these younger players have picked up the ball from Sandy Bull, me, Robbie Basho, and John Fahey and run with it."

The fresh faces on the 2006 A Raga for Peter Walker tribute album seem eager to lap up Walker’s former torrents of notes, but the 70-year-old guitarist has long since moved on to the more capacious terrain of Spanish flamenco. He points out that the form is based on some of the same scales as raga in the liner notes to his new record, Echo of My Soul (Tompkins Square), a bridge he’s given himself plenty of time to cultivate in his 40-year gap between records.

"I first went to Spain to study in the fall of 1963," he writes. "It wasn’t until that winter that I had a chance to study in Valencia with a Sr. Pappas, who sold meat during the day and taught flamenco at night a few miles outside the city. It transformed my view of the instrument and what was possible." This from the man who participated in at least two zeitgeists in his younger days, playing the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit with people like Tim Hardin and Karen Dalton, and serving as the "musical director" for Timothy Leary’s LSD-coated celebrations.

Once a bright light of the counterculture, Walker’s voracious musicality returned him to the semi-anonymity of tutelage. While Echo of My Soul evokes tender evenings and intergenerational anthems, it’s also something of a student portfolio: "I made a recording each year reflecting my development, [and] I took the best of these to make a compilation to submit as my application to play in a major competition in Murcia," Walker writes. "The consensus in the Sacromonte community was whether or not it was pure traditional flamenco. It was certainly very beautiful music, so I decided to release it."

When I saw Walker play at the 21 Grand two years ago, I knew nothing of this long back-story, but the explorative nature of his musicianship was plain from his relaxed performance. He ran through many of the lyrical themes and rippling chord clusters that comprise Echo of My Soul, pausing between each piece to relay a story from Seville, Granada, or Woodstock. The 21 Grand is a chilly performance space, but Walker imbued it with worldly warmth — something decidedly lacking in most club performances. It might seem anachronistic to travel thousands of miles to study a musical form in the age of the iPod, but computer interfaces cannot satisfy curiosity in such full bloom. "I am in Lima, having a blast," Walker mentions in our first e-mail exchange. "Great music scene here…. The flamenco/Inca/jazz fusion is great."

PETER WALKER

With the William Hooker Trio

July 19, 7 p.m., $12

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Noise to go

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Load combo Monotract inspired immediate double — nay, triple — takes as it took the stage at the label’s South by Southwest showcase at Room 710 in Austin, Texas, last year. Noise impresario Carlos Griffoni and ace drummer Roger Rimada were missing in action due to a snowstorm, and the New York City band’s sole rep turned out to be guitarist-vocalist Nancy Garcia — flailing away on guitar with massive curls and girlish frock and evoking images of early punk women before the genre’s look, and sound, became codified. Alongside Garcia was an impromptu experimental-music supergroup incarnation of Monotract — Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore also on guitar, Burning Star Core’s C. Spencer Yeh on violin, and Magik Marker’s Pete Nolan on drums — generating a memorable, noise-fueled set only tangentially related to the genuine article’s powerful album that same year, Trueno Oscuro (Load). The fourth album by the band ended up drawing praise from both Pitchfork Media and The Wire for its loud-soft waves of epic distortion ("Red Tide"), no-wave-ish blurt ("Cafu y Kaka"), and electronic-groan tribal-chant ("Big N"), which saw Garcia memorably motor-mouthing toward the reverb-bristled finale.

Apparently Garcia is not only resourceful in a jam, but something of a triple, even quadruple, threat. The Miami, Fla., native of Cuban American descent has been working in dance, video, and visual art, in addition to music, since moving to NYC eight years ago, where she studied at the Merce Cunningham dance studio and recently received a master’s in interactive technology at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. And she’s traveled far —aesthetically and geographically — from her sun-baked teen years in Miami, listening to grunge on the radio and flailing at her guitar as part of Rat Bastard’s Laundry Room Squelchers.

Her first tour with the noise group at 18 led to some "permanent damage, for sure," she says with a chuckle, speaking by phone from NYC. "I was really young and in high school, so it was just really amazing that someone invited me to go on a stage and I could play whatever I wanted. Basically there was no judgment passed, ever."

A dancer since age six, Garcia began composing music and dance at around the same time, so it was natural that one medium informed the other. Garcia’s 2007 dance piece, No Keys, for instance, juxtaposed frugging and head-banging rock moves drawn from Tina Turner and Iggy Pop with lyrics from the Slits and John Holt, beneath one of the musician’s wall-size drawings. Another work, 2005’s localstwang, saw Garcia moving and making music simultaneously, using contact mics attached to effects pedals and amps. That sense of play will factor into Garcia’s Mission Creek show — a first for her as a solo live performer: it will involve guitar, oscillators, and perhaps other "random instruments in the space," she offers. "I like to stay sort of open. Oh, also some movement. It’s hard not to move when there’s music playing."

NANCY GARCIA

With Fishbeck/Duplantier, Jane(t) Pants, and Kunsole

Fri/18, 8 p.m., $5–<\d>$15 sliding scale

New Langton Arts

1246 Folsom, SF

(415) 626-5416

Dye, dye, darlings

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Feel like dyeing? If yes, there are many products available to help you do so, but it’s unlikely that any color you choose will be anywhere near as exciting as the fearsome fun that Bleachy Bleachy Bleach conjures up. By the time they’ve set a dance beat behind their computer-scrambled screams and guitars, second-guessing is out of the question: these two shred hard without having to bring any ordinary instruments on stage.

Band members Kadienne Eslami and Jessie Abbey met in high school in Pleasanton and often went to shows in Oakland, Berkeley, and friends’ houses before deciding to start a band. According to Eslami, who spoke about the project by phone from her Pleasanton home, it was the frequent re-dyeing of their formerly purple and pink heads of hair that brought about the Bleachy Bleachy Bleach name — a moniker that also suggests the purging, triply frown-obliterating force of their music. Smiles are what got them started in the first place. "We started out playing through a PlayStation on a DDR mat, then started putting more emotion into it," said Eslami, who spells out her first name on one of the group’s earliest tracks, "Boobopera," before the bass beat kicks in and a splintered "easy lemon squeezy" rap unravels into screeches and buzzing chatter in French.

They employ noise in a variety of ways, alternately emotional and playful: the manic skitter of their new song "Toys" closes out its beat with a small dog’s bark. The duo also make use of a toy guitar, saxophone, and other assorted odd instruments in their convention-melting assemblages.

"Mostly what we do is record with instruments and collaborate with friends to make beats," Eslami says, "particularly Dylan Reznick from [the now-defunct band] Robin Williams on Fire, and most recently with Vice Cooler of XBXRX." When gigging on the John Benson–built Bus venue and elsewhere, they sing on microphones alongside their programmed laptop, adding that human presence that makes their songs so affecting. "Tennies," a song off their 12-inch coming out later this year, is about a guy Eslami met on Muni who had holes drilled in his head: "he explained how when people talk to him, he interprets their sentences backwards and has to translate them back to himself." Backwards translation won’t be necessary to keep beat with the Bleach, but scratching a chalkboard could make for fun accompaniment.

BLEACHY BLEACHY BLEACH

With Rubber O Cement, Take Up Serpents, Ettrick, Amir Coyle, Mikey Yeda, and Hora Flora

July 17, 8 p.m. doors, $5

Balazo 18

2183 Mission, SF

www.balazogallery.com

Resurrection blues

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› kimberly@sfbg.com

Lazarus has risen — in North Beach. Picture him, dazed and confused, perfumed with decay and dragging a tattered burial cloth, easily mistaken for yet another starry-eyed traveler in search of beat antiquities, wandering down Columbus Street. But the Bible-thumping, god’s honest truth is Lazarus is more likely to be sighted making a beeline into Café Trieste, work-weary and bright-eyed, smiling broadly and snatching a small iced coffee at the counter. That’s our latter-day Lazarus, otherwise known as Trevor Montgomery, once a member of Tarentel and the Drift and now generating an occasionally beautiful, always heartfelt moan of his own, last heard on 2007’s almost-epic animistic howl of a recording, Hawk Medicine (Temporary Residence).

We meet at Montgomery’s former workplace, Trieste, amid the still wild-eyed bohos, newly pressed and somewhat impressed seekers, and aspiring poets — or at least bloggers — hunched over laptops in crusty corners. Montgomery slips into the crowd seamlessly here at his liberation locale. When he first moved to North Beach about five years ago, he lived in a Chinatown hotel — as the sole non-Cantonese speaker. "It really freed me up to really write songs because I’d been living with Danny [Grody] and Jefre [Cantu-Ledesma] in Tarentel for years before that and I could never play," he explains above the din of java-making. "I felt like everybody was listening to me."

Now in the shadow of Coit Tower, Montgomery is glad to find that people are indeed listening: the four-piece touring version of Lazarus — which includes Kathryn Sechrist and Kelly Nyland in addition to the Papercuts’ Jason Quever — recently returned from a date at All Tomorrow’s Parties in the United Kingdom, curated by Montgomery’s friends Explosions in the Sky. He swears it was probably Lazarus’ best performance to date. "People surprisingly wouldn’t let me leave the stage," he says happily. "I’m really, like, all blown away." On top of that was the thrill of selling merch next to Wu-Tang Clan and Animal Collective.

Unfortunately there’s sadness mixed in with the joy. Montgomery also has had to cope with the aftershocks of his mother’s massive brain aneurysm two months ago, which sent him down to Orange County, where he grew up, to "take care of my dad and make dinner for him." Still, he was able to take his recording gear to make music in his parents’ garage — pieces that likely will show up on his forthcoming 12-inch on Secretly Canadian offshoot St. Ives, which will sport recycled, hand-modified LP covers courtesy of Montgomery and his artist chum Ryan Coffey. "I think the theme of the record musically is going to be extremes: opposites," Montgomery says. "I’ve been doing just a lot of wild, maniacal guitar playing." He laughs and throws his arms around. "You know, I have a lot of that in me. I need to get it out." *

LAZARUS

With Tiny Vipers and Garrett Pierce

Thurs/17, 9:30 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

www.hemlocktavern.com

Get the Drift

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If you haven’t caught wind of the Drift, maybe you should take that coat off. This San Francisco outfit’s instrumental rock creeps deftly outward and upward into an exhilarating, rapidly unfolding sprawl, channeling dub and old school jazz fusion in its whirring excursions.

Over the phone from SF, Danny Grody, the group’s guitarist and keyboardist, happily talked about the band’s inception and recording their second album, Memory Drawings, released in April on Temporary Residence. The Drift began as a trio — including Grody; drummer Rich Douthit; and Trevor Montgomery, who later left to focus on his main project, Lazarus — coalescing tangentially to the buzzing prog-scape of Tarentel into a group with a more contemplative and spacious jazz-like dynamic. Thanks to trumpeter Jeff Jacobs’ entrance through an ad on Craigslist and the upright bass playing of Safa Shokrai, the lineup that produced 2005’s Noumena (Temporary Residence) and Memory Drawings came together.

"With our older songs, parts tended to linger a bit in the ether before they settled," said Grody, who points out that the trumpet and guitar carry the melody in tandem this time out, while the whole ensemble tightened the shifts between the "more structured elements and the more amorphous, abstract spaces" of their music. Tracks like "Golden Sands" are delightfully reminiscent of the sighing final two albums from Talk Talk: brushed drums and airy, delayed guitar work are overlaid with ghostly trumpet smears and keyboards that could have been on Terry Riley’s Rainbow in Curved Air (Columbia, 1967).

Recorded with Jay Pellicci at Tiny Telephone in SF, Memory Drawings sports a title inspired by Donal Mosher’s sleeve art, which depicts a Colter Jacobsen photograph of a moon-flash on a dark ocean at two levels of remove — a pencil drawing in an LP sleeve composed from memory of the photograph, and a second drawing rendered from a memory of the prior memory. These "memory drawings" are eerily similar to, as Grody points out, the band’s own approach to recording and live performance: their collective memory of their songs, free-form in length and in varying stages of completion, ultimately determines their recorded and performed shapes. Boasting an "arsenal of fragments" alongside more finished grooves, Grody explains, the Drift "tried to cover the spectrum from really defined pieces to things that are more skeletal" in laying their efforts to tape. These songs remain in continual drift, highlighting the beauty possible when music forges new space within the sometimes serendipitous gaps of memory.

The Drift

With Christopher Willits, Mi Ami, Tussle, and Eyes

July 17, 9 p.m., $8

Gray Area Gallery

1515 Folsom, SF

www.mcmf.org

Volume 42 Number 41 Flip-through Edition

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Can’t knock the Tussle

0

› johnny@sfbg.com

Playing name-that-tune with Tussle isn’t easy. The San Francisco group makes instrumentals. As founding member Nathan Burazer puts it, they’re "not very word-oriented." And neither am I, it turns out, when faced with the challenge of matching the eight out of nine songs I’ve heard from their propulsive Cream Cuts (Smalltown Supersound) with the album’s final track listing. For a minute, I try to get new member, bassist and electronics player Tomo Yasuda, to ID songs based on my descriptions, but noting that one number — "Transparent C" — has a beep-beep motif, not unlike that of a Road Runner cartoon, only gets us so far. There’s some merriment when another song with handclaps that a mutual pal describes as the "gay one" turns out to have the title "Rainbow Claw." But in the end, it’s easiest to discuss and define Cream Cuts while listening to it.

Which is fine with me, because from first listen I’ve considered Cream Cuts one of the best albums of the year — a metamorphosis in which the band’s rhythmic core becomes more sinuous, its atmospherics more expansive, and its overall sound both deeper and more party-ready. Though the foreboding planet-of-the-vampires ambience of "Third Party" would not be out of place on Cluster’s underrated Cluster 2 (Brain, 1972), Burazer is clear that he and fellow original member Jonathan Holland are striving to move beyond the "File under: ESG" or "File under: Can" download dog-tags sometimes attached to their 2004 debut Kling Klang (Troubleman Unlimited) and 2006’s Telescope Mind (Smalltown Superound). In fact, "File under: Wu-Tang" would be a more interesting — and correct — frame of reference for the new release’s downtempo moments. "We listen to a lot of hip-hop," Burazer says. "A lot of Wu-Tang, Ghostface, Lil Wayne, and J-Dilla."

The cover art for Cream Cuts, by Simon Evans and Lart Cognac Berliner, uses hand-woven colored paper. The music inside is bathed in moonlight. This nighttime resplendence is apt, since all four current members of Tussle — including Holland’s fellow drummer Warren Huegel — are fans of the blind street musician and compositional visionary Moondog. But whereas Moondog’s old stomping ground was Sixth Avenue in NYC, Tussle is creating a SF city sound. It’s a sound that can be traced back to North Carolina in 1994, when Burazer and Holland first turned one room in a shared apartment into a place to make music. On new tracks such as "ABACBA" and "Titan," the jam session intuitiveness at the core of Burazer’s and Holland’s bond takes on a new finesse, momentum, and flair for drama.

All of the above reach anthemic immediacy on Cream Cuts‘ "Night of the Hunter." There, the chunkiness of past Tussle recordings gives way to a more fluid and formidable funkiness. It takes a certain nerve to give a song the same name as a classic film, but Burazer has an innate understanding of the Southern menace and beauty within Charles Laughton’s 1955 masterwork. The electronics player’s childhood in Carolina included time spent in a cult. "My parents and I were full-time volunteers in this hospice in the mountains [that turned into a cult]," he explains. "There was a guru, everyone met on the full moon, and there was wife- and child-swapping. There were no drugs or sexual violence — it was mild. But it was a cult."

The experience — one I relate to somewhat — left Burazer "allergic to holier-than-thou authority figures." Instead of a follow-the-leader dynamic, he and Holland built Tussle on a foundation of cooperative intuition, and they’ve discovered another level of open, even-handed collaboration with the group’s newest member, Yasuda. "Tomo puts me at ease," Burazer says. "He’s so easy to work with and so brilliant. He has a calming quality. Things are light with him, even though he’s carrying the low end musically. As a person, he’s playful." This playfulness is just as fruitful in another of Yasuda’s current projects, Coconut, where he and visual artist Colter Jacobsen create meandering folk and jazz improvisations that Arthur Russell might appreciate.

Tussle in 2008 aren’t without a sense of humor or adventure, whether it involves playing under the influence of natural hallucinogens in a Museum of Natural History or bringing a Gay.com Frisbee in their percussion bag to a show at CellSpace. In the end, naming what they do or attempting to define it is beside the point. "Some of the [song] titles come from [playing] Mad Libs on tour," Burazer offers when I ask how this group of instrumentalists deals with words. It makes sense: Cream Cuts is Tussle’s mad liberation from past constraints, a ‘shrooming world of sound that offers pleasure right now, and hints of greater possibilities to come.

TUSSLE

With Christopher Willits, Mi Ami, the Drift, and Eyes

July 17, 9 p.m., $8

Gray Area Gallery

1515 Folsom, SF

www.mcmf.org

COCONUT

With Waters and Hollers, and Shygrape

July 17, 9 p.m., $5

Argus Lounge

3187 Mission, SF

www.mcmf.org

Speed Reading

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BALDWIN’S HARLEM: A BIOGRAPHY OF JAMES BALDWIN

By Herb Boyd

Atria

272 pages

$24

Herb Boyd’s Baldwin’s Harlem is a successful primer on James Baldwin’s work and a well-researched travelogue through the history of ever-changing Harlem. But it’s also something more.

When Boyd, an accomplished journalist for the Amsterdam News in Harlem, was approached to write a biography of a native son and his native soil, it probably seemed like an apt placement. And therein lies the rub.

In the book’s preface, Boyd writes that he "felt a pressing need to defend [Baldwin] from some of those writers and critics who seemed to relish bashing him with each new publication, or renouncing him for being less than totally committed to the struggle for Black liberation." He then proceeds to relish in a similar type of bashing and renouncing — in this case, connected to sexual liberation.

Over the course of Baldwin’s prolific writing career, he had more beef than 50 Cent and LL Cool J combined. Baldwin may have possessed a postmodern understanding of beef as a way to gain notice, a knowledge employed later by the aforementioned rappers. Boyd continues this legacy by excoriating Baldwin (and the word excoriate). He does this through off-hand commentary wedged between well-researched biographical and bibliographical elements. These comments reveal more about the biographer’s none-too-flattering personal opinion than they do his subject’s life. One striking example occurs when Boyd describes a young Baldwin’s sexual deflowering by an older tough as his being "turned out." The homophobic contempt in that chapter alone taints Boyd’s portrait of Baldwin. Being a black writer from New York is simply not enough to give James Baldwin the justice he deserves.

Beyong the nerd herd

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW Amid impoverished rural segregation, my parents were part of the first bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. While my father studied Frantz Fanon and tae kwan do in Okinawa, my mother went on to be a probation officer in Los Angeles during the Watts riots. I was born in a riot-torn Washington, DC, around the time my father helped take over the administration offices of Howard University. I’m a Black Movement baby, and Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of my number.

Coates’ The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood (Spiegel and Grau, 240 pages, $22.95) is a memoir about growing up in Baltimore through the Black Power 1970s and crack power ’80s as one of the seven children of Paul Coates, owner and founder of Black Classic Press.

Judging from recent books such as Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao to Shawn Taylor’s Big Black Penis, the black nerd has become the locus of pomo literary style. And why not? Who, besides me, didn’t love Urkel? Coates begins his tale as a sensitive black nerd — Beautiful Struggle even has a Dungeon and Dragons–esque map of Old Baltimore on the inside front cover. Swords, dragons, and Monotype Corsiva font chart intersections like Garrison and Liberty, where, as the author relates, "the Orcs cold-played me for my scullie." Ultimately Coates moves beyond the nerd trend, instead playing the vulnerable, reluctant warrior with grace and wit.

Initially unwilling to fight, Coates is sucker-punched, jacked, and tormented on the mean streets. To navigate Baltimore’s threats and perils means acquiring what he calls "The Knowledge": street smarts and savvy that is "the sum experience of our ways from the time Plymouth Rock landed on us." This knowledge is built upon the realization that "death was jammed in us all, hell-bent on finding a way out," and that a man shouldn’t measure his "life in years but in style."

In Beautiful Struggle, Coates contrasts his older brother Bill and father Paul. Bill is a popular player in a decaying neighborhood, struggling to make it to the outside world. Paul is a former Black Panther and full-time revolutionary attempting to raise seven kids to attend the mecca of Howard University, where he’s a janitor, rogue black historian, and would-be publisher.

Watching Bill embrace hip-hop, smoke blunts, chase dimepieces, and pack a biscuit, Coates becomes versed in The Knowledge. He sets it against his father Paul’s "Knowledge of Self," as drawn from Kwanzaa, Nkrumah, and the consciousness of being more god than man and more man than animal. In attempting to find a balance between these tropes, Coates invokes the words and experiences of J.A. Rodgers, Rakim, George Jackson, Ishmael Reed, and KRS-ONE with uncanny ease. He embodies both the hope and the bane of the Black Power movement, and his flashbacks capture its tender and toughening moments.

It is this tension that gives The Beautiful Struggle its potency. Coates charts the seemingly boundless optimism of his father’s generation and the rising cynicism of his and brother’s. He does so with a compassionate, poetic voice that is rooted in a no-bullshit grasp of his personal history and of American history over the past 60 years. To read this book is to catch a glimpse of the profound legacy and letdown of a generation raised to rebel but forced instead to fight disappointment, imprisonment, and despair. As Coates puts it, "The Knowledge Rule 2080: From maggots to men, the world is a corner bully. Better you knuckle up and go for yours than have to bow your head and tuck your chain."

Laid, paid, played

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› kimberly@sfbg.com

"The problem with you is that you have a shitty way of looking at things. I just look at the dopeness, but you just look at the wackness." Ouch. Tough talk coming from the girl of your dreams, but Stephanie — The Wackness‘s been-there, banged-that uptown teenage heartbreaker — turns out to be right on, in her glibly damaged way.

It’s 1994, a moment simultaneously innocent and ominous, heady and paranoia-stoking: the year Kurt Cobain checks out of this temporal plane, while the Notorious B.I.G., OutKast, Nas, and assorted members of the Wu-Tang Clan check in with name-making first albums. New York City’s new mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, is taking his crackdown on so-called quality-of-life crimes citywide, giving his police department more power to put the kibosh on graffiti, public beer drinking, and loud boom boxes. The threat of imminent arrest hangs, seldom spoken, over Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), who’s just graduated from high school and selling pot as the summer days melt away before his college years begin. Lonely and socially awkward, Luke either withdraws from reality, playing videogames and listening to rap, or stays at a safe remove, choosing a remote perch above the crowd at parties. The latter tactic comes in handy as he witnesses his parents’ squabbling and increasing money troubles.

Luke’s sole talent seems to be peddling weed from an ice cream cart as he roams the city. That, and making mixtapes, thanks to ideas caught from his supplier Percy (Method Man, who wittily introduces Luke to the Notorious B.I.G. by way of "The What," a Biggie and Method collabo). His only friend appears to be his therapist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), a gray-maned boomer who trades sessions for dime bags and is in dire need of some healing himself. Squires’ stepdaughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby) is the hopelessly distant beacon of hope in Luke’s firmament, so when the two are stuck in the city for one last summer before irrevocable collegiate change, Luke can’t help but lose his cool.

Turns out it’s the sweaty, sweltering season for everyone: a time to tell truths and strip away shopworn facades. Squires and Luke bond, roving way out of the office. The teen instructs the counselor in the ways of weed dealing, while amping up his business to save his family from eviction. The pair also look to get laid, Squires’ prescription to all of Luke’s ills. And the women do sail through, including Mary-Kate Olsen as Luke’s jam band–y socialite client, who amazingly gets to second base with Squires, a half-mockable, half-empathetic character that Kingsley disappears into with sweaty, beady-eyed desperation.

Writer-director Jonathan Levine shows he learned a thing or two from a youth spent assisting NYC rhapsodist-anthropologist Paul Schrader. Painting this surprisingly gentle étude to an urban youth in sepia hues, he takes care to get the context right, from the vernacular built on "that’s mad crazy" and "that’s really dope" to a soundtrack laced with tunes like A Tribe Called Quest’s "Can I Kick It?". That song’s "Walk on the Wild Side" bassline conjures the gritty, narcotic lassitude of summer in the city while bridging the years between Squires and Luke.

Luke may not be as brainy and broken as Holden Caulfield or as mortality-fixated and mundane as Andrew Largeman of Garden State (2004), but Peck hits the right notes of cringe-inducing yet pungent realism required to turn this potential cipher into a full-fledged character. Especially when Luke dares to reach for dopeness and call Stephanie on a pay phone, and his "I love you" quickly turns into a defensive "OK, if you can’t handle that, fuck it! Fuck you!" Alternately vulnerable, stumbling, and Teflon-clad, the kid will find his way through the urban jungle of his teens, one way or another. 2

THE WACKNESS

Opens Fri/11 at Bay Area theaters

www.sonyclassics.com/thewackness

Orphan storm

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

The orphan was a staple figure in silent cinema. She or he evoked the pathos required in sentimental melodramas, and also highlighted a prevalent social problem. The predicament wasn’t that orphans existed so much as that orphanages did. Dickensian clichés of wicked minders profiting from the ill-keeping of abused and undernourished charges were often not far from the truth.

The notion that flowers of pure innocence might spring from this kind of environmental mire was a popular dramatic conceit. It floated entire careers for such variably waiflike or plucky Pollyannas as Janet Gaynor, Lillian Gish, Mary Miles Minter (until she went down in a murder scandal), and of course, Mary Pickford, who was still playing foundlings in 1926, at 34. Their male counterparts were generally allowed to be scrappier: sad from being misunderstood, but gosh-darn-determined to prove the haters and snobs wrong.

One of the least-known titles in the 13th San Francisco Silent Film Festival, The Soul of Youth is a small delight that hews to and transcends the reigning tropes of screen ragamuffinery circa 1920. It opens on a note of heavy moral correctitude, as titles inform us that "A woman, who pray God there be no more like, has offered for sale her unborn child. Think of it: a helpless little baby, before its eyes have opened on the world, labeled ‘unwanted’ and sold!" Framed only to call the mother’s character into question, it’s no matter that this woman is impoverished, or that she dies after giving birth, or that she was initially tricked into the exchange by an addict who had the goods on her errant politician boyfriend.

Little Ed is then dumped into the nearest orphanage, a cruel place where — when next encountered at age 14, as played by 17-year-old Lewis Sergant — he is considered incorrigible and unfairly blamed for thefts and other misdeeds. His rescue of an imperiled black babe (cringingly named Rastus) goes unappreciated. It’s only when he secretly takes in a fellow underdog — a stray canine named Simp — that "for the first time, love enters Ed’s life." When this uninvited boarder is discovered, the pair must escape the orphanage and then the police, landing on that "Mecca of the homeless — the streets."

Meanwhile it turns out the sleazebag who rejected him as a son is now a corrupt mayoral candidate angling to defeat a terribly upstanding one. Ed’s accidental involvement in that race — by risking his neck to preserve the respectability of virtuous rich folk and becoming a hero — proves his ultimate salvation. In classic wish-fulfillment fashion, he ends up (à la Little Orphan Annie) rewarded via adoption by the morally superior luxury class. But Soul of Youth is savvy enough to contrast Ed’s new family with a wealthy neighbor who thinks she can replace her beloved lap-cat with a cherub sporting "blue eyes and golden curls." Just like Paris Hilton and her impulse-buy menagerie!

Soul of Youth was directed by William Desmond Taylor, whose yet-unsolved 1922 murder destroyed the futures of actresses (and intimates) Minter and Mabel Normand. The lovely work he does here makes one lament his too-short career. His protagonist, the floppy-banged, spunkily adorable Sargent, played Huckleberry Finn the same year. He subsequently suffered the usual post-juvenile career slide, resurfacing as a pal of Tarzan in mid-’30s serials and exiting as an unidentified thug in Miss Mink, a beyond-obscure film from 1949. He spent the next 20 years as a California state probation officer.

During Taylor’s youth as a performer, Victorian morality still targeted his own lack of a parent — as well as his outright illegitimacy — as inherently morally suspect and something to be overcome. Simultaneously prim and liberal in teaching its big lesson, Soul of Youth winds up firmly on the side of nurture over nature. "The kind of man this boy will make depends on his surroundings. It’s up to us, dear," the film’s virtuous tycoon tells his vain socialite wife.

Alongside the poorhouse and the asylum, the orphanage was a widespread 19th-century American public entity later disgraced/dismantled by reformists. The orphanage helped usher in the "welfare" era — stressing economic support where parents couldn’t manage rather than pushing abandoned, "bastard," or otherwise problematic kids into warehouse institutions. (Those group and foster homes they were shunted toward hardly fixed all historic problems, however.) Soul of Youth retains charm for insisting class, economic, and other social divisions might well tumble before the sheer force of Ed’s nascent Boy Scout–dom.

THE SOUL OF YOUTH Sat/12, 11:40 a.m., Castro

THE 13TH SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL runs July 11–13 at the Castro, 429 Castro, SF. Advance tickets (most shows $12–$17) are available by calling 1-800-838-3006 or visiting www.silentfilm.org

Erraticism

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› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Rube Roy’s gonna enjoy this … That sweet bluegrass kitty I wrote about? We got in an argument and I was the one who had to go to the hospital. It bit me, the little love, and drew blood. Just a couple a drops, but still, I’m a stickler for details. I called the advice nurse to see if I should bring the poor, exposed kitten in for a blood test, since probably some of my cells got left in its mouth, and it might have had a small cut or cold sore in there, for all I knew.

Ironically, the nurse was more worried about me! In her opinion, since this was technically a wild animal, albeit a cute one, I was at risk for rabies, kitten scratch fever, and sundry heavy metal maladies. Infection … who knew kittens could be so dangerous?

"Are you behaving erratically?" the advice nurse asked. To be fair, there were other questions too, but this was the one that impressed me. Was I behaving erratically?

I had one of those blink-of-the-eye moments, where a sudden shift in perspective allows you to see your life objectively and with absolute clarity. No time passes, yet you take instantaneous and discerning stock of your entire past, present, future, and (if you’re me) present perfect progressive.

Four years I’ve been living with my insane cat in this falling-down shack in the woods next to my homemade falling-down chicken coop. I’ve been driving a perplexingly sporadic little blue pickup truck that isn’t a pickup truck and only sometimes has a horn, or headlights, or first gear, and also only sometimes goes.

I’ve been lying outside in my junkyard bathtub, plucking my boobs and wearing a cowboy hat. There’s a black rubber ducky with anarchist slogans floating between my feet, a jar of piss next to a bowl of popcorn outside the tub, and on a beautiful Tuesday morning, to give just one example, while folks half my age and even probably one or two people twice my age are stuck in offices being productive members of society, here I am in said tub talking on the phone with you, Ms. Advice Nurse, because I tried to help a kitten.

"Me? Behaving erratically?" I said, more than a little miffed at her insinuating tone. "I’m a consistent character, if you don’t mind! Did I bite a kitten? No. A kitten bit me. Am I behaving erratically? What about this little nefarious bastard?"

My chickens were lined up on a log, just 10 feet away, looking at me and screaming. Inside our shack, Weirdo the Cat was jumping up onto and off of our chair, repeatedly, trying to bat down song lyrics that were hanging like laundry on my indoor clothesline, swaying in the wind because the windows were open to air out something I’d done.

"What’s that noise?" the advice nurse asked. "And what was that word you used?"

"Chickens. Didn’t I tell you? I’m outside, in the tub," I said. "What? Nefarious? It means wicked, or evil."

"Hold on a minute," she said, and she went away and came back nine seconds later and said I had to go see the doctor. As soon as possible. I guess because chicken farmers don’t normally use the word nefarious.

So, well, so I was erratic. And scared now too, so I called in "bit" from work, and did go see my doctor. I hate heavy metal music … and am susceptible to suggestion. Even dumb ones, like I could die from this horrific kitten wound, which was on my index finger and looked like a little dot, or freckle, only smaller.

My doctor laughed her ass off. She did give me a vaccine shot against tetanus, whooping cough, and something else — not because I got poked by a kitty, but because I work around little baby human infants and shit, in addition to chickens, chicken wire, and nefarious wildlife. So here’s why I love my doctor, and not advice nurses: while I was there, I showed her some warts I have and she said, and I quote, "Put duct tape on them."

————————————————–

My new favorite restaurant is Cable Car Pizza. And if you believe that, I’ve got a cute little kitten for you. This place kinda sucks. Only reason we went was we had a band to feed, and Arinell wasn’t open yet. I started foaming at the mouth when they rang me up. Georgie Bundle said $26 was the going rate for a large with a couple of toppings. If so, they might consider putting that price on their board, which apparently hasn’t been updated since the 1980s. It took four people to take our order.

CABLE CAR PIZZA

Daily: 11 a.m.–3 a.m.

535 Valencia, SF

(415) 431-8800

No alcohol

AE/MC/V

All or nothing

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› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

When my husband and I first married, he was into S-M. I was very inexperienced, while he … well … wasn’t. Things were interesting for a while until he repeatedly breached our full-disclosure agreement and saw other people behind my back, but came clean about it later. There was also an issue with anal sex (he’s hurt me too many times). We’ve been completely out of the scene for several years and are enjoying a much closer connection. However, three kids later sex is very boring, planned, and short.

I’d love to have fun with him again, but he’s so sex-crazy I’m afraid of re-opening the door to trouble. He still uses a lot of nasty porn and Web sites where he exchanges e-mails with subs. I don’t like this, but I understand that he’s got to have an outlet. He’s a pretty all-or-nothing kind of guy. Also, I think that he isn’t sure how to approach me anymore after having three children. Who feels sexy with baby puke on their sleeve and no shower? Is there any hope for us? Also, he refuses to go into therapy or ask for help because he doesn’t want to be judged.

Love,

Want Something

Dear Want:

You may be surprised to hear this, but for a couple who not only have such disparate experience levels and requirements but also three small children, you seem to be doing pretty well. Any number of issues casually glanced on in your letter could easily have doomed you — yet you persevere and even feel closer than when you were doing all that kinky stuff? You’re OK.

The S-M obscures things a bit, but the core issues here are no different from ones we discuss in classes (rather imprecisely titled "Is There Sex After Motherhood?") I’ve been teaching at a local nice-moms-and-their-babies education center. The baby puke, for instance. One of the most disheartening things I heard while awaiting my own babies was, "Oh, I didn’t change my clothes for six months. I just wore this ratty old T-shirt full of holes and spit-up." (This from a lovely friend who was only telling me the truth as she’d lived it.) "Forget it, then," I thought. "If it’s going to be like that, I’m not doing it."

And it wasn’t like that, of course, not for me and it shouldn’t be for you. One needs to do whatever it takes not to sink to that barely human state where you figure, what the hell, why bother showering when you’re just going to get dirty again? Get enough T-shirts so there’s always a clean one! Drag everybody into the shower with you, get up at 5 a.m., pay a neighbor to watch the kids for half an hour, whatever works. Get enough time to look and feel decent. We’re not talking about a hot-stone massage, Yummy Mummy makeover here. Grooming enough to bear the sight and smell of oneself shouldn’t be too high a bar.

I would like to launch into some ways you two could get back to breaking out the whips and chains and stuff, but I worry. Does he really need to have it all? Is he really insisting on nothing if he can’t? I’m hoping a guy starved of all but virtual kink for a couple of years may be more amenable than he used to be to a scaled-down version of "hell-bent for leather." Maybe "leaning toward Naugahyde"?

I do believe he doesn’t know how to approach you anymore, so here’s the obvious suggestion: you approach him, but only after ensuring that you won’t end up with him holding the power, reins, flogger, modem, and lube again, which he didn’t use enough of anyway. Take this opportunity to decide which games you liked, which might do, and which are untenable. Given the scarcity conditions that follow the introduction of many small children into the marital equation, I would also suggest that the whole "other partners" thing is right out. In order to get beyond the dreary status quo (although I do have to put a good word in for the parents-of-small-children quickie while I’m here), you’ll need to plan. You’ll also need to throw some childcare money at the problem (what my husband and I refer to, just to annoy people, as "paying young women for sex"). This is all stressful and expensive enough already, so no way will you want to pay for babysitters for his nights out without you. Save your cash for kinky-sex dates.

Obviously, all this depends on him not being so crazy, sex- or otherwise, and that "some but not all" actually is an option. I’m hoping that after a few years of deprivation and with the added motivation of keeping a beloved family intact, he can embrace moderation. Tell him it’s like the French model of eating, you know? A little + a little + a little = plenty.

Love,

Andrea

Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.

Andrea is also teaching two classes: "You’ve Really Got Your Hands Full" — a realistic look at having twins — at Birthways in Berkeley.