Volume 43 Number 48

Hacking meters



Joe Grand and his accomplices, Jacob Appelbaum of Noisebridge and Chris Tarnovsky of Flylogic Engineering, have had their way with San Francisco’s new "smart" parking meters, hacking their way into the systems, exposing how easily they are manipulated, and sharing the entire experience with whoever would listen.

The three men, all highly skilled computer programmers, built a smart card capable of fooling San Francisco’s parking meter system into giving up that sweet parking space for free, and right in front of our eyes. "You can do pretty much anything on the streets. No one in San Francisco cares," Grand, who also goes by Kingpin and is head of Grand Idea Studios, told the Guardian.

The three men shared their account in a PowerPoint presentation at Black Hat Conference, a security conference held in Las Vegas last month. "We found out through the media," said Judson True, spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which administers the city’s parking system.

In three days the trio managed to create a device that could infiltrate the meter and then, using an oscilloscope (a device used to translate electronic signals into readable data), they recorded the communication between the meter and card.

Grand was then able to analyze the communication and, by adjusting it, created a new card with a value of $999.99, the highest amount a meter can display.

San Francisco has spent $35 million to deploy 23,000 smart meters throughout the city and the hack was intended to get city officials to improve the system. "San Francisco has been grasping for straws for what to do with metered parking. We wanted to enlighten people to the potential problems," Grand told us.

Since the news about their findings has gone public, Grand has met with SFMTA officials. "They were very responsive, more so than many other security groups. They seemed to be more concerned with vandalism and money being skimmed during collection than with high-tech attack. They wanted to understand the mindset of the people perpetrating these attacks. They were already looking for similar types of fraud."

To defend against fraud, the SFMTA monitors the audit logs of all the meters. If a card has been used more than its possible value (cards are sold in denominations of $20 and $50) then the city can block the card and these crimes are avoided. "We have not found any fraud," says True.

This smart meter technology is used in cities across the country. In Massachusetts, several MIT students were able to find ways to manipulate smart meters in Boston. Two of the three men who found the vulnerabilities in SF’s meters live in the city. "We’re San Francisco residents and we want our money to be used well. We need a secure system that will protect its citizens. A system that is at risk trickles down to the taxpayers."

SFMTA met with J.J. MacKay, the vendor of these meters. "It was the best system for the time and the price," says True. "They are huge improvements over the mechanical machines."

San Francisco is currently planning with MacKay about next-generation meters that will be capable of processing credit cards. "As long as the credit card’s info is processed right away and not stored, then there is no real chance of fraud," Grand said. But plans for purchasing such meters are far in the future, and no decisions have been made about which model will be used.
The plan to replace all the old meters with smart meters by early next year. The smart meters are a key element to the SFMTA’s SF Park pilot program, which uses market pricing and other tools to control parking demand (see "The Politics of Parking" cover package, July 1).
The hackers’ PowerPoint presentation’s "Final Conclusions" offered a couple of hints into their worldview. They began with "Systems need to be fully tested before deployment" and ended with "Consider a world without parking meters. Ride a bicycle!"

Protecting babies from fire and chemicals



GREEN CITY Profit-driven companies are fighting an expensive and underhanded battle to keep their toxic fire retardants in California’s furniture.

Senate Bill 772, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), seeks to exempt certain children’s furniture from California’s fire code, thereby allowing manufacturers the option of forgoing toxic fire retardants and giving consumers the opportunity to raise their babies around chemical-free furniture. But lobbying efforts last week stalled the bill in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it will be reconsidered Aug. 26.

California’s onerous standards for fire safety are unique. According to Technical Bulletin 117, established by the California Bureau of Home Furnishings, all furniture manufactured in California must be able to withstand an open flame for 12 seconds without igniting.

While there are other methods that meet California’s standards, such as barriers and safer chemicals, the cheapest way for manufacturers to meet TB 117 is to pour toxic, halogenated chemicals that act as fire retardants into all upholstered furniture.

This means that fire retardants are put in most things in your house — your couch, your mattress, your baby’s pillows and strollers. The companies producing the fire retardants are huge multinational corporations — Albermarle, Chemtura, ICL Industrial Corp. and Tosoh — spending millions on lobbying and in drafting nonprofit fronts.

The fire retardants go by a variety of technical names: polybrominated diphenyl ether, halogenated substances, TRIS, BFRs, CFRs … the list goes on. That chemical family is halogenated chemicals. The only one that is legal in all consumer products is decabrominated diphenyl ether, referred to as DECA. Some of the chemicals that are known to be toxic are only banned from certain products, such as pajamas in the case of TRIS, but are still being poured into everyting from electronics to clothing to upholstery.

SB 772 specifically focuses on four pieces of children’s furniture. After reviewing years of data, the Bureau of Home Furnishings found that bassinets, nursing pillows, strollers, and infant pillows have never caused fire causality. Leno contends, "There is no need to pour chemicals into products that are not fire risks."

Numerous studies and agencies, including the National Toxicology Program and the California Environmental Protection Agency, have linked halogenated chemicals to cancer, thyroid disease, reproductive problems, ADHD, child autism, and long list of other ailments. Some, like Seth Jacobson, spokesperson for Citizens for Fire Safety, argue that the studies are exaggerated and "not scientifically valid".

Any manifestation of these diseases may take years to see or are complicated by other factors, making correlations to specific chemicals difficult to pinpoint. Russell Long of Friends of the Earth believes that this is a comparable scenario to the asbestos crisis of the 1980s. Asbestos was a common household chemical long suspected of toxicity and in 1989, after numerous health and legal battles, the EPA banned it. Decades later the federal government is still spending billions in liability lawsuits affecting more than 600,000 people.

Another issue is bioaccumulation — these chemicals don’t stay put. According to Leno, these chemicals don’t bind to materials. Instead they fall to the floor and become part of dust. In 2006, the California EPA reported that "PBDEs have been measured in house and office dust, indoor air, plant and animal-based foods, terrestrial and marine animals, and in human breast milk, blood, and fat."

In 2008, scientists from UC Berkeley, Harvard, and the Silent Spring Institute found that the levels of PBDEs in Californians are twice as high as other U.S. regions. The California EPA has reported that the highest tissue concentrations of PBDEs are found in California aquatic life, with rising levels in San Francisco Bay harbor seals. Long believes "this is one of the biggest toxic threats facing Californians today".

This is Leno’s second attempt at passing a bill involving these particular issues. The first, SB 706, introduced last year, sought to directly ban the use of toxic fire retardants. SB 706 was named the Crystal Golden-Jefferson Act, in memory of a 41-year-old firefighter who died of work-related, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is believed she developed the condition after breathing in dioxin (a highly toxic carcinogen) that was released from burning flame-retardants. Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Maine have already passed bills banning dioxin and have started phasing it out.

Banning chemicals is hard to do. Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California says that the petrochemical industry will slightly alter a banned chemical, "sort of chasing one version after another." In the United States, chemicals are mass-produced and distributed until they are found to be dangerous. In Europe, chemicals must be proven safe first.

The most outspoken opposition to both bills, SB 706 and SB 772, is a group called Citizens for Fire Safety. The group, headed by Jacobson, argues that fire retardants saves lives, noting that since California established TB 117 California structure fires have dropped by about 60 percent. Records from the National Fire Protection Association show a drop of 32 percent between 1980 and 2000. Yet other states, including New York, show a drop of 40 percent without a similar fire regulation. The drop can easily be ascribed to an increase in smoke detectors, better education, and more regulations on cigarettes: the number one fire instigator.

Citizens for Fire Safety’s funding is suspicious. Its Web site clearly states "a portion of our funding&ldots;comes from various chemical industry leaders." Indeed, Jacobson says he has no problems accepting funding from the same companies that manufacture the chemicals in question. Leno believes Citizens for Fire Safety is a "concerted business effort to confuse the public."

This nonprofit front is just one of the extraordinary efforts of the chemical companies to stop bills of this nature. According to Holober, the bromine companies spent between $6 million and $9 million on lobbyists and efforts to derail SB 706. This is the largest amount spent by a consumer-interest group in lobbying efforts, Leno and Holober say.

Public records show that the two biggest lobbying efforts on behalf of Citizens for Fire Safety represent the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, (which is funded by chemical corporations) and a PR group representing the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum. The BSEF represents all the major brominated flame-retardant companies.

Joe Kerr, president of Orange County Professional Firefighters Association Local 3631, makes more reasonable objections to SB 772. Kerr opposes the deregulation until "all the principals are brought to the table. Get the burn ward doctors, and the environmentalists, EPA, and Mark Leno together — because there are good arguments on both sides." In the meantime, Kerr doesn’t want to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." He also voices concern that some consumers will stop buying California products if the state’s fire standard is lowered.
SB 772 is a deregulatory, pro-environment bill that gives the market the option to decide. Any product that does not meet regulations will be labeled accordingly. Leno voiced concern that the labels will confuse the issue and many amendments have been made about where the labels should be placed.
Although the bill was approved by the full Senate in June, heavy lobbying efforts prevailed in the Assembly and it fell three votes short in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week. Reconsideration has been granted for next week when the bill will need nine votes before it can proceed to the Assembly floor. If SB 722 does not get nine votes, it will be another year before it can be heard again.

Autumn with Xbox


GAMER The fall release schedule lacks the marquee names and rabid hype that defined the previous year in gaming, but thumb-callused consumers everywhere should have much to look forward to following a summer of ho-hum titles.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward/Activision), PS3, Xbox360, PC After farming out a by-the-numbers semi-sequel, Call of Duty: World at War, to developers Treyarch, Infinity Ward has redeployed. Bridging the treacherous divide between immaculately choreographed single-player campaigns and frenetic, repayable multiplayer, Modern Warfare the first was a smash hit and remains an XBox Live staple. Activision will count on its tent pole FPS to hit another one out of the park, with the help of snowmobile chase firefights and all manner of shit that goes "boom!" (Nov. 10)

The Beatles: Rock Band (Harmonix/MTV Games/EA), PS3, Xbox360, Wii Not just another rhythm game; more like a labor of love. Unlike, say, "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith" (Activision), the Fab Four’s name comes first for this title. Early reviewers have heaped praise on Harmonix, honing in on the attention paid to visual detail. Beyond recreating the band’s distinctive instruments and best-known gigs, the developers worked closely with Apple Corps. to animate "dreamscape" sequences that will set the scene for the group’s late-period, psychedelic tunes. Three-part harmonies and the ability to download the Liverpudlian quartet’s entire catalog (which is still not possible on iTunes) are just gravy. (Sept. 9)

Borderlands (Gearbox/2K Games), PS3, Xbox360, PC Gearbox’s twitch-based postapocalpytic RPG made early headlines by effecting a complete change in art direction, resulting in its idiosyncratic, cel-shaded look. More important is the promise of a huge open world, four-player co-op, and the Diablo (Blizzard)baiting siren call of procedurally generated loot. (Oct. 20)

Brütal Legend (Double Fine/Electronic Arts), PS3, Xbox360 The long-awaited masterpiece from San Francisco’s resident game royalty, Tim Schafer. The Grim Fandango (Lucasarts) creator and his team at Double Fine have ridden a rollercoaster to get this game in stores, but a bevy of celebrity voice talent, a head-banging soundtrack, and Schafer’s boundless imagination are sure to make it worth the wait. Also enticing are Ocarina of Time (Nintendo)-style spellcasting via electric guitar, a so-crazy-it-just-might-work RTS option for multiplayer, and enough heavy metal-themed mayhem to fill a few hundred macabre record sleeves. If you can only slay $60 worth of bloodthirsty demon between now and the holiday game glut, this is your surefire pick. (Oct. 13)

Fall into dance


Recession or not, dancers gotta do what they gotta do. Here are 10 performances that will reward your time and dollars.

Capacitor It’s been a decade since Jodi Lomax brought her (at the time) odd mix of science, dance, and circus arts to the Bay Area. Previous works have been inspired by astrophysics, plate tectonics, and forest systems. The new The Perfect Flower promises a more intimate experience. Sept. 18-19, Cowell Theater; www.capacitor.org.

Margaret Jenkins Dance Company If you saw the gorgeous first section of Margaret Jenkins’ Other Suns at Theater Artaud, you don’t want miss the now finished piece, created and performed with China’s renowned Guangdong Modern Dance Company. Sept. 24-26, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.mjdc.org.

Contemporary dance from Africa French-born Maimouna Couliblay (Sept 25-27, Dance Mission Theater; www.dancemission.com) found her artistic voice in Mali; her Hééé Mariamou is inspired by growing up in the ‘hood, Parisian style. Soweto’s Gregory Maqoma (Nov. 4-7, YBCA; www.ybca.org) brings solos inspired by Akram Khan, Faustin Linyekula, and Vincent Mantsoe.

Suzanne Farrell Ballet Farrell, the high priestess of the Balanchine legacy, programmed and narrates an intriguing selection of the master’s pas de deux’ and solos. Should be a treat for all Balanchine lovers. Oct. 24-25, Zellerbach Hall; www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.

Trey McIntyre Project McIntyre has done well as freelancer of fast-paced, musical, and accessible ballet choreography. His brand-new company includes, among others, former Lines Ballet dancer John Michael Schert. Oct. 30, Jewish Community Center for San Francisco; www.jccsf.org.

Monique Jenkinson As ODC residency artist, this dancer/performer and fashion maven — best known for impersonating a man impersonating a woman — has been hard at work on Luxury, which extols the guilty pleasures of life. Nov. 7-8, ODC Theater; www.odcdance.org.

DV8 Physical Theatre Choreographer Lloyd Newson is the John Osborne (Look Back in Anger) of dance. He’s tough, and he hits hard. In To Be Straight with You he takes on religion, sexuality, and prejudice. Nov. 12-14, YBCA; dv8.co.uk.

Performing Diaspora This event rethinks culturally specific dance such as Haitian, Cambodian, or Kathak. The three weekends showcase artists who love the genres they were raised in but want to put their own 21st century stamp on them. Nov. 5-22, CounterPULSE; www.counterpulse.org.

San Francisco HipHop Dance Fest The combination of kids, adult aficionados and professional hip-hoppers make this one of the fall season’s juiciest festivals. What started as a local blast has also turned into a global encounter. Nov. 20-21, Palace of Fine Arts; www.sfhiphopdancefest.com.

Fall music machine




Peter Broderick 4 Track Songs (Tape) A large reissue collection of lovely songs by the man who spans from Berlin to Portland, Oregon.

The Entrance Band The Entrance Band (Ecstatic Peace) Ten Thurston Moore-approved tracks, recorded in Los Angeles.

Robin Guthrie Carousel (Darla). The Cocteau Twin did a fine job soundtracking Gregg Araki‘s 2004 Mysterious Skin. Frazer-free, he sticks to instrumentals.

Whitney Houston I Look to You (Arista) Post-Bobby, she looks to you, listeners, with a little help from Alicia Keys.

Insane Clown Posse Bang! Pow! Boom! (Psychopathic) Juggalos and Juggalettes unite!

The Clean Mister Pop (Merge) Attention all Flying Nun fanatics — the Kiwi pop revival gets stronger and stronger.


Carl Craig 69: Legendary Adventures of a Filter King (Planet E) Vinyl-only box set of four EPs by the Detroit techno technician.

Os Mutantes Haih…or Amortecedor (Anti-/Epitaph) The troubadours of tropicália return with their first album in 35 years.

Yo La Tengo Popular Songs (Matador) But exactly how popular?

SEPT. 11

Jay-Z Blueprint 3 (Roc Nation/Atlantic) Dramatic release date for the rapper who comes back more times than cockroaches and Cher.

SEPT. 15

Air Supply The Singer and the Song (Odds On/E1) Just when you thought they couldn’t get any softer, they record acoustic versions of their old hits.

Dodos Time to Die (French Kiss) Phil Ek produces the San Francisco duo’s follow-up to 2007’s acclaimed Visiter.

The Fresh and Onlys Grey-Eyed Girls (Woodsist) Pitchfork is onto the locals who wrestle success from failure.

Kid Cudi Man on the Moon: The End of the Day (Dream On/G.O.O.D./Universal Motown) A big production, with Kanye, Snoop, and Common out to catch some shine.

Lovemakers Let’s Be Friends (Talking House) The sophomore album, produced in San Francisco.

Radioslave Fabric 48 (Fabric) Multi-monikered Matt Edwards contributes to the mix series, including some of his own tracks.

SEPT. 22

Girls Album (True Panther/Matador) A great album by the SF group, set to soundtrack summers and other seasons to come.

The Mantles The Mantles (Siltbreeze) Another great album by a SF band, set to soundtrack as many seasons as Girls’ debut.

Yoko Ono Plastic Band Between My Head and the Sky (Chimera) Ono meets Cornelius on some tracks — it had to happen.

The Pastels/Tenniscoats Two Sunsets (Domino) The pre-C86 legends team up with the atmospheric pop duo — sublimity results.

SEPT. 29

Mariah Carey Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (Island Def Jam). More flitty finger gestures in our future.

Kris Kristofferson Closer to the Bone (New West) The bearded one collaborates with Don Was.

Madness The Liberty of Norton Fulgate (Yep Roc) Twenty-some years later, they’re here again, and with the same producers from yesteryear.

Melvins Chicken Switch (Ipecac) Fifteen-song remix endeavor.

Barbra Streisand Love is the Answer (Columbia) Babs is back, and she’s got Diana Krall with her.

Wallpaper Doodoo Face (Eenie Meenie) Do do that doodoo.

OCT. 6

Air Love 2 (Astralwerks). French perfume.

Basement Jaxx Scars (Ultra/XL) Weird cast of guest contributors: Yoko Ono, Kelis, Santogold, Lightspeed Champion, and Yo! Majesty.

Roseanne Cash The List (Ultra/EMI) Covers of songs that her dad said were important.

The Clientele Bonfires on the Heath (Merge) Songs that jingle-jangle-jingle.

Lita Ford Wicked Wonderland (JLRG Entertainment) Bow down as the queen of hair metal returns.

The Very Best Warm Heart of Africa (Green Owl/ILG) M.I.A. and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend contribute guest vox to this eagerly-awaited club stormer.

OCT. 13

Patrick Cowley and Jorge Socarras Catholic (Macro) Amazing found album by Sylvester collaborator Cowley is set to start an Arthur Russell-like revival.

Echo and the Bunnymen The Fountain (Cooking Vinyl) Comeback time.

The Roots How I Got Over (Def Jam) I’ll never get over how they got over.

Shakira She Wolf (Epic) Still kooky, still raking in millions.

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars) Wise words and sharp sounds.

OCT. 20

Atlas Sound Logos (Kranky) Another one by Bradford Cox’s side project, which many prefer to Deerhunter.

Themselves CrownsDown (Anticon) Six years since their last one and ten years since their debut.

OCT. 27

Cobra Killer Uppers & Downers (Monika) These crazy, funny chicks from Germany sure know how sample the Monks. Love them or lose.

Train Save Me, San Francisco (Columbia) If you insist?

NOV. 3

Sean Lennon Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead (Capitol) A soundtrack to the zombie comedy. Weird guest appearances: Jeremy Sisto and Kool Keith.

NOV. 10

Fuckpony Let the Love Flow (Bpitch Control) Good old dirty house music.

NOV. 17

Annie Don’t Stop (Smalltown Supersound) The Norwegian pop princess jumps to another label for her long-awaited second album.

dj/Rupture and Matt Shadetek Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture) Mix maestros unite.

NOV. 24

Mary J. Blige Stronger (Geffen) Stronger, no doubt. But more relaxed and singing in a lower key, one hopes.

Live on stage


Asobi Seksu Oct 2, Slim’s

Atlas Sound Nov 3, Great American Music Hall

Bad Brains Sept 15-16, Slim’s

Beach House Oct 19, Bottom of the Hill

Blues Control Nov 5, Hemlock

Budget Rock Oct 22-25; Bottom of the Hill, Eagle Tavern, and Thee Parkside

Carol Burnett Oct 1, Paramount Theatre

Butthole Surfers Oct 16, Regency Ballroom

Children of Bodom Oct 9, Regency Ballroom

Crown City Rockers Sept 29, Independent

Crystal Stilts Oct 14, Slim’s

Damon and Naomi Oct 9, Independent

Dead Meadow Sept 28, Great American Music Hall

Def Leppard, Cheap Trick Sept 2-3, Shoreline Ampitheatre

Echo and the Bunnymen Oct 22, Fox Theater

Fever Ray Oct 5, Regency Ballroom

Fool’s Gold Sept 15, The Independent

Hammer, Whodini Sept 25, Fox Theater

Health, Pictureplane Sept 10, Bottom of the Hill

Gil Scott Heron Oct 2, Regency Ballroom

Grouper Swedish American Music Hall, Sept 20

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Oct 2-4, Speedway Meadow at Golden Gate Park

Horrors Oct 3, Independent

Talib Kweli Sept 18-19, Yoshis SF

Cass McCombs, Papercuts, Girls, Sept 9

Kylie Minogue Oct 1, Fox Theater

Mos Def, Erykah Badu, and Jay Electronica Sept 3-4, Davies Symphony Hall and Paramount Theatre

No Age Oct 30, Great American Music Hall

Om Sept 24, The Independent

Pains of Being Pure at Heart Sept 18, Great American Music Hall

Pet Shop Boys Sept 22, Warfield

Peter Bjorn and John, El Perro del Mar Nov 1920, Great American Music Hall

Phoenix Sept 17, Warfield

Pixies Nov 8-9, Fox Theater

The Pogues Oct 13-14, Warfield and Regency Ballroom

Psychedelic Furs, Happy Mondays Sept 17, Regency Ballroom

The Raincoats Oct 9, Mezzanine

Royksopp Nov 19, Regency Ballroom

Shonen Knife Oct 30, Blank Club

Starving Weirdos Swedish American Music Hall, Sept 19

Sunset Rubdown Oct 26, Great American Music Hall

Teenage Jesus and the Jerks Oct 8, Slim’s

The Tubes, Sept 5, Great American Music Hall

Vivian Girls Sept 9, Rickshaw Stop

Wallpaper Sept 4, Uptown

Wavves, Ganglians Sept 6, Rickshaw Stop

Why? Oct 17, Great American Music Hall
Wire Train, Translator Sept 5, Slim’s

The shakedown



If you think you can handle more massive autumn debauchery than Oct. 3’s gargantuan Lovevolution (www.sflovevolution.org) parade and festival, which showcases every electronic continent-shaker on the local scene, or the Treasure Island Music Festival (www.treasureislandfestival.com) Oct. 17-18 with its onslaught of dance music NAMES, then you may want to jet to the below. Child, I’ve seen your plate — and it’s never full.


Launch your fall-forward blackout in old-school shelltoes, as the primo Debaser party veers from its grunge-revival template with classic rap chestnuts, St. Ides drink specials, and a sneaker contest (prizes: an eighth, a forty, a pager.) Sat/29, 9 p.m., $5. The Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. www.myspace.com/debaser90s


Oh dear, oh Dear, the techno DJ heartthrob is back in town from touring the world, this time without his live band. Expect a ravenous pop polish and the usual Ghostly International joys. Sept. 4, 10 p.m., $12 advance. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com


The very grand finale of the SF Grand Vogue Ball, which has been energetically building up a roster of fantastic contestants during preliminaries every Friday night in August, will be an explosion of face, attitude, and flailing limbs. Sept. 11, 8 p.m., free. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. www.sfgrandvogueball.tk


Laidback techno-boogie and electro-funk from the shades-bedecked master of jambox rock. West Coaster Dam of L.A.’s luscious Funkmosphere parties will be showing off rare vinyl cuts from his personal collection as well as some of his own, much lauded tracks. Sept. 11, $10. Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, SF. www.polenglounge.com


Supersize your Folsom Street Fair weekend — and prepare for your hairy winter hibernation in style — with hundreds of sweaty, burly men when furry-techno paradise Bearracuda takes over DNA Lounge. Heave, ho! Sept. 25, $10–$15. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., www.bearracuda.com


Sexy electro ragers — plus singing! — from the super-flirty posterboy of all-night bangin’. He’ll be rolling up with twisted adrenaline junkie Tim Exile and hometown Lights Down Low hero Sleazemore. Sept. 25, $12.50 advance. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com


In the hoot-and-whirl tradition of Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box, this massive brass band brings Eastern European sounds to the dancing masses, on the order of our own beloved Kafana Balkan crew. New album Taketron (barbes) is a shining example of the new Romany hybridity. Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., $15/$25. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com


L.A.’s rabble-rousing promoters, Part Time Punks, join the Honey Soundsystem and Donuts crews for a thoughtful onslaught from the past, with live performances from the Raincoats and Section 25, plus a DJ set from Gang of Four. Oct. 9, $25 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com


Pushing electro through the crystalline prism of your ass, the esteemed (you can be esteemed in electro?) DJ and beat-mongrel keeps squeezing dirty, dirty beats from the banger stone. He’ll be pumping lightning jags from his new disc Power! (BNR). Nov. 4, 9 p.m., $17.50 advance. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com

‘The Adderall Diaries’



EXCERPT My psychiatrist lives just down the street from me. I can walk there. I see her once a month, or once every three months, and she prescribes my pills. The pills make me crazy, I know that, but I don’t see the alternative. It’s really just speed, no different from the original amphetamine salts Gordon Alles injected in June, 1929, and almost identical to the Pervitin used by German paratroopers in World War II as they dropped behind enemy lines in a state the British newspapers described as "heavily drugged, fearless, and berserk." It’s the same stuff injected in high doses in the Haight Ashbury that Allen Ginsburg was talking about in 1965 saying, "Speed is antisocial, paranoid-making, it’s a drag, bad for your body, bad for your mind."

Without the Adderall I have a hard time following through on a thought. My mind is like a man pacing between the kitchen and the living room, always planning something in one room then leaving as soon as he arrives in the other. Adderall is a compound of four amphetamine salts. The salts metabolize at different rates with diverse half lives, so the amphetamine uptake is smoother and the come down lighter. And I wonder if I’m not still walking back and forth in my head, just faster, so fast it’s as if I’m not walking at all.

My psychiatrist is tall and thin and her skin hangs loosely around her face. I like her quite a bit though I’ve never spent more than 15 minutes with her. She works from her home and a small waiting room is always open on the side of her house. There are magazines there, one in particular ADD Magazine. The magazine is full of tips for organizing your life. There’s even an article suggesting that maybe too much organization is not a good thing. Mostly though, it’s about children. How to deal with your attention deficit child and the child’s teacher, who might be skeptical.

In the writing class I teach, a woman recently turned in an essay about her son who suffers from attention deficit. Her essay was written as a love letter and was completely absent of hate or envy or any of the things that make us human. It was missing everything we try to hide.

"How are you feeling?" my psychiatrist asks.

"Better," I reply.

I had stopped taking the pills for a year, maybe more. Three weeks ago I started taking them again. When I quit taking Adderall I was still dating Lissette. I would go to her house in Berkeley during the day while her husband was gone, and wrap myself around her feet while she worked. Or I would visit her at the dungeon she worked at on the weekends as a professional dominatrix. I would sit in the dressing room with the women and we would watch television. Lissette was the most popular and she would be off with the clients most of the day. She would leave them in the rooms to undress. When she returned they would be kneeling on the floor, their naked backs facing her. She might walk carefully toward them, sliding the toe of her boot across the carpet. Or she might stand away from them, letting their anticipation build, as she pulled a single-tail from the rack. She loved to be adored and the best clients made her feel happy and complete. The walls were thin and I could hear the paddles landing on the client’s back with a thud sometimes followed by a scream. When she was done she might come downstairs and sit on my lap for a while, and then we would go.

I have a memory of Lissette in the dungeon, which was really just a four-bedroom basic Californian with a driveway and a yard in a quiet town north of Berkeley, near the highway. She’s standing on the back of a couch, grabbing a toy from above a row of lockers. She’s wearing panties with lace along the bottom and high heels and we’re all staring at the back of her thighs, amazed.

When I was taking Adderall all I thought about was Lissette and when I stopped taking the Adderall I started thinking about other things. Lissette noticed and we broke up. Then we got back together, then we broke up again. Over the course of last year, after I had stopped, I often felt suicidal. I had time, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I was a writer but I had forgotten how to write so I sat with my computer. I sat in coffeeshops or I sat at home or I sat at the Writer’s Grotto, an old building near the ballpark where a group of authors share office space. I still had a bunch of pills left and occasionally I would take one, just to know the writer’s block was real. Then I lost all the pills when my bag was stolen at a bar on 22nd Street six months ago, and that was the end of that.

If you asked me what happened this past year I’m not sure I could tell you. I could say I moved into this apartment on the edge of the city where I can hear children and dogs in the morning and I despise it. I could say I was with and not with Lissette, getting together and breaking up every couple of months. At one point I called her the love of my life. I could say honestly I started to write a novel every day. I could say I went on tour for six weeks with the Sex Workers Art Show and that a compilation of previously written essays and stories about my predilection for — my addiction to — violent sex was released to silent reviews.

I could say I watched the first three seasons of The Wire on DVD and on Sunday nights I went to a friend’s house nearby and ate dinner and watched HBO.

I ran a reading series in the same bar where my bag was stolen. It was part of a literary organization I founded to raise money for progressive candidates running for congress in 2006.

I edited an anthology of political erotica.

I could say I did all these things and if it sounds like a lot I can assure you it isn’t. I’m not married and I have no children. I have friends but they don’t know where I am most of the time. I don’t work. I live on money I made before, money that is almost gone.

Last year I made $10,000.

I live in San Francisco. Rents are going up.

I’m teaching a couple of classes to get by. I know I should get a job, but it’s hard to do that after a while.

From The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder (Graywolf Press, 212 pages, $23), published in September.

STEPHEN ELLIOTT With Tobias Wolff and Bucky Sinister. Thurs/27, 7 p.m., $20 (free copy of The Adderall Diaries for attendees). Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF. (415) 970-0012. www.amnesiathebar.com

Night repper


D Tour and Rogue Wave Joe Granato’s award-winning doc about musician Pat Spurgeon, with an acoustic post-screening performance by Spurgeon’s Oakland band. Sept. 3, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; www.sfmoma.org.

"Cocky White Guys" Jesse Hawthorne Ficks of Midnites for Maniacs serves up a triple platter of cockiness: Risky Business (1983), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), and the very closet-gay Last American Virgin (1982). Sept. 4, Castro; www.castrotheatre.com.

"Speechless: Recent Experimental Animation" The program includes the 3-D amazements of local wonder woman Kerry Laitala’s enticingly titled Chromatic Cocktail Extra Fizzy. Sept. 8, Pacific Film Archive; www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

SF Shorts This year’s lineup includes over 60 short films and music videos. Sept. 9-12, Red Vic; www.redvicmoviehouse.com.

Bigger Than Life Nicholas Ray’s gonzo look at suburban family ideals gone amok was too weird for 1956. Todd Haynes has stolen from this movie as much as from any Sirk work. Sept. 10, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org

Lucha Beach Party Will the Thrill takes his showmanship to the Balboa, along with Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters (1969) and longtime contender for best movie title ever, Wrestling Women vs. Aztec Mummy (1964). Sept. 10, www.thrillville.net

Rialto’s Best of British Noir A chance to see Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) on the big screen. Sept. 11-16, Castro; www.castrotheatre.com.

"Top Bill: The Films of William Klein" The great photographer’s underrated film output gets a thorough survey, ranging from his prescient and sharp 1960s portraits of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali and Eldridge Cleaver to his madcap yet dry looks at fashion in Paris. Sept. 11-Oct. 11, Pacific Film Archive; www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Independent Erotic Film Festival Good Vibrations presents the event’s fourth incarnation. Highlights include a potential screening of Gerard Damiano’s The Devil in Miss Jones and a program of 1920s peep show reels. Sept. 12-17, various venues; www.gv-ixff.org.

Spectrology Mad Cat Women’s Film Festival presents a one-off screening of a new work by Kerry Laitala. Sept. 16, El Rio; www.madcatfilmfestival.org

Film Noir at the Roxie You can always count on the Roxie to play host to the less obvious dark alleys of noir. Sept. 17-30, Roxie; www.roxie.com

Liverpool Lisandro Alonso’s highly acclaimed 2008 film finally get a SF gig. Sept. 17-20, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org.

Iranian Film Fest This year’s festival focuses on women’s roles in Iranian society. Sept. 19-20, various venues; www.iranianfilmfestival.blogspot.com.

"Life’s Work: The Cinema of Ermanno Ulmi" A comprehensive retrospective of films by a director known for his masterful renderings of work, such as 1961’s Il posto. Sept. 25-Oct. 30, Pacific Film Archive; www-bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Grease Sing-Along The San Francisco Film Society presents this key 1978 addition to the canon of Randal Kleiser. Sept. 26; www.sffs.org.

The Room Avoid The Room at your peril. Sept. 26. Red Vic; www.redvicmoviehouse.com.

Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy Together at last: Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and Mother of Tears (2007). Be there or be violently stabbed by a hand in a black glove. Oct. 1-4, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org.

The Red Shoes A new print — which debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival — of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 gem. Oct. 1, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; www.sfmoma.org.

Found Footage Festival Trash is a treasure as curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher host the fourth incarnation of the event. Oct. 2-3, Red Vic; www.redvicmoviehouse.com.

"Julien Duvivier: Poetic Craftsman of Cinema" The lengthy and perhaps erratic career of the man who made Jean Gabin an icon gets a full treatment. Oct. 2-31, Pacific Film Archive; www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Barry Jenkins’ Shorts The San Francisco filmmaker shares his work to date, including his feature debut Medicine for Melancholy (2007). Oct. 3, Artists’ Television Access; www.othercinema.com

"Nervous Magic Lantern Peformance: Towards the Depths of the Even Greater Depression" Ken Jacobs in the house, aiming to "get between the eyes, contest the separate halves of the brain" with a magic lantern that uses neither film or video. Oct. 7, Pacific Film Archive; www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Pink Cinema Revolution A series for the Japanese genre and industry that has schooled some master filmmakers while titilutf8g audiences. Oct. 7-25, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org.

Robert Beavers The experimental filmmaker’s fall stint in the Bay Area includes four programs presented by SF Cinematheque. Oct. 8-10, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.sfmoma.org, www.ybca.org.

"Eyes Upside Down" Great title. A program of films curated by the writer P. Adams Sitney. Oct. 11, www.sfcinematheque.org.

Arab Film Festival This year’s festival lasts ten days. Oct. 15-24, various venues; www.aff.org

French Cinema Now Contemporary film in France condensed into a series. Oct. 29-Nov. 4, Sundance Kabuki; www.sffs.org.

Halloween Gore ‘n’ Snorefest Thrillville returns to the Balboa with Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) and Zontar, the Thing From Venus (1966). If only the characters of these movies could time travel to meet one another. Oct. 29; www.thrillville.net.

"Running Up That Hill" Michael Robinson, creator of the eye-blinding and hilarious video Light is Waiting (2007), borrows a title from Kate Bush for this program, which he’s curated. Nov. 6, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; www.ybca.org.

It Came from Kuchar Jennifer Kroot’s documentary about the Kuchar brothers hits the screen after raves at Frameline. Nov. 14, Artists’ Television Access; www.othercinema.com.

New Italian Cinema The San Francisco Film Society presents a sample of recent films from Italy. Nov. 15-22, Sundance Kabuki; www.sffs.org.

Recent Restorations: George and Mike Kuchar You can never have too much Kuchar. Dec. 10, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; www.sfmoma.org.

Fall fairs and festivals


AUG 28-30

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival Golden Gate Park, SF; www.sfoutsidelands.com. 12-10pm, $89.50-$225.50. SF’s best alternative to That Thing in the Desert is back for its second year, with headliners Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and Tenacious D playing for you and two thousand of your closest friends.


Eat Real Festival Jack London Square, Oakl; eatrealfest.com. Fri, 4-9pm; Sat, 10am-9pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. Free. Buy from your favorite street food vendors, sample microbrews at the Beer Shed, or shop in the market for local produce at this sister event to La Cocina’s Street Food Festival.

AUG 29-SEPT 20

SF Shakespeare Festival Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, between Graham and Keyes; www.sfshakes.org. Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2:30pm, free. The genius of Shakespeare in SF’s most relaxed setting.

SEPT 1-30

Architecture and the City Times, locations, and prices vary. www.aiasf.org/archandcity. The American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter and the Center for Architecture + Design host the sixth annual fest, featuring home tours, films, exhibitions, dining by design, and more.

SEPT 5-6


Millbrae Art and Wine Festival Broadway Avenue between Victoria and Meadow Glen, Millbrae; (650) 697-7324, www.antiquesbythebay.net. 10am-5pm, free. The Big Easy comes to Millbrae for this huge Labor Day weekend event.



Antiques and Collectibles Faire Alameda Point, Alameda; www.antiquesbythebay.net. 9am-3pm, $5. California’s biggest and best antiques and collectibles extravaganza is back with 800 outdoor booths, with something for everyone.

SEPT 9-20

Fringe Festival Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy; 931-1094, www.sffringe.org. Times and prices vary. An ever-changing collection of unusual and lively experimental theater pieces will be showcased over the course of 18 days.

SEPT 12-13

Chocolate Festival Ghirardelli Square; www.ghirardellisq.com. 1pm, free. Indulge in chocolate delicacies, sip wine, and enjoy chocolate-inspired family activities at this annual event benefiting Project Open Hand.

Power to the Peaceful Festival Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park; www.powertothepeaceful.org. 9am, prices vary. Michael Franti and Guerrilla Management present the 11th annual festival dedicated to music, arts, action, and yoga. With Alanis Morrisette, Sly & Robbie, a special after party at the Fillmore, and workshops all day Sunday.


Mountain View Art and Wine Festival Castro Street between El Camino Real and Evelyn Ave, Mountain View; (650) 968-8378, www.miramarevents.com. 10am-6pm, free. More than 200,000 art lovers will gather for the 38th installment of one of America’s top art festivals, featuring crafts, live music, food, and drink.


Brews on the Bay Jeremiah O’Brien at Pier 45; 929-8374. Times, locations, and prices vary. www.aiasf.org/archandcity. The American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter and the Center for Architecture + Design host the sixth annual fest, featuring home tours, films, exhibitions, dining by design, and more.

SEPT 17-21


Symbiosis Gathering Camp Mather, Yosemite; www.symbiosisgathering.com. $180, includes camping. This synesthesia of art, music, transformational learning, and sustainable learning is quickly becoming one of NorCal’s favorite fall festivals. This year’s headliners include Les Claypool, Yard Dogs Road Show, Bassnectar, and the Glitch Mob.

SEPT 19-20

Autumn Moon Festival 667 Grant; 982-6306, www.moonfestival.org. 11am-6pm, free. Chinatown’s annual street fair features continuous Asian entertainment, lion dances, costumed artisans, cultural demonstrations, arts and crafts, and food vendors.


Folsom Street Fair Folsom Street between Seventh and 12 St; www.folsomstreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. The world’s largest leather event covers 13 city blocks with entertainment, vendors, and plenty of spectacle.

OCT 2-5

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park; www.strictlybluegrass.com. Check website for times. Free. Natalie MacMaster, Emmylou Harris, Aimee Mann, Neko Case, and many more perform for free in Golden Gate Park.


LovEvolution Civic Center Plaza; www.sflovevolution.org. 12pm, free. The event formerly known as Love Parade may have a new name, but the music, color, and fun remains.

OCT 3-4

World Veg Festival San Francisco County Fair Bldg, Lincoln and Ninth Ave; 273-5481, www.sfvs.org/wvd. 10am-6pm, $6. The San Francisco Vegetarian Society and In Defense of Animals present the 10th annual award-winning festival featuring lectures, cooking demos, vegan merchandise, and entertainment.


Castro Street Fair Castro at Market; www.castrostreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. The festival founded by Harvey Milk returns with the theme "Come Get Hitched in the Center of the Gay Universe," in an effort to keep the embers burning in the fight for equal rights.

OCT 9-17

Litquake Locations vary; Times vary, most events free. To commemorate its 10-year anniversary, the storytelling festival kicks off with the "Black, White, and Read" ball and continues with nine days of lit-themed programming.

OCT 11

San Francisco Decompression Indiana Street; www.burningman.com. Break our your still-dusty Burning Man costumes and welcome hard-working BMORG staff back to "Real Life" with this BRC-themed street fair and festival.

OCT 15

West Fest Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park; www.2b1records.com. 9am-6pm, free. 2b1 Multimedia Inc., the Council of Light, and the original producer of Woodstock 1969 team up to celebrate Woodstock’s 40th anniversary with a free show featuring Country Joe, Denny Laine, Alameda All Stars, Michael McClure, and tons more.

OCT 16

WhiskyFest San Francisco Marriott, 55 Fourth St; 896-1600, www.maltadvocate.com. 6:30-9:30pm, $95. America’s largest whisky celebration returns to SF for the third year with more than 200 of the world’s rarest and most expensive whiskies.

OCT 17

Potrero Hill Festival Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, 953 De Haro. 9am-5pm. This benefit for the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House features a jazz brunch catered by students of The California Culinary Academy and continues with a street fair along 20th Street between Missouri and Arkansas.

OCT 17-18

Treasure Island Music Festival Treasure Island; www.treasureislandfestival.com. Fri-Sat, 11am. $65-$249. The Bay Area’s answer to Coachella (minus the camping, heat, and Orange County douchebags) is back, this year featuring The Flaming Lips, The Decemberists, Yo La Tengo, The Streets, and about 100 other indie favorites and up-and-comers.


Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival Main Street at Highways 1 and 92, Half Moon Bay. 9am-5pm, free. Jim Stevens and Friends will return to the world famous festival featuring music, crafts, parade, and children’s events.

OCT 23-24
Exotic Erotic Expo Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva; www.exoticeroticball.com. Fri, 2-10pm; Sat, 12-6pm; $20. Part Mardi Gras, part burlesque, and part rock concert, this two-day fest is a celebration of human sexuality and freedom of expression, with its crowning event the Exotic Erotic Ball on Saturday night.
Day of the Dead Starts at 24th and Bryant, ends at Garfield Park; www.dayofthedeadsf.org. 7pm, free. Celebrate this traditional Latin holiday – and SF institution — with a procession and Festival of Altars.
NOV 13-15
SF Green Festival San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St; www.greenfestivals.org Fri, 12-7pm; Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun, 11am-6pm. $15-$25. A joint project of Global Exchange and Green America, this three-day event features the best in green speakers and special events.
NOV 27-DEC 20
Great Dickens Christmas Fair Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, 2600 Geneva; www.dickensfair.com. Fri-Sun, 11am-7pm. Check website for ticket prices. Channel Charles Dickens’ Victorian London with this 90,000 square-foot theatrical extravaganza.




SUPEREGO "It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity." Actually, having just touched down from the East Coast, lemme tell ya it’s both. No matter how much I may wish I was getting down to Afro-acid in New York’s P.S. 1 courtyard, I know I’d be rabidly itching to claw off my custom polyester Isabel Toledo bunny suit if I had to deal with the Big Apple heatwave. I much prefer to get sweaty on purpose, after dark, in our own climate of nuttiness, thank you very much.

(A note: This column is dedicated to the memory of Daithí Donnelly, a mastermind behind Anu, Swig, Bourbon and Branch, and more who passed away earlier this month. We’ll sorely miss his tireless dedication to SF nightlife.)


"Why the hell not?," I ask you. I’m anxious to hear the result of this new weekly 18+ club experiment at Poleng, as local and international DJs from both sides of the seemingly incongruous musical divide square off or blend their various strains. Firsts up: Kid Kameleon and Lexxus in the dubstep room, and Salva and B. Bravo in the disco room. Stand in the middle.

Wednesdays starting Wed/26, $5 for under 21/ over 21 free. Poleng, 1751 Fulton, SF. www.hacksawent.com


There’s so much going on right now on SF’s dark side that occasionally regular parties that I enjoy immensely slip through my liquor-lubricated crack. Thus, I’ve finally gotta give many snaps to the queerlightful monthly Stay Gold party, which features "hella gay dance jamz" from DJs Rapid Fire and Pink Lightning and a beauteous crowd of lezzies, fags, and in-betweens.

Wed/26 and last Wednesdays, 10:30 p.m., $3. Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. www.makeoutroom.com


Electronic music, without those annoying synthesizers. Perfect! The Toronto-based experimental rock quartet subs in live drums and bass — plus toy keyboards, effects pedals, and other delicious analog goodies — to reinterpret edgy dance sounds. It really works, and gives rise to some surprisingly heady combinations.

Thu/27, 8:30 p.m., $15. The Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.independentsf.com


More live electro-emuutf8g shenanigans from Toronto, this time courtesy of the multi-member outfit dubbed "kings of the live remix." Discover in wonder their guitars-and-turntable versions of Justice and other dance floor juggernauts. It’s no joke karaoke, the boys mean business.

Sat/29, 10 p.m., $10. Club Six, 66 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com


Once upon a time there was an amazing bar called the Transfer where really fun nightlife things happened. One of those fun things was Big Top, promoter Joshua J’s outrageous circus-themed drag hoo-haw. It was like Cirque du Soleil, but with less French and much more basket. Well, it’s back, now at Club Eight, with three rings of disco-tinged scandal.

Sat/29 and last Saturdays, 10 p.m., $5. Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF. www.eightsf.com


I went to the premiere of this monthly party earlier this summer, and it was too, too much. Packed with young art stars, energized scenesters, and vogueing — there was indeed a runway — it brought together many of the city’s oft-dispersed up-and-coming movers and shakers. With surprisingly little irony! Ms. Terry and Mani host, with DJs Chelsea Starr, Frankie Sharp, and more.

Sat/29, 10 p.m., $5. Triple Crown, 1772 market, SF. www.triplecrownsf.com


I’m so scared of this! Were you still raving in 1999? If you were, and you haven’t died of sugar-shock from all those candy necklaces, then you may want to wayback with ages 16+ to those Hot Topic-tinged days of yore.

Sat/29, 9 p.m.–4 a.m., $40. regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness, SF. www.skillsdj.com

Man in the mirror



CHEAP EATS I love the fog. I love a street lamp. I love my log pile. I had just driven down from the shack so I needed to pee, plus lunch.

"Lamb burrito with chile lime sauce," I said, because I had to know.

"You like spicy?" he said.


"Then you should get the tropical lamb."

"Tropical lamb burrito," I said. "Do you have a bathroom?"

He motioned over his shoulder, through the kitchen, and I went there. But it was unclear. There was a guy sitting in a chair, an unmarked door behind him. I wondered if he was waiting.

"Bathroom?" he said.

When I nodded, he motioned over his shoulder, and as I walked past he said, and I quote, "Flush the toilet."

I closed the bathroom door behind me and took a deep breath, which I don’t normally like to do in unfamiliar bathrooms. But this particular breath seemed called for. I thought I might be maybe going to have a nervous breakdown.

Instead, I peed. I felt good about this decision.

There was no lock on the door. No toilet paper. No paper towels. I washed my hands, wiped them on my skirt, and carefully considered what to do next. Besides go sit down and eat my burrito, I mean. The thing is, I was pretty sure this guy outside the bathroom worked for me. He’d started out as a character in one of my old stories, sitting on a bucket at a gas station in Nevada, I believe, with a rotten spot in his forehead and maybe a worm in it. Uncle Somebody.

I’d made up the worm, of course, but I’m not making this other stuff up. Maybe he wanted a promotion. Tired of being a wormy character in an obscure old literary magazine, he waited for me in restaurants. Or maybe just this one. Who knows how long he’d been sitting there, saying to people, "Flush the toilet."

This rarely happens in movies, let alone restaurant reviews — that a fictional character (within the fiction of the movie, of course) charms, heel-clicks, or brute forces their way into "real life," or, for our purposes, Cheap Eats.

I tried to remember if I’d based my character on someone real, maybe someone I’d seen on the street in, oh, Albany, California, say. San Pablo Ave. I tried to remember what he’d said, in the story. It seemed important — the kind of detail that could make or break me. To give you an idea of my frame of mind, at the time.

I looked in the mirror and did not look good.

And now I was going to have to walk past him again. The way I saw it, not saying anything wasn’t an option. The question was what to say. I decided I would inform him they were out of toilet paper and paper towels. That way I would find out if he worked for the restaurant, and, if so, know that I was off the hook.

But when I went out there, finally, and walked past him and stopped and looked at him, sitting there with his legs spread and his elbows on his knees, leaning forward, I froze. He looked at me looking at him, and I said, in a flash of inspiration, "I flushed the toilet."

Sometimes you have to meet these people on their terms. It’s the last thing they expect, to be embraced by a parrot or a mirror. In fact it’s hard for even me to imagine, when I put it like that.

"What?" he said.

"I flushed the toilet," I said, and I turned and left him there, staring at the floor between his feet, either lost in thought, or defeated.

Either way, I enjoyed my weirdo burrito to the best of my ability, and its. Lamb in a spicy honey curry sauce, with black beans and rice in a tortilla. Chips on the side.

You don’t believe me, do you.


Mon.–Sat.: 11 a.m.–8 p.m.

909 San Pablo Ave, Albany

(510) 528-9011

No alcohol

Cash only

L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.

Rear window



Dear Andrea:

My lover and I have amazing sex. We love each other dearly too. We’ve been seeing each other for three years with no decrease in intensity. I’m 45, he’s 37, and I’ve got two kids (who are older, so they cannot be held responsible for the following problem).

A few times lately when we’ve made love, I have had a small bowel movement. I always have multiple orgasms and there is squirting involved (which he really gets off on), which involves sort of bearing down. This has only happened three times in all, I think. But I’m horrified. He’s a saint (overall, and about this in particular), and just murmurs he’ll get me a warm facecloth, then wipes me off (as I’m generally lying there grinning and sort of unaware of what’s going on til later when I see the sheets).

I doubt he’s getting off on that part — more that he figures it’s a necessary evil (since the sex is so good). But I’m not happy about it, so what to do? Is this a dietary thing? Do I need to lay off the Indian food before he comes over? Try my hardest to do a BM before sex?

Any info hugely appreciated!



Dear ‘Fied:

Why do I do this to myself? I am not a poop fan (yes, I know, but yes, there sure are), and three years of parenthood have failed to move me any closer to poop fandom. I’m just not feeling it. I don’t really even like to read about it. How fortunate that your saintly boyfriend is so much less of a weenie than I am!

It would be gratifyingly simple to blame the saag aloo, which, yes, is delicious, but which you could certainly forego on date nights, if necessary. Sadly, I think your curries are as innocent as they are yummy. I’m not so sure we can let your children, or rather your child-bearing, completely off the hook, though. I think this is a pubocoxxygeus-related problem, brought on perhaps by having had those kids — plus the unfortunate slackening both inside and out that comes in one’s 40s and facilitated by your bearing down to squirt. I think what we’ve got here is a failure to Kegelcize. Kegels aren’t just for vaginas, you know.

Here is a potential program: step up the fiber and see if you can get on a regular full-evacuation schedule, and start doing a whole lot of sets of Kegel-type contractions, making sure you’re tightening the relevant parts. If you’re not getting anywhere after a month or so, see your gyno and get your pelvic floor assessed. Something may be amiss in there. What’s going on may not be devastating, and it’s lovely that your boyfriend is so unfussed, but you find it (understandably) distressing. And actually, it should not be happening.



Dear Andrea:

My boyfriend wanted to put his finger in my arse, so I eventually let him, wanting to try everything once! I was surprised by how much I liked it and how intense it made my orgasm, and we are now talking about trying full anal sex. But how does it give me pleasure? Surely for girls there aren’t any special spots in there?


What’s in there?

Dear What?:

Clearly not so!

OK, it’s true, no prostate. But plenty of nerve endings, at least around the anus itself, and many prostate-less persons enjoy the sensation of fullness and pressure. Still, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that it was the extra crowding, if you will, that created the extra intensity, in which case the anal intercourse with no vaginal involvement may not produce the desired effect. No way to tell without experimenting, though. Oh well!



Dear Andrea:

My boyfriend and I just had sex for the first time last weekend. While I did receive some pleasure, the second time I was too distracted to fully enjoy it. Every time he would push, I would feel like I was going to go to the bathroom. I know for a fact that I didn’t have to go because I tried. Is it normal to feel this way?



Dear ‘Plex:

Pretty much. I don’t even know if by "go to the bathroom" you meant one or two, but it hardly matters — all the relevant structures are packed very tightly in there. Something pushing into your vagina is putting some pressure on both your urethra (in front) and your rectum (behind), and the unfamiliar sensation can certainly read as bathroom-type urgency of some sort, even if you’ve recently been. I’m going to assume that you are A) young, B) tight, and C) just generally built small. The first two will pass, as will the unfamiliarity. What never does change is the requirement that you be quite turned on before he tries to get in there. It makes a world of difference. You’ll be amazed how much more space there is for him when you’re ready to receive him. Slow. Down.



See Andrea’s other column at carnalnation.com.

Restoring the sanctuary


>>San Francisco groups launch campaign for federal immigration reform


The week started off in celebratory mood for members of the local immigrant rights community who attended an Aug. 18 rally outside City Hall to support legislation by Sup. David Campos that would extend due process rights to immigrant youth. And it ended, as this issue has a way of triggering, in controversy and division.

"Si se puede," chanted the crowd, hoping that "yes, we can" reform city policies on deporting undocumented young people accused of crimes before their trials. Dozens of immigrant and civil rights leaders representing 70 community groups made powerful speeches, buoyed by the knowledge that seven other supervisors — John Avalos, Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, Eric Mar, Sophie Maxwell, Ross Mirkarimi, and Board President David Chiu — support the proposal, giving Campos the eight votes needed to override a mayoral veto of his proposed legislation.

Campos, an attorney who came to the United States as an undocumented teenager from Guatemala, told the crowd that he hopes to ensure that undocumented juveniles can only be referred to federal authorities for deportation after a court finds that they have committed a felony.

The Campos proposal, which was introduced during a week-long effort to revive immigration reform efforts at the federal level, seeks to amend a policy shift that the Mayor’s Office rammed through last summer after somebody leaked confidential juvenile criminal records to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Those leaks revealed that city officials had been harboring adolescent crack dealers instead of referring them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation. Within days, Mayor Gavin Newsom — who had just announced his gubernatorial bid — ordered a change in policy.

In the year since that shift took place, city officials have reported an estimated 180 to 190 youths to ICE. But immigrant rights advocates say Newsom has refused to meet with more than 70 local community organizations to hear their concerns about how the change in policy violates due process rights.

"I hope Newsom will look at this proposal and see it for what it is: a balanced and measured process grounded in the values of San Francisco," Campos told his supporters, noting that his proposal does not seek to revert to the city’s original policy, under which no youths were referred to ICE, even when there was misconduct.

Instead, Campos’ proposal seeks to reform the policy that Newsom ordered and the city’s Juvenile Probation Department implemented last July without public debate. As Avalos observed at the Aug. 18 rally, "The policy that was introduced last year only produced a semblance of public safety. It caved in to the politics of intolerance. It was not in line with the city of St. Francis. A veto-proof majority has made sure this legislation passes. Young people deserve better."

But the next day, the mood in the immigrant community soured as they learned that the Mayor’s Office had leaked to the Chronicle a confidential memo from the City Attorney’s Office about the legal vulnerabilities of Campos’ proposed legislation. The paper ran a long, high-profile story on the memo along with critical quotes from Newsom, Police Chief George Gascón, and U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello.

As of press time, the Guardian had not been furnished a copy of the leaked memo. But it reportedly warns that passage of Campos’ legislation could jeopardize the city’s defense against the Bologna family, who claim that the city’s policy allegedly allowed Edwin Ramos, now 22, to kill Tony Bologna and his two sons last year. It also reportedly cautions that the Campos proposal could affect city officials who are being probed by a federal grand jury on whether the city’s previous policy violated federal law.

Missing from the Chronicle‘s coverage was any mention that the Ramos case is stalled, with Ramos claiming that he drove the car but did not fire the fatal rounds in the Bolognas triple slaying, and that the shooter has gone underground and is believed to have fled the country.

Nor did the Chronicle note that a committee vetting potential nominees for U.S. Attorney for Northern California has forwarded three names for Sen. Barbara Boxer to consider — Melinda Haag, Matthew Jacobs, and Kathryn Ruemmler. Russoniello, who launched this grand jury investigation and has been openly hostile to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies, could soon be replaced.

And the Chronicle only dedicated one sentence to another legal memo — a 20-page brief prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian Law Center, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Legal Services for Children, and the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Defense Committee. Their memo was prepared to support Campos’ contention that Newsom’s new policy exposes the city to lawsuits, undermines confidence in the police, subverts core progressive values, ignores differences between adults and minors, and violates the city charter.

"In its haste to respond to media stories, the Mayor’s Office and JPD acted precipitously, usurping the role of the Juvenile Probation Commission under the City Charter and failed to abide by the measured approach embodied in the City of Refuge Ordinance," contends the civil rights memo.

The authors of this civil rights memo note that they repeatedly shared their concerns with the Mayor’ Office, JPD, and the City Attorney’s Office about the new policy — which, they observe, "was crafted behind closed doors and hastily adopted in 2008 without a public hearing."

"Yet the Mayor’s Office and JPD have rejected our invitation to work collaboratively with community partners to ensure that the youth are not referred for deportation based on a mere accusation or an unfounded suspicion, and to protect the city from exposure to liability for erroneously referring a youth who is actually documented for deportation," the civil rights memo states.

The civil rights memo recommends that youths not be referred to ICE until five conditions are met: the youth has been charged with a felony; the youth’s felony delinquency petition has been sustained; the youth has undergone immigration legal screening by an immigration attorney; JPD has comprehensive policies to minimize the risk that the youth will be erroneously referred to ICE because of language barriers; and the probation officer makes a recommendation to the court and the court agrees that ICE should be notified.

Reached shortly after the Mayor’s Office leaked the City Attorney’s confidential memo, Campos expressed shock at the manner in which it was released. "It’s an elected official’s obligation to protect the city, and elected officials also have a fiduciary duty," Campos said.

Confident that his legislation is legal, Campos observed that "legal challenges are a reality any time you try to do anything about immigration.

"But it’s interesting that we are talking about fear of being sued, when San Francisco has a long and proud history of facing legal challenges when we believe that we are correct," he added, pointing to the city’s willingness to fight for same-sex marriage, domestic partner benefits, and universal health care.

"The very same people who say that they are afraid of being sued here had no problem defending those issues," Campos said. "Perhaps it is not so popular to defend the right of an undocumented child as those other issues. But that does not negate the fact that we are right on this issue. We should stand up for what is right and we should not be afraid of litigation."

Avalos was equally appalled by this seemingly unethical leak by the Mayor’s Office. "I thought we just had something to celebrate, having a rally to support David Campos’ legislation and now we have memos being leaked," Avalos said. "It’s unfeeling at best. By leaking a confidential memo that contains privileged attorney-client information, you are undermining the city’s legal position on an issue. And obviously you are putting your personal career interests over the city. If the mayor’s political position is more important than the welfare of the city, that’s pretty worrying to the Board of Supervisors."

The City Attorney’s Office responded to the leak by issuing another memo, this time outlining the legal and fiscal perils of leaking attorney-client privileged materials. "Confidential legal advice is not intended to be fodder in political disputes," City Attorney Dennis Herrera stated, noting that he was "not aware of a city official or employee who has acknowledged responsibility for the disclosure."

And, initially, no one in the Mayor’s Office took responsibility for the leak.

"It is my understanding that the Chronicle got it from a confidential source," Newsom Press Secretary Nathan Ballard told the Guardian, claiming that "the Campos bill paints a target on us and puts our entire sanctuary city policy at risk."

But by week’s end, pressure was building on Newsom to reveal whodunit.

"While I welcome the issuance of the City Attorney’s legal guidance reminding the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors of their obligation to keep attorney-client privileged information confidential, a thorough investigation is needed to hold those responsible accountable," Avalos stated, asking the City Attorney’s Office and the Ethics Commission to get involved.

Shortly after Avalos asked for an investigation, I covered the swearing-in ceremony for Gascón at City Hall, during which Gascón told the assembled that "safety without social justice is not safety."

Struck by the chief’s words, I asked the mayor if he was concerned about the apparent breach of security that occurred in his office when the memo was leaked. Newsom responded angrily, noting that clients, in an attorney-client privilege arrangement, can release memos if they so choose.

"So, you did leak the memo to the Chronicle?" I asked.

"I handed it," Newsom answered, pausing to look at Ballard, "to some of my people." Chronicle reporter Heather Knight was also there and wrote in a story published the next day that Newsom "authorized the leak."

When I asked if leaking the memo was a preemptive strike against the Campos legislation, the mayor went into a rant about how Campos’ proposal could open the city to the threat of lawsuits and the loss of the entire sanctuary ordinance.

But concerns about lawsuits didn’t stop Newsom from pushing for same-sex marriage in 2004. When I asked Newsom to explain this disparity, he dismissed my question and Ballard announced it was time to move along.

Angela Chan, staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, challenged Newsom’s claim that Campos’ legislation puts the city’s entire sanctuary ordinance at risk, telling the Guardian, "It’s a false ultimatum."

Electric truth



1. New wave of California painting My thoughts on the topic are still percoutf8g, but it will soon be time to take on the inspiring subject of new California painters. Amanda Kirkhuff’s superb oil portrait of Lorena Bobbitt, currently up at [2nd Floor Projects], is one touchstone. Neil Ledoux’s brown invocations at Silverman Gallery earlier this year is another. The next few months bring a blitz of lively, original paintings. Brendan Lott serves up ugly-beautiful America. (Oct.-17-Nov. 14, Baer Ridgway Exhibitions, www.baerridgway.com) Alika Cooper continues her film femme fatale fascination with some Farrah. (Sept. 3-Oct. 17, Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art, www.wolfecontemporary.com) Kim Cogan pictures San Francisco. (September, Hespe Gallery, www.hespe.com) Nancy Chan sets friends floating in space and Matt Momchilov confronts weird normality head on. (Sept. 11-Oct. 17, Eleanor Harwood, www.eleanorharwood.com) But most of all, I’m looking forward to Conrad Ruiz’s sure-to-be-orgasmic debut SF solo show. (Dec. 11-Jan. 23, 2010; Silverman Gallery, www.silverman-gallery.com)

2. "When Lives Become Form: Contemporary Brazilian Art, 1960s to the Present" Tropicália can’t be revived often enough, even if Os Mutantes have — shame, shame — soundtracked a McDonald’s commercial. This survey, which includes fashion and architecture in addition to visual art and music, has been traveling the globe. Finally, SF gets a chance to see the movement Hlio Oiticica built. Nov. 5-Jan. 31, 2010; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, www.ybca.org

3. "Moby Dick" After last fall’s show devoted to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, CCA Wattis Institute’s trilogy of shows inspired by novels goes fishing for Herman Melville’s biggest catch. The range of artists taking part is impressive, with the likes of Tacita Dean placed next to local talents such as Colter Jacobsen. A number of works by filmmakers — including Buster Keaton, Jean Painlevé, Peter Hutton, and Kenneth Anger — are on deck. Sept. 22-Dec. 12, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, www.wattis.org

4. "On View: Candice Breitz" A working class hero is something to be. Breitz’s video portrait of 25 John Lennon fans singing along to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (Apple/EMI, 1970) sounds derivative of Phil Collins’ karaoke vids of Smiths fans, but in pop, no ideas are original, and all ideas are meant to be stolen and transformed. Plus the musical source is so damn good. A side video, 2005’s Mother — the title of one of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band‘s best songs — mines cinema. Oct. 1-Dec. 20, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, www.sfmoma.org

5. "Wonderland" Lance Fung’s curatorial idea to bring together 52 artists (43 from San Francisco and nine from other countries) for 10 site-specific projects in the Tenderloin has greater potential than any standard museum or gallery show. Oct. 17-Nov. 14, various sites, www.wonderlandshow.org

6. Photography Decades of work by an autodidact who learned from Warhol, studied under Irving Penn and at least briefly influenced Larry Clark comes together in "Ari Marcopoulos: Within Arm’s Reach," Marcopoulos’s first midcareer survey (Sept. 23-Feb. 7, 2010; Berkeley Art Museum, www.bampfa.org) Charles Gatewood’s raw and candid portraits of celebrities — no, he doesn’t only aim his camera at naked bodies with piercings — are gathered to form a countercultural scrapbook. (Sept. 3-Oct. 31, Robert Tat Gallery, www.roberttat.com) Johan Hagemeyer turns now-endangered California nature into a subject of eternal awe. (Sept. 9-Nov. 3, Scott Nichols Gallery, www.scottnicholsgallery.com) Hiroshi Sugimoto captures the surreal beauty of lightning in a manner Jean Painlevé might admire. (Sept. 10-Oct. 31, Fraenkel Gallery, www.fraenkelgallery.com) And San Francisco itself is the subject of the first entry in the vast retrospective "An Autobiography of the San Francisco Bay Area." Sept. 10-Oct. 31, SF Camerawork, www.sfcamerawork.org

7. "There’s a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak" Where are the wild things this fall? On the movie screen — thanks to Spike Jonze’s adaptation of a children’s classic by Maurice Sendak — and in the museum, where this show presents watercolors, sketches, drawings and dummy books. Sept. 8-Jan. 19, 2010; Contemporary Jewish Museum, www.thecjm.org

8. "Bellwether" As New Langton Arts goes down amid dissent and criticism, the vibrant but at times diffuse Southern Exposure introduces a new Mission District home space with a 10-artist show that includes contributions by Renee Gertler and Lordy Rodriguez. Oct. 17-Dec. 12, Southern Exposure, www.soex.org

9. "The Art of Richard Mayhew" The Museum of the African Diaspora plays host to one-third of a three-part retrospective of the artist and activist’s career. The show includes work from the late 1950s through the 1970s, a time span that includes his beginnings as an artist and his work with Spiral, a group of black artists including Romare Bearden. Oct. 9-Jan. 10, 2010; Museum of the African Diaspora, www.moadsf.org.

10. Solo and duo shows a go go Ara Peterson proves once again that few people chart — and bring dimension to — color with such power. (Nov. 6-Dec. 18, Ratio 3, www.ratio3.org) David Hevel gathers hideously pretty sculptures of Bernie Madoff, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Brangelina. (Sept. 10-Oct. 17, Marx & Zavattero, ww.marxzav.com) The late illustrator Charley Harper — beloved by Todd Oldham — gets a tribute. (Sept. 24-Oct. 31, Altman Siegel Gallery, www.altmansiegel.com) Local minimalist Todd Bura presents another open puzzle. (Sept. 18-Oct. 25, Triple Base, www.basebasebase.com) Pop goes berserk in the works of John De Fazio, and Daniel Minnick reinvents the American photo booth (fall, [2nd floor projects], www.projects2ndfloor.blogspot.com) Katya Bonnenfont proves — with a light and lovely touch, and against most evidence in galleries — that design can be art. (Oct. 22-Dec. 24, Haines Gallery, www.hainesgallery.com) And last, Luke Butler brings hotness and comedy together through razor-sharp collage. Sept. 11-Oct. 17, Silverman Gallery, www.silverman-gallery.com.

No brainer



FALL ARTS PREVIEW Who would have pictured Green Day’s anthemic 2004 punk-rock concept album, American Idiot (Reprise), as the stuff of musicals? It took merely two unlikely kindred spirits, meeting in the fall of 2007 for the first time: the Oakland band’s lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong and Tony-winning Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer.

Armstrong — that punk-rock diehard who even now plays Gilman with his side project Pinhead Gunpowder? Turns out that as a tyke growing up in Rodeo, he serenaded the elderly and infirm in local hospitals with standards and show tunes from musicals like Oliver! and Annie Get Your Gun.

"That’s how I learned how to sing," says Armstrong, laid back and low-key in stark contrast to the manic rabble-rouser who’ll soon take command over a stage at San Jose’s HP Pavilion. He’s on the phone from his Oakland home during a brief stop in Green Day’s arena tour for 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise), the follow-up to American Idiot. "There’s a real old-school craft to it," he continues, measuring that quality against Shrek, Legally Blond, and other recent disposable Broadway musicals. "That’s kind of a corny way of doing things, but when you see something like Spring Awakening, it’s … it’s real life, and it’s something that everybody relates to, and it’s inspiring and emotional. American Idiot was really tailor-made for something like this to happen to it, y’know."

At the same time that Armstrong tried to heal the ailing with music — and ’80s-era punks everywhere greeted "Morning in America" with a snarl — the generation-older Mayer was earning his MFA on the other side of the country in theater at NYU. No surprise, then, that Mayer "felt such a surprising kind of simpatico" on meeting the Green Day leader. "Even though we come from different worlds and are such different people," Mayer says, "you know, at the end of the day, Billie Joe is such a showman! Such a theatrical guy. Not since Al Jolson have I seen someone so in love with the audience and with putting on a performance for them."

Mayer radiates a similar high-wattage intensity, one that’s fully prepared to kick out the jams. Wide-eyed and unblinking behind his black frame specs, clad in a Justice League T-shirt and floppy shorts, he’s hiding out with me in what looks like an old classroom within the downtown Berkeley building enlisted for rehearsals of the musical version of American Idiot. "I feel like where we connect is old school," he says of Armstrong, slapping the table for emphasis. "Tin Pan Alley." Slap. "Vaudeville." Slap. "That’s the music he grew up with. He became a punk-rocker — I became a theater homo!"

Together, Armstrong and Mayer are making a piece of theater that combines the musical’s narrative tradition and holy union of song and dance with a breed of feisty alternative rock fed by the streetwise political punk of Gilman Street. A musical that unites the ironclad craft of the American Songbook and the heady, arena-sized artistic ambition of classic rock. Now, in the wake of the Broadway acclaim of Los Angeles punk vet Stew’s Passing Strange (which also got its start in at Berkeley Repertory in 2006 and has just been transferred to film by Spike Lee), American Idiot appears poised for critical and popular success when it opens Sept. 4.

American Idiot arrives at a time when musical theater is going through a wave of growing pains. The genre is casting about for ideas, whether they are from films like Shrek and Billy Elliott (to cite a Tony success from last year), or — as with Spring Awakening, which spotlit music by Duncan Sheik — from rock songwriters more comfortable with the life of gritty clubs, merch tables, and tour buses than the mountain-moving, time-devouring, and costly group mechanics of putting on a full-tilt musical. Unlike singularly conceived rock operas like the Who’s Tommy, the first notable union of an established rock band and theater on Broadway, so-called juke box musicals — collections of songs by one group like Mamma Mia! and Jersey Boys — have met with mixed results.

"There’s a whole variety, like Ring of Fire, the Johnny Cash one, that just haven’t made it," opines Michael Kantor, writer of the Emmy-winning 2005 PBS documentary Broadway: The American Musical. "It’s very much dependent on the conception of the director and the book writer who is putting together the story that’s going to encapsulate the music. I do think Broadway right now is keenly scavenging from movies or recordings — anything they feel like they can get quality material from as a launching point."

With the closing of a host of musicals earlier this year, producers are looking for the new and innovative. "Many of the most important musicals," Kantor theorizes, "have come from the most unexpected sources or most unusual approaches." And there’s the scramble for the youth entertainment dollar, as the High School Musical TV-music franchise taps into the passion so many kids have for song, dance, and drama. "Kids are always attracted to musicals," Kantor muses, "but once they get into their midteens, a lot of them lose their interest in musicals as an art form and gravitate to other stuff. High School Musical catches them at their natural inclination for that kind of entertainment. The question is, will a show like [American Idiot] capture that much-sought-after 18- to 30-year-old demographic, which is when musicals tend to lose people. Kids go off to college, it’s not too cool to like musicals, and a lot of adaptations are mainstream or traditional — and it doesn’t appeal to rebellious youth."

Young people also might have a hard time springing for costly theater tickets — yet the kids were out in force, filling the HP Pavilion last week when Green Day played to a hometown crowd with a show punctuated by pyrotechnic pillars of flames and fireworks-style explosions, gleeful costume changes, and squirt-gun shenanigans with Armstrong’s mom. It was a big-room amplification of the string of Bay club dates Green Day played earlier this spring at intimate venues like the Independent, DNA Lounge, and the Uptown.

Below a cleverly conceived 3-D urban skyscape backdrop, Armstrong fully embraced his onstage ham and flexed his crowd-control abilities à la Bugs Bunny in a Looney Tunes cartoon, taking running leaps from the monitors, stage-diving, soloing in the bleachers, donning a faux police cap and mooning each side of the audience, and entreating all assembled to raise their fists or sing along, before launching into more serious numbers like "Murder City," written about the Oakland riots that followed the Oscar Grant killing. Live, the band couples the playfully goofy, childlike comedy that tickles the 14-year-olds up front with the palpable sense of morality — driven by a beaten yet still beating anarchist heart — found on its increasingly serious-minded, idealistic recordings.

Armstrong won’t be onstage for the American Idiot musical — though the production includes a live band — and it’s not the Billie Joe Armstrong or Green Day Story. Instead, the musical is embedded in a specific time and hybridized with video-screen projections that simulate a familiar media-saturated landscape: it’s 2004, in the dark years. America has sent its idiot back to the White House, and we’re on the brink of Hurricane Katrina. Across that stage comes a series of almost archetypal characters one recognizes from the album: the Jesus of Suburbia, here dubbed Johnny for the lead actor it was written for, John Gallagher Jr., who won a Tony for his portrayal of Moritz in Spring Awakening; his antagonist St. Jimmy; and the rebel girl Whatshername.

Just about a week before the concert, the hyperactive, pogo-friendly energy of a Green Day show appeared to be finding its perfect translation at a rehearsal for American Idiot. Three weeks in, the cast — including Passing Strange‘s Rebecca Naomi Jones, here portraying the riot grrrly heroine Whatshername — tackled a round of "She’s a Rebel." In leggings and a Green Day T-shirt, Jones bounced on her toes as a barefoot Mayer dispensed hugs to cast members. A scruffily bearded Gallagher circled the group, then took his place in the desk jockey center for "Nobody Likes You." Choreographer Steven Hoggett tweaked the movements of the cast members as they tossed papers and marched up and down a moveable metal staircase

"When someone is a 20-something with all that angst and energy — where do you put that?," Hoggett said later by phone, pondering the task of "putting songs on their feet onstage." The goal of the choreographer who won an Oliver for his strong, subtle work in Black Watch and came up in the ’90s U.K. clubbing scene: create movement that serves Green Day’s songs and isn’t "too showbiz." To that end, he took in a Green Day show in Albany, N.Y., and fell in love with the mosh pit. "That was absolutely brilliant," he remembers. "Nerves gave way to absolute revelation. It’s just seeing what thousands of people do when they see Green Day — this is the world we need to do onstage."

Collaborating mainly via phone, e-mail, and text with Armstrong from 2007 through 2008, Mayer wanted to focus on a trio of friends — Johnny, Will, and Tunny — as he created the libretto. In true rock operatic form, all the dialogue is sung, using just the songs’ lyrics and text from the special edition CD of American Idiot.

Mayer and arranger Tom Kitt, whose work eventually scored him a spot creating string arrangements for Breakdown, took apart the songs — "letting them breathe in a theatrical way," as Mayer puts it — and placed the lyrics in the mouths of various characters. B-sides and new numbers like "Know Your Enemy," "21 Guns," and "Before the Lobotomy," which Armstrong offered to Mayer during the making of Breakdown last year, were inserted into the flow. Nonetheless, Mayer maintains it was crucial to him to preserve the original track order. "I didn’t want to violate the form of the record," he says. "I wanted to expand it, because the record’s only 52 minutes, and that’s not a full evening, and with these extra characters, they need more material to serve the arcs of their journeys."

It’s been a very personal journey for lead actor Gallagher, who confesses that he’s been a huge Green Day fan since fourth grade, when he’d wait eagerly for the trio’s "Basketcase" video on MTV. His character is Johnny, the Jesus of Suburbia, or as he describes it, "the son of rage and love." Raised in a broken home. Johnny is on "this path, caught between self-improvement and self-destruction, which is something I think we can all relate to," says the actor, who until not long ago had a band of his own. He and Mayer came up with the notion to deepen and intensify Johnny’s descent into drug addiction. "When the chips are down, it’s always easier to just implode on yourself rather than explode outward in a positive fashion that might be helpful for others."

Countering that is the positive process, littered with emphatic yesses, according to Mayer, of putting together American Idiot. In contrast with the difficult but rewarding eight-year gestation of Spring Awakening, Mayer — who has worked on such disparate productions as Thoroughly Modern Millie and the national tour of Angels in America — sees this musical’s trajectory as absolutely charmed. The spell has been in place from the day he proposed his idea to Green Day’s management in 2007, to the moment he was allowed six months to put together a libretto (a process that flew by in six weeks because Mayer says he was so "charged" by meeting Armstrong), to the instant last year that he and coproducer Tom Hulce decided to stage the musical at Berkeley Rep, a company he’d been wanting to work with for years, with his friend, artistic director Tony Taccone.

It’s all coming strangely, beautifully, together — like a punk-rocker besotted with pop hooks and a theater-infatuated one-time Julliard instructor. "It makes me very, very nervous," Mayer confesses, chuckling. "Oh, it’s terrifying! There’s something wrong with it — it’s too joyous. It’s been too easy in terms of everything falling into place."


Sept. 4-Oct. 11

Tues., Thurs.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Wed., 7 p.m.;

Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.

(no matinees Sept. 5–6 and 12–13); $16–$86

Berkeley Repertory

Roda Theatre

2015 Addison, Berk.

(510) 647-2949


Excitement! Dread! Blatant Oscar baiting!



Let’s be honest, film fans: summer 2009 hasn’t exactly been an exercise in awesome. Early entries like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Terminator Salvation were disappointing; hyped projects like Public Enemies and Brüno offered some entertainments, but overall felt kinda meh. The Hangover, Up, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Star Trek may have been mostly deserving of their $250 million-plus hauls, but think how many poor suckers emptied their wallets at the sublimely awful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which has raked in a bone-rattling $400 million so far. (That’s a lotta robot balls.)

But in Hollywood, there’s always hope. District 9 kicked ass, and Inglourious Basterds — while not Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, not by a forehead-carving longshot — at least provoked spirited debate among filmgoers who’ve been chomping on flaccid fare like GI Joe for months. What follows is a selective list of upcoming releases (dates are subject to change), including some surefire Oscar contenders, though I’m still holding out hope for a dark horse Drag Me to Hell nomination or two.

Sept. 11: In behind-the-scenes Vogue doc The September Issue, the devil wears Prada and busts fashionista chops while getting her magazine’s most important issue to press. Anna Wintour takes off her sunglasses! She cooly dismisses headlines, underlings, feathers, and an ugly pink-and-black ensemble! Director RJ Cutler (producer of 1993’s The War Room) gets the ever-so-glamorous dirt. Also out today: The Hills fembot Audrina Patridge brings her ceiling eyes to the big screen in horror flick Sorority Row; and mumblecore master Andrew Bujalski rolls out his third feature, after 2002’s Funny Ha Ha and 2005’s Mutual Appreciation.

Sept. 18: In a clash of the zeitgeists, Transformers thespian Megan Fox stars as a demonic high schooler in the Diablo Cody-scripted Jennifer’s Body. Irony is, like, so hot, y’know? For The Informant!, Steven Soderbergh returns from indieland to "from the director of Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen" mode. His newest is the tale of a goofy, whistleblowing agribusinessman played by a fat-and-mustachioed Matt Damon.

Sept. 25: Proud, profiteering misogynist Tucker Max — a figurehead in the "fratire" literary movement — cowrote the script for I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, based on his book (in turn, based on his blog), which kinda looks like a crasser spin on The Hangover. Fame updates the 1980 high school song-and-dance classic, a remake that actually makes sense given the popularity of the High School Musical series and all those bajillions of televised talent contests.

Oct. 2: Judging by its trailer, Zombieland could be the greatest movie ever made. Also: British footy drama The Damned United, with a script adapted by Frost/Nixon (2008) screenwriter Peter Morgan; and the latest from Michael Moore (the self-explanatory Capitalism: A Love Story) and the Coen brothers (A Serious Man, a ’60s-set black comedy that features no major movie stars).

Oct. 16: At long-friggin’-last, the Cormac McCarthy adaptation The Road — starring Viggo Mortensen and directed by John Hillcoat (2005’s The Proposition )— comes shuffling down the postapocalyptic highway. Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are squares off for its twee-off with Wed Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (out Nov. 13).

Oct. 23: Lars von Trier’s Antichrist shocked Cannes — will it make a splash here, opposite Saw VI (oh yeah, they made a sixth one)? Meanwhile, cult cinema fans won’t want to miss the return of Thai martial arts wizard Tony Jaa in Ong Bak 2. Hold on to your Buddha heads! Finally, when Michael Jackson died, he left behind enough rehearsal footage to fill a backstage doc, named This Is It after his never-launched tour. Celebration or cash-in?

Nov. 6: Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats is one of my favorite books. If George Clooney and co. mess this one up, I might have to lock them in a small room and blast the Barney theme until they crack.

Nov. 13: Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire was raved-about at Sundance, with stars like Mo’Nique and Mariah Carey de-glamming for art. On the complete other end of the spectrum, disaster expert Roland Emmerich masterminds the end of the world (again) with 2012.

Nov. 20: The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens. Look, enough people care about this that I don’t have to.

Dec. 11: Three heavyweights, three very different target audiences. Disney unveils its first-ever African American animated heroine in The Princess and the Frog (about time, Mouse House); Clint Eastwood directs Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in the rugby-themed Invictus; and Peter Jackson takes on Alice Sebold’s bestseller The Lovely Bones, starring Atonement (2007) fabulist Saoirse Ronan as the doomed Susie Salmon.

Dec. 18: I was stoked about James Cameron’s Avatar. Then I saw the trailer. Hmm.

Dec. 25: Now that Guy Ritchie’s no longer married to Madonna, will his filmmaking talent return? With hot property Robert Downey Jr. starring, Sherlock Holmes could be revisionist-tastic. And, strictly for Christmas Day masochists, there’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

Baby Blues BBQ



Who needs the fleshpots of Sodom — or for that matter SoMa — when we can find all the flesh we can handle at barbecue restaurants? All right, it’s not quite the same thing, but close. The real issue pertains to the restaurants. San Francisco isn’t much of a barbecue town; we are a village of pastels, and barbecue is a primary color.

We are also a realm of hipsters, and where there are hipsters, it follows that there might also be hipster barbecue. If you were to start sniffing around for something in this line, you would do well by beginning along those blocks of Mission just south of Cesar Chavez, where Bernal Heights and the Mission mix and mingle and hipsters are known to congregate. Your divinations of hipster habitat would soon lead you to a building with some old Rexall Drug signage still affixed, even as profound change arrived late last year.

You have found — eureka! — Baby Blues BBQ (outpost of a small SoCal chain), which doesn’t especially look like a barbecue joint either outside or inside but does sound like one. It’s filled with a well-mannered raucousness, not to mention touches of kitsch, among them an alabaster cow’s head mounted above the bar like a trophy from some strange safari. Also above the bar: a flat-screen TV showing rodeos in which young men are thrown from bucking, heaving bulls with serious-looking, Pamplona-worthy horns. It seemed to me that the people sitting at the bar were riveted by these dust-ups, but maybe this just proves the Warholian dictum that people would rather watch something than nothing.

Elsewhere on the floor — the layout is an archipelago of trapezoids — people seem more interested in the food than the rodeo. If you don’t find high-def rodeo footage to be particularly appetite-kindling, you might well be relieved, as I was, to find yourself among people who are tucking with real application into impressive platters of ribs, chicken, brisket, and so forth. (There are two communal tables, for the communal-minded.)

Some of the best flavors to be found at Baby Blues involve the side dishes, or, in menu-speak, "fixins." They’re $3.50 each, a la carte; they also come two (of your choice) to a dinner platter and, as a quartet (also of your choosing), make up their own dinner platter. Among the best of these are the "blues on a cob" — an ear of shucked corn, roasted and then slathered with poblano-chile butter and crumblings of mild white cheese — and the macaroni and cheese, which features fat tubes of pasta (perhaps ziti) in an intense cheese sauce under a lid of broiled bread crumbs.

We were somewhat less impressed by the coleslaw, which suffered from wateriness. Not enough mayo? The cabbage was fresh and crisp, though. And the baked beans were more looks than flavor. The roll call included black, pinto, and kidney beans — as in a three-bean salad — but the overall affect was a mild, tang-less sweetness. The wonderful, smoky-dark cornbread, presented as a brownie-like square with nicely crusted edges, did provide some balance and extra texture here.

As for the flesh: it’s served in ample portions that nonetheless don’t overwhelm. It is one of life’s dismaying facts that too much good food, or any food, can turn the delight of eating into the curse of bloat, and this danger is especially high, in my experience, at places that traffic in heartiness. Barbecue certainly qualifies. But Baby Blues has its portion sizes expertly calibrated.

A half-rack of Memphis-style long bone pork ribs ($17.95) featured meaty slats, cooked with a strong hint of smoke and left with plenty of juiciness. The sauce slightly failed to amaze, I must say. It lacked presence and (probably a related issue) seemed to have been thinly applied. In fairness, it must be said that too much sauce can be as bad as too little and can leave one with the impression that a cover-up has been attempted. Baby Blues has nothing to hide, ribs-wise.

Beef brisket ($13.95) is one of the classic cuts of tough but tasty meat. Here it’s braised in beer, which lends a pleasant sourness, and served in shreds, like a disintegrating garment. Its nearest relation might be ropa vieja, a Cuban dish of shredded flank steak. Shredding tough cuts before serving them is wise; it not only makes the customer’s job easier but adds a final layer of insurance that any remaining toughness demons have been exorcised.

Desserts are of the down-home school. We reached a split decision on a peach pie ($5) littered with blueberries; Dr. No thought it wasn’t sweet enough, but I liked the homemade-ness of it, including the fine, flaky pastry. But we both loved the banana mousse ($5), which was like a gelato that managed to stay solid at room temperature and was enhanced by pulverized vanilla cookies. There was also plenty of it, so, like spackle, it helped fill any last gaps left by the savory dishes. We did get up feeling a pound or two heavier.


Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sun., noon–10 p.m.

3149 Mission, SF

(415) 896-4250


Beer and wine


Quite noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Stage four



You Can’t Get There from Here Prized Bay Area performer Anne Galjour’s latest solo play suggests you are where you live, while unearthing the real class and cultural divides underneath American feet, in this intensely researched and sharply amusing mapping of the nation 2009 courtesy of Z Space. Sept. 10-27, Theatre Artaud; www.zspace.org.

Brief Encounter American Conservatory Theater’s new season opens with a wildly successful British import, Kneehigh Theatre’s inspired production of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter, a mashup of film, theater, and song adapted by Emma Rice from Coward’s own words and music. This limited engagement coincides with the 100-year anniversary of the former Geary Theater’s legacy as a movie theater, and is something of a must-see (Nota bene: ACT is offering a limited number of $10 sweet and vertiginous second-balcony seats for this show). Sept. 11-Oct. 4, American Conservatory Theater; www.act-sf.org.

Ghosts of the River The mysterious, insubstantial and quintessentially human realm of shadows and borders come together in a uniquely poetical, politically charged evening of "Twilight Zone–like vignettes" set along the snaking Rio Grande. The world premiere of Ghosts of the River re-teams leading SF-based playwright Octavio Solis with Larry Reed’s Shadowlight Productions in a theatrical experience combining Balinese shadow theatre technique, the scale of film, and live performance accessible to both Spanish- and English-speaking audiences. Oct. 1-11, Teatro Vision; Oct. 28-Nov. 8, Brava Theater Center; www.shadowlight.org.

Dead Boys The world premiere of a new musical by writer-director-choreographer Joe Goode leads off the new main stage season at UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, where Goode is faculty by day (and otherwise artistic director of famed SF dance-theater company Joe Goode Performance Group). Collaborating with Portland-based composer-songwriter Holcombe Waller, Dead Boys is billed as "a freak folk musical about trust, gay activism, gender identity, talking to the dead, and the privileged culture’s pursuit of happiness." Oct. 9-18, Zellerbach Playhouse; http://events.berkeley.edu.

South Pacific Speaking of musicals, the big fat Rodgers and Hammerstein luau revived to critical acclaim last year — and for the first time since its 1949 premiere — comes to the Pacific Coast this fall, courtesy of SHN’s Best of Broadway series. Celebrated director and SF homeboy Bartlett Sher pilots this Tony winner for Best Musical Revival 2008, set on a frisky but fraught tropic isle during WWII with classic themes in the air, including the baldly asserted "There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame." Sept. 18-Oct. 25, Golden Gate Theatre; www.shnsf.com.

The Creature SF playwright Trevor Allen has created a monster. It began in 2006 as a staged reading and a live radio play, then a podcast. Now The Creature, a fresh take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is a full-blown walking, talking, play-thing making its world premiere in time for Halloween. Stitched together from some prime parts, including direction from Cutting Ball Theatre’s Rob Melrose and no less than venerable Bay Area actor James Carpenter in the title role, The Creature promises to be lively, to say the least. Oct. 23-Nov. 7, Thick House; www.thickhouse.org.

The Future Project: Sunday Will Come This first-time collaboration between Intersection for the Arts’ two resident companies, ESP Project and Campo Santo, explores popular and idiosyncratic conceptions of the future in an existentially rich and rollicking series of "mini-plays, songs, dances, and ‘moments’" in conversation with the not-yet. Oct. 15-Nov. 7, Intersection for the Arts; www.theintersection.org.

Boom Peter Sinn Nachtrieb offers his own conception of the future in a new play about the end of the world that, true to form for this award-winning SF playwright (Hunter Gatherers, T.I.C.), takes the form of a scathingly funny comedy in this Bay Area premiere from Marin Theatre Company and director Ryan Rilette. Nov. 12-Dec 6, Marin Theatre Company; www.marintheatre.org.

Appetite: The masterminds behind SF Chefs.Food.Wine


By Virginia Miller of www.theperfectspotsf.com. See her previous installment of Appetite here.

Re-capping SF Chefs.Food.Wine.: In conversation with Andrew Freeman and Dominic Phillips, masterminds behind the event

Andrew Freeman (left) & Kevin Westlye (bottom center) with the Mayor and friends Photo courtesy of Andrew Freeman & Co.

Imagine your favorite bartenders, chefs, and wineries under one massive tent in Union Square serving unlimited amounts of food and drink. Envision your favorite writers or TV personalities leading classes or cooking for a gala. Picture Grand Tastings where one never has to wait for a bite or a drink (a rarity, I know) and one can even talk to chefs, bartenders and winemakers while sampling their wares. Throw in evening parties (with DJs like Chef Hubert Keller) where music, food and drink flow into the night. Pack it all in to one weekend and you have an idea of what rollicking good time was had at SF Chefs.Food.Wine., which took place August 6-9.

Talking with the masterminds behind this event gave me a deeper appreciation for how smoothly this first year event ran. Without a clear vision, endless hours of planning and work by a team of dedicated experts, this would not have been the case. Two years in the making, SF Chefs.Food.Wine. was the first ever urban food and wine classic. Those who’ve been to other food and drink events know you often come away hungry from so-called "tastings", spending more time waiting for food to appear than eating it. Here, everyone stayed well fed, satiated and aglow. I talked to person after person who said they couldn’t wait to go again next year or that it was a better value than a number of cheaper (and less exciting) food events combined.

It takes a village to raise a child and a very strategic, well chosen village to create such a weekend. Kevin Westlye, the Executive Director of Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), has long had a vision for a major event showcasing San Francisco as the world class food and drink city it is. To execute this vision, he gathered together a team par excellence. Capturing the energy and scope of our region and our local talent, the event showcases the Bay Area’s key place in the culinary world while maintaining a conscious focus on giving back, both in its green approach and to the charities benefiting from all ticket sales (Project Open Hand, Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, and Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation).

Andrew Freeman and Co., the PR firm handling marketing and programming for the entire weekend, is a passionate group of individuals who assembled a schedule of no less than the best. Andrew and his team built a multi-day program from the ground up… as each name was added, interest grew, until eventually there wasn’t room to hold them all. Classic TV personalities like Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook, cooked dinners and led sessions along with current big names from Top Chef (Jamie Lauren) and Top Chef Masters (Michael Chiarello and Hubert Keller). Led by authorities in each area, classes covered subjects as broad as mixology trends, sommelier secrets, sushi, chocolate, tomatoes and so on. Participants consistently commented on how smooth things ran and the camaraderie felt by all involved. Andrew said the phrase he heard most about the event was: "It’s about time".

Dominic Phillips of Dominic Phillips Event Marketing. Photo by Justin Lewis

Dominic Phillips, of Dominic Phillips Event Marketing, took on the massive role of producing the event, handling logistics that could have easily gone so wrong without his hard-working team’s adept strategy. Dominic’s "ridiculous amount of planning" paid off with the use of 820 volunteers (‘compensated’ by being able to attend various sessions or tastings). A thoughtful layout placed tables at angles to keep the Grand Tasting tent feeling full but not crowded, spaced to avoid traffic jams or lines hovering for food (and thanks to the chefs, cooks and servers for keeping food fully supplied at all times!) His green approach was truly impressive with everything from the use of succulent plants rather than cut flowers, recycling all bottles and paper, donating wood signs to Habitat For Humanity and uneaten food to Food Runners following the event, with the goal of diverting at least 75% of the weekend’s waste from landfill.

In the capable hands of this stellar crew, an event that is a high price tag for some ($95-$150 for most events), ends up being well spent and worth saving up for. I’ve rarely seen a better one to splurge on, whether for an evening, day, or weekend. SF Chefs.Food.Wine. should easily gain its place among the great food and wine events in the nation, celebrating the Bay Area’s truly awesome culinary influence and community.

Somers Town


PREVIEW Black and white photography born out of technical necessity transforms Somers Town into a stark and poignant portrait of the drudgery and displacement of two wayward youths in modern-day England. Tomo (Thomas Turgoose), a cheeky runaway who perhaps in a past life was a Dickensian street urchin, flees Nottingham and hops aboard a train bound for London, seeking refuge from the banality of life in the Midlands. Cornered in an alleyway, robbed, and beaten, Tomo finally finds a reluctant and unlikely friend in Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a Polish immigrant who just moved to the U.K. Unbeknownst to his father, Marek begins hiding his homeless friend in his flat. Joining forces, the two boys bond by working odd jobs for their cockney landlord, stealing clothes from a local launderette, and fighting for the affections of a charming French waitress. Director Shane Meadows (2006’s This is England) instills Somers Town with humanity and humor mined from class and culture shock, with his subtle comedic stylings springing from simple interchanges like when Marek’s landlord insists that he remove his Manchester United jersey to avoid getting roughed up by soccer hooligans. Despite these comedic moments, Meadows does not shy away from the pain of feeling adrift in a new city or country and beautifully captures the melting pot mentality that is London. From their low-rent apartment overlooking a train station that holds the promise of Paris and love and friendship, Tomo and Marek slowly but surely build a brotherly camaraderie, awakening a dreamlike, limitless world that, in the end, is a little less black and white.

SOMERS TOWN opens Fri/28 in Bay Area theaters.

Outside Lands Night Show: Gang Gang Dance


PREVIEW Comparable to a mystical experience involving contact with a transcendent reality, Gang Gang Dance forges a celestial, almost cultlike sound fitted with primal drum beats that elevate listeners to the beginning of time while electro chimes simultaneously fast-forward to an unknown era.

Instead of utilizing a typical verse/chorus pattern, GGD constructs freeform songs focusing on the fusion of juxtapositions. The quartet relies on a rhythm-driven foundation as it integrates a diverse range of influences: dubstep, dream pop, reggaeton, hip-hop, grime, and art rock. Its percussion-laden sound is topped by Lizzie Bougatsus’ intense, idiosyncratic vocals.

Keyboardist Brian Degraw and drummer Tim Dewit met in 1993 at a Tower Records in Washington, D.C. — Dewit was stocking shelves and Degraw was shoplifting CDs. The pair immediately started playing together in a spaz-punk band called the Cranium. By the end of the decade, that group had disbanded and the two had moved to New York City, where they began experimenting with Bougastos, vocalist Nathan Maddox, and guitarist Josh Diamond, and were reborn as Gang Gang Dance.

In ’02, Maddox was fatally struck by lightning on a rooftop. Taking this as an omen, the remaining members began focusing all their energy on GGD. On the cover of God’s Money (The Social Registry, 2005) Maddox’s eyes peer out from behind a mask, as if watching over them.

At first, GGD improvised during rehearsals and performances. This improv approach has gradually become fundamental to GGD’s writing process. The band members play for several hours, listen to the rehearsal recordings, pick the sounds that work best, then conjoin them. Saint Dymphna (Social Registry, 2008) creates the illusion of a perfect jam session — it plays like one continuous song, with revelatory midperformance noodling sessions ("Vacuum," "Dust") interspersed between catchy hooks ("Desert Storm," "Princes").

Paradoxically, improv is no longer as integral to GGD’s current performances. But the group still transforms mood into matter. As emotive states are molded into music, they become real.

GANG GANG DANCE With Amanda Blank, Ariel Pink. Sun/30, 8:30 p.m., $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011. www.rickshawstop.com

Outside Lands: Tom Jones


PREVIEW/INTERVIEW Though he may be one of the oldest performers to take the stage at this weekend’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Tom Jones will undoubtedly be one of the best. For more than four decades the Welsh singer’s rich vocals and electric stage presence have propelled a career that continues to produce hits even as he is less than a year away from turning 70. As he proved to a full house at the Warfield earlier this year, Sir Tom (he was knighted in 2006 by Queen Elizabeth) still has the goods when it comes time to entertain a crowd, singing old favorites such as "It’s Not Unusual," "She’s A Lady," and "What’s New Pussycat?" along with more recent hits like "Sex Bomb."

Jones pulls in a wide variety of people to his shows, ranging from kids in their early 20s to original fans near his own age. The singer still loves connecting with an audience, be it at a Vegas nightclub or an outdoor festival like Outside Lands.

"If there are people out there and they’ve come to see me, I’m going to give it the best I can — whether it be 5,000 people or 10,000, or 100,000," Jones says.

"I don’t change the show from Las Vegas to a festival because I don’t do a ‘Vegas’ act anyway. I don’t use any dancing girls — it’s a concert I’m doing. My show is basically the same, [though] I maybe make sure I cover the stage a little bit more," he laughs.

Jones, who released his latest album 24 Hours (S-Curve) last year, is already gearing up to work on a new record after he completes another tour through the U.K. and Europe. As for the tradition of female fans flinging their undergarments at him while on stage, the man known as "the Voice" looks at it from a couple of different angles. "It depends on what song I’m singing at the time. If I’m singing a serious ballad, it can break the mood," says Jones. "But I don’t think it’s for an entertainer to dictate to an audience what to do — the entertainer does what he or she does, and hopefully the people get it."

TOM JONES At Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. Fri/28, 6:50 p.m. Golden Gate Park, SF. $89.50–$225.50. www.sfoutsidelands.com

Liss Fain Dance Company


PREVIEW In music, silence has a purpose similar to that of the negative space in sculpture: it heightens your awareness of the artist’s material. So perhaps for a choreographer as musically adventurous as Liss Fain, it should be no surprise that the two new works in her latest Yerba Buena Center for the Arts concert carry the word "silence" in them. Both pieces are American premieres. At the very least, the two works should offer different perspectives on the concept of stillness. For the first part of Out of the Silence, Fain again turns to the idiosyncratic Gyorgi Ligeti, whose music she used for 2004’s Unknown Land, also on this program. She supplements the Ligeti in Silence with music by the Argentinean Osvaldo Golijov, whose cultural roots are also in Eastern Europe. The second local premiere, 2002’s Towards the Good Silence (to Bruno Schulz), is a 20-minute duet for Ruth von Mengersen and choreographer Ryszard Kalinowski, both from Poland’s Lublin Dance Theatre. (Schulz, who died in 1942, was a solitary writer and graphic artist much admired in Poland). Fain met Kalinowski this summer while her company was touring Eastern Europe and found herself impressed "by his use of narrative as a springboard for physical theater." In her own work she tends toward the abstract and the cool and the incorporation of elegant visual designs. The weekend program is completed by Fain’s almost new Resolved, a rethinking of another Steve Reich score from last year.

LISS FAIN DANCE COMPANY Thurs/27–Sat/29, 8 p.m. $35. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Novellus Theater, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 978, 2787, www.ybca.org