Volume 42 Number 43

Stoner rock

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PREVIEW One morning futzing around on Craigslist trying to avoid the addictive looky-loo temptation of "casual encounters," I decided to waste time checking out what "musicians" were up to instead. I must’ve been directed there by a higher power, for I, curious, had clicked on a desperate request from a fan of seminal mid-1990s San Jose stoner-metal trio Sleep seeking any footage of their Sabbath-y riffage. Holy cannabis! I totally had some, buried amid S-M porn, scenes of teenage anarchy in Over the Edge (1979), and poignant Crass videos compiled into tripper montages my friend, who got kicked off Santa Cruz’s public access station, likes to craft.

We were back to the historic days of tape trading (though she and I both later remembered a little cheating trick called YouTube). But since crackly VHS renditions only satisfy so much, and since that quintessential band has moved on to debatably bigger and better musical mastery with zero hope of any reunion, it’s vital to find the real, live thing. Could fulfillment lie in this weekend’s Black Summer of Doom and Fuzz? Two days of 18 mostly East Bay bands, presented by Eric Hagan and Purple Astronaut Records, promises to at least acquaint you with the local scene’s offerings, and, at most, jumpstart devotion to yet another awesomely doomy, fuzzy ensemble. It’s high time I filled my summer stoner rock quota. Gorge on sustained power chords, languish in spacey amethyst tracers, float on a sea of Orange amplification. Ride the dragon!

Which reminds me, I have to get that tape back.

BLACK SUMMER OF DOOM AND FUZZ Sat/26 with Soul Broker, White Witch Canyon, House of Broken Promises, HDR, and Scorched Earth Policy. Sun/27 with Butcher, Sludgebucket, BRNR, Greenhouse Effect, and Automatic Animal. See Web site for complete lineup. 3 p.m., $10 per day. Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 444-6174, www.storkcluboakland.com

Goofy name, good band

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PREVIEW Start with the name, take in the oversized T’s, and then turn an ear toward the big, fat, buzzy beat. Just who were these dudes, we all wondered, as the group took the Fader Fort stage at this year’s South By Southwest and proceeded to dangerously distract the ironically mulleted, sarcastically sunglassy hipsters and jaded music-biz buzzards from the free bevs at the bar. As the set progressed, all and sundry tromped to the front, pulled by the massive beats and the leaping, high-stepping antics of lead vocalist James Rushent.

Yeah, these guys were not cool in the strictly hyper-trendoid sense of the word — meaning cool down to the millisecond edge of the moment. The band’s floppy shorts and wholesome miens probably reminded bleary-eyed, cynical scenesters of normal suburban dudes down the block more than any affected decadent they might ordinarily aspire to ape. Yet there was nothing poseur about the cool kids’ fists pumping down front: the fact that the guys of Does It Offend You, Yeah? — goofy name and all — managed to get the most tired of industry booty moving was a testament to the power of their sound and their infectious enthusiasm onstage. Apart from a few tracks like the nu-rave "Battle Royale" and "With a Heavy Heart (I Regret to Inform You)," does their new album offend with its inconsistency — and its occasional trite Euro-rock tropes? Yeah. But that’s what iTunes is for: pick and choose which Does It Offend You, Yeah you prefer — and unlike some other dance poppers, rest assured, they won’t repulse live.

DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? With Steel Lord. Fri/25, 9 p.m., $13. Popscene, 330 Ritch, SF. (415) 541-9574, www.popscene-sf.com. Also with Bloc Party, July 30, 9 p.m., $27.50. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000, www.ticketmaster.com

Orson

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› paulr@sfbg.com

If there was ever a doubt that Elizabeth Falkner had a thing for Orson Welles, her new restaurant — named Orson — should lay to rest any lingering uncertainties. Falkner’s first venture, a bakery called Citizen Cake, first appeared in the late 1990s in a northeast Mission District space (near Rainbow Grocery) now occupied by Chez Spencer. After a few years it moved to considerably posher quarters in the performing arts quarter while retaining its Wellesian moniker.

But even the upscaling of Citizen Cake, including its expansion to a full-scale, full-service restaurant, could not begin to prepare people for the strange wonder of Orson. (Orson is a fine name, but am I alone in being reminded first not of Orson Welles but of Orson Bean, the character actor who’s turned up in all sorts of movies and TV shows over the years?) The restaurant’s design doesn’t offer much in the way of clues, either. It’s very au courant SoMa: large and lofty, with a huge wall of exposed concrete, a mezzanine, swaths of industrial carpeting on the floor, and a persistent hiss of ambient sound, as if a huge white-noise machine in some hidden corner had been turned up to "loud" but not "very loud." The noise doesn’t preclude conversation, but, like cigarette smoke, it’s impossible to ignore. Perhaps this is the new standard.

So we have a SoMa restaurant with a whimsical name, bearing a general physical resemblance to other SoMa restaurants with whimsical names and run by a woman whose reputation is rooted in high-style baking and what we might call classic California cuisine. And we find, on the menu of that restaurant, a dish called parmaggiano pudding ($5), an ivory-colored custard presented in a crock. The idea of a savory flan made with parmesan cheese might seem like plenty of cleverness for one dish, but Orson’s kitchen, under the guidance of Falkner and chef de cuisine Ryan Farr, isn’t likely to be called complacent. They are full of wild and wacky ideas, such as lacing the parmesan pudding with cocoa nibs. The wonder is not that a few of these gambits fail — they do, spectacularly, like some of those early space shots in which the rocket collapses in flames or whizzes off in the wrong direction — but that so many of them so sensationally succeed. The parmesan pudding is only one such success.

The only dish on Orson’s rather complex menu I would describe as a total flop is the foie bonbon ($5), a chocolate truffle filled with a buttery pâté de foie gras. One by one, the faces around our table wrinkled in distaste after a nibble, and while I didn’t hate the bonbon, I did think it was a bad marriage between incompatible elements that had nothing more than richness in common.

On the other hand, the jolt of espresso in the potato cream bathing the short ribs ($15) was, like the cocoa nibs, a cunning bit of counterpoint, adding depth, mystery, and a little smokiness to what might otherwise have been an ordinary soupy sauce. (Leaves of braised spinach brought some color but were texturally uncooperative; they reminded me of sails left in choppy water by a capsized sloop.) And the egg atop a pizza ($14) of tomato, crisped guanciale, chile flakes, and robiola cheese was less out of place than it looked — and it looked quite out of place, as if there’d been some kind of head-on collision in the kitchen. But the yolk drained nicely across the pie (imagine flooding a rice paddy, in miniature, with yellow paint) and added a nice note of velvetiness to what was otherwise a rather brash Neapolitan pizza.

Not all the food is eccentric. A boudin noir pizza ($14), for instance, was topped with (in addition to the blood sausage), arugula, oregano, and thin slices of potato — a perfectly genteel combination you might find at any number of places. Garganelli ($11) — pasta tubes that looked like mottled cinnamon sticks — were tossed in a simple sauce of basil and splinters of summer squash. A sprightly kimchee ($5) was festooned with throw pillows of fried tofu. Chicharrones ($5), a.k.a. pork rinds, arrived in a tall cup looking like twisted French fries suitable for dipping in the shallow tub of barbecue sauce on the side. And a chicken beer sausage link ($14), although accompanied by flecks of nectarine, whispers of frisée, and a hint of pistachio, was satisfyingly all about the sausage.

Some of the exotic touches were discreet to the point of being unnoticeable. Actual French fries ($7) were cooked in duck fat and presented with a small ramekin of browned butter béarnaise, a subtle aioli alternative. Tongue ($5), never an easy row to hoe, was transformed into a golden-crusted, nicely rectangular croquette and served with cherries and what might be one of our most underappreciated greens, purslane.

Does all this sound like the stuff of DIY tasting menus, a sequence of memorable bites? The glory of DIY is the randomness of it — we’ll have a few of those and one of that — but for more orderly types, Orson does offer four formal tasting menus that consist of three to five courses and cost from $50 to $65. One is vegetarian, another pork-based. Caveat: your whole table must participate. Tables for two have several additional "for two" options, though Orson doesn’t really strike me as a restaurant for couples. Its pulsing energy is that of a crowded club for the young and the restless, whose packs are forever rearranging themselves. It’s easy to picture them talking about movies. But do they talk about, or have they even seen, Citizen Kane?

ORSON

Dinner: Mon., 6–10 p.m.

Tues.–Sat., 6 p.m.–midnight

508 Fourth St., SF

(415) 777-1508

www.orsonsf.com

Full bar

AE/MC/V

Fairly noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Guy Maddin’s special specimen

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REVIEW We all knew it was his Winnipeg after gobstoppers like Cowards Bend the Knee (2003) and The Saddest Music in the World (2003), but Guy Maddin certainly puts a fine point on it with his latest. Finally, a Maddin film that fully incorporates the homely comic-pathos of his essays and movie reviews. In My Winnipeg, the Canuck filmmaker’s punch-drunk dissolves and superimpositions aren’t just cinematographic cake-frosting; they’re visual portents and analogues of his seasick crawl through the past. While his festival-circuit peers increasingly strive for transcendent realism, Maddin still slops on the Vaseline. Curiously, he ends up in the same place that they do, blurring lines of autobiography and fictional representation. To wit: after Maddin introduces his "sleep-chugging" city in voice-over, he sets in explaining his missive to reenact key episodes of his childhood with stand-in actors in his family home. This meta-"making of" is a wonderful joke on the psychologically overwrought status of the auteur, complete with inflated reminiscences and digressions (segments on Winnipeg’s spiritualists, 1919 labor strikes, and the National Hockey League’s conspiratorial malevolence stand as mini-movies of their own). Casting Ann Savage (the belligerent face of Vera in Edgar Ulmer’s 1945 noir Detour) as his mother renders the psychodrama of cinephilia with florid hilarity. Beneath all Maddin’s Oedipal goofing, there’s a serious reflection on the way that movies seen at an impressionable age — or rather our memories of them — can burnish real experiences with chiaroscuro drama. Maddin’s always deserving of kudos for his bricolage assortments of essay, silent film, lantern show, melodrama, and papier-mâché, but My Winnipeg is a special specimen: his finest testament yet to memory and imagination being a two-way street.

MY WINNIPEG opens Fri/25 in Bay Area theaters.

Pedal power

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›steve@sfbg.com

Hundreds of bicyclists invaded City Hall July 21 to demand safer bike routes and decry new bureaucratic delays in environmental review work on the Bicycle Plan, which a judge said the city must complete before it can make any improvements mentioned in the plan, from new lanes to simple racks (see "Stationary biking," 05/16/07).

But they arrived a couple hours too late to change the tenor of a hearing on another priority for car-free advocates: the Sunday Streets proposal by Mayor Gavin Newsom to close the Embarcadero to cars Aug. 31 and Sept. 14, which is being challenged on procedural and economic grounds by Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and conservative supervisors.

Presentations to the board’s Government Audit and Oversight Committee in support of Sunday Streets were overshadowed by a big turnout of merchants from Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf — who have vociferously opposed the proposal, citing concerns about lost business — and labor leaders, who unexpectedly lent their support to Peskin’s play.

"We just don’t want to have a beta test of a new program on one of the busiest days of the year," said Karen Bell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefits District. "People want to drive down the Embarcadero. They don’t want to take side streets."

Advocates of the program are resisting Peskin’s effort to postpone the events until after an economic study can be done.

"Every other city that’s tried this has found it has tremendous economic benefits, as well as tremendous health benefits and social benefits," said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The committee moved Peskin’s resolution to the full board with no recommendation after Sups. Sophie Maxwell and Tom Ammiano voiced support for Sunday Streets. It was set to be heard July 22 after Guardian press time, but Mayor’s Office officials said they intend to hold the events as scheduled no matter what the outcome and work with opponents to ease their concerns.

But most cyclists were focused on the Bike Plan, which might not have final approval until late next year, as an afternoon Land Use Committee hearing called by Sup. Gerardo Sandoval revealed.

Bicycle Advisory Committee member Casey Allen called the delay unacceptable, and said he’s working with others to formally intervene in the case next month, arguing that unsafe conditions are a public health issue demanding immediate action.

"We have to take risks sometimes and challenge the status quo," Allen said. "That’s how we move forward as a society."

For more on both issues, visit www.sfbg.com

“Conflux Vignettes”

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REVIEW Being unpatriotic, I spent the Fourth of July observing indoor fireworks at the opening of the group show, "Conflux Vignettes," at Mama Buzz Café’s Buzz Gallery. I was lured in by poet-painter Brian Lucas, whose 2006 book, Light House (Meeting Eyes Bindery), is out of print but obtainable secondhand. Like his longer poems, which accumulate as aphoristic remarks, Lucas’ abstractions accrue in obsessively worked increments. Whereas in his earlier work these parts formed discrete centers of interest, his more recent paintings, like the acrylic Correspondence, reveal a more unified sense of composition, their lush brightness influenced by his six-year stay in Thailand, from 2001 to 2007. Lucas’ paintings have the complexity of the finest abstraction, with an illusion of depth hitherto unrealized, and suggest equally the cosmos and the lotus.

Also here are odd assemblages by Daniel Glendening, black mat-board cutouts overlaid with rainbow-colored gouache and acrylic. The edges are shaped alternatively as pistols, cacti, and AK-47s. The most ambitious, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, includes all three — its overall shape suggestive of the southwestern United States and a good metaphor for a country refusing gun control. Paper squares repeating the title are affixed by copper nails driven through the piece and into the wall. (If you buy the work, Glendening offers to come nail it to your wall at home.)

Rounding things out are large paper-on-canvas pieces by Julie Oppermann, executed in watercolor and acrylic, yet defying most viewers’ conceptions of watercolor. The concentric circles, overlaying each other yet slightly askew, create the moiré effect, hovering like a Duchamp rotorelief without the literal motion. Tree-Cells, a smaller series in mostly red shades of oil, resembles something like exploded alligators — in a good way. All in all, a well-curated grouping, indicating why the space has its buzz.

CONFLUX VIGNETTES: BRIAN LUCAS, DANIEL GLENDENING, AND JULIE OPPERMANN Through July 31. Mon.–Thurs., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri., 7 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Mama Buzz/Buzz Gallery, 2318 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 465-4073, www.mamabuzzcafe.com