Volume 43 Number 51

Invasion of the bedbugs

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news@sfbg.com

Editor’s Note: The writer has penned this story under a pseudonym because of concerns about social stigma and backlash from his landlord, as he discusses below.

More than three weeks had passed since our hike through Yosemite, so my girlfriend and I were starting to worry that the festering egg-shaped welts appearing daily on her arms, legs, and stomach weren’t just a late reaction to mountain mosquitoes. We’d rationalized the problem away until now, but when a bump appeared on her face, we decided to get professional help.

"It doesn’t make sense," my girlfriend told her dermatologist. "It can’t be spiders or fleas because I sleep with my boyfriend and he’s not getting bit. Maybe I’m allergic to my new detergent?"

"Nope," the doctor said. "You’ve got bedbugs."

Then he took some pictures of her wounds "to document the epidemic," wrote out a prescription for an anti-itch medicine, and sent her home to deal with the diagnosis, adding that she shouldn’t freak out because bedbugs don’t transmit diseases. They just make your life miserable, causing rashes, sleeplessness, paranoia, and embarrassment — which is why they’re considered a health risk on par with roaches, scabies, and lice.

But how exactly were we supposed to deal with this? Neither of us had ever even seen a bedbug, and we’d never heard of anyone getting bit. We really didn’t even believe in them. I mean, we’d both heard the old "good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite" rhyme, but we thought it was about ticks or maybe some fantastical little boogiemen, not actual bugs that live in or near your bed. That’s because, like most San Franciscans the age of 70, my girlfriend and I had grown up in a mostly bedbug-free world. But that’s over now.

Bedbugs are back and they’re eating San Francisco alive, sticking their blood-hungry proboscises in transient gutter punks, international travelers, homeless people, doctors, lawyers, and yes … maybe even you. They’re crawling around in our walls as we speak, scuttling from basket to basket in Laundromats, and camping out on buses and trains, waiting for new victims.

But where did they come from? And why are they here now, creeping out residents of civilized American cities that include Cincinnati, New York, and, most recently, San Francisco, where the Department of Public Health has received 307 complaints this year alone — a figure that’s soon to surpass last year’s total count of 327, according to DPH special operations manager Dr. Johnson Ojo.

Well, there are plenty of theories, but the truth is that nobody knows for sure. What we do know is that bedbugs are here and they are hungry. And, by the look of things, they’re not going anywhere soon. As travelers, tenants, homeowners, and landlords, our first mode of action against the epidemic is to learn how to deal. We’ve got to know how to prevent infestations, understand our rights when they occur, and finally come to grips with what it means to live in an infested city.

Of course, to do all of this, it helps to know a thing or two about the nasty fuckers.

WHAT ARE BEDBUGS?


Bedbugs are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of sleeping humans. One of the reasons you’re probably not familiar with them, the reason you might think they’re a myth or some dead epidemic from the Dark Ages when nobody washed, is that bedbugs were virtually annihilated from the western world by about 1960.

"Exterminators back then were quite fond of an insecticide called DDT," explained Luis Agurto Jr., president of a local integrated pest management company called Pestec. The chemical was great because it killed every bug in sight. Unfortunately, the virulent toxin wreaked havoc on the environment, killing most bald eagles and a wide variety of plant and animal life, as well as causing cancer and birth defects in humans. Rachel Carson’s landmark book exposing DDT, Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin, 1962), helped launch the modern environmental movement. Most uses of the chemical were later banned in the U.S. and other countries, even though it meant finding new ways to keep our bugs under control.

Less toxic sprays were developed after DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972. They worked on roaches and other pests, but what exterminators didn’t know at that time was that the new chemicals weren’t doing much to the bedbug diaspora that was still thriving in remote parts of America and the world. And these little bastards were nothing to mess with.

"These critters had been hammered so hard that, by the 1980s, they were growing impervious to any insecticide on the market," said Michael Potter, an entomology professor at The University of Kentucky and former national technical director for Orkin. "But nobody really noticed because most of these bugs were far away."

In addition to rural parts of the United States, bedbugs could still be found in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa. But Potter rejects the theory that increased travel and immigration are entirely to blame for the global resurgence, as some scientists speculate. "It’s not like we just started flying 10 years ago," he said.

Potter concedes that population movement has a lot to do with the issue, but said that blaming travelers and immigrants ignores certain facts and doesn’t quite explain why bedbugs are coming back in such large numbers. The truth is that bedbugs never really went away. Pockets of extremely resistant survivor cells simply laid low until their offspring could flourish once again. It didn’t take long for that to happen.

"The thing about chemicals is that they only work for a given amount of time," Agurto said. "Everything develops a tolerance after a while." No matter. The commercial use of carbamates and other organophosphates, the classes of insecticides that replaced DDT, were soon restricted in the U.S. after they, too, exhibited nasty environmental side-effects.

After that, pest control managers were forced to switch to pyrethroid-based insecticides — which a bedbug could go swimming in, Potter said — and preventive measures like steam-cleaning, vacuuming, and bait. These methods targeted cockroaches and other pests, but they essentially allowed bedbugs to thrive in a chemical-free paradise. This was in the early 1990s and, according to Potter and Agurto, it’s probably no coincidence that the first major infestations in American cities came to light soon after. By the end of the century, a few years after DDT was restricted to malaria zones worldwide, bedbugs were becoming a problem in the eastern United States. By 2001, they had become a hot news topic in cities in America and around the world.

The bedbug resurgence in New York City has been covered extensively by The New York Times, starting in 2001 with an article about hotels and hostels titled "Bedbugs; Sleeping with the Enemy." Subsequent reports tracked the spread of infestations through homeless shelters, SROs, and eventually into condos, apartments, and houses. But the tiny vampires aren’t stopping there.

Bedbugs, once thought of as a byproduct of poverty, are moving up in the world. "We’re seeing them now in upscale condos and private residencies in the best neighborhoods in town," Agurto said. "Places where people never imagined they’d have to deal with this kind of thing." But that’s not where the infestations stop either, not in New York and probably not here.

They’ve even infiltrated the headquarters of large corporations. One of the latest infestations of this sort, at the Penguin Group in Manhattan, made headlines recently when employees of the publishing company were sent home while the building underwent treatment. The same thing happened at Fox News’ Manhattan office in March of last year, and again this month at Bill Clinton’s offices in Harlem.

Spokespersons for these three entities claim to have things under control. But the question is, does treating the building really solve anything? What about the employees? And, in the case of Penguin, what about all those books? Aren’t they infected too? It would certainly seem so. But perhaps you’re also wondering why, if the epidemic is getting so out of hand, you still haven’t encountered a problem. Well, the truth is, the bedbugs might be closer to you than you think.

INVISIBLE INVADERS


There are dozens of reasons why you might not have noticed the resurgence, but probably the biggest is that it’s embarrassing: people don’t want to discuss the issue because it’s gross. But this line of thinking works against us, and if we ever want to learn how to handle the situation, we’ve got to come to terms with the fact that bedbugs have nothing to do with social class or cleanliness.

That’s something my girlfriend hasn’t quite been able to come to grips with, which is why I’m writing under a pseudonym. She hasn’t told anyone but her mother and she can’t stand the idea of bosses, friends, and potential employers Googling her name or mine and somehow finding this story. Yet I’ve come to realize, while researching this issue, that there’s really no reason to be ashamed.

"This is really the first time in human history where people — all people — aren’t constantly on the lookout for bedbugs," Potter said. "And our first course of action is to get reacquainted." That’s not as easy as it sounds. But here are some tips.

First, you should get rid of the idea that bedbugs are microscopic. They’re not. When bedbugs are born, they look like milky-white flax seeds, but after the first feeding they grow to the size of chili flakes and develop a similar hue. Full-grown bedbugs are about the length of a Tic-Tac. They’re brown and flat and they have six legs — something like a two-dimensional, oval-shaped tick with stripes.

Second, don’t underestimate the cunning nature of bloodsucking insects. Bedbugs may not be able to communicate with one another or build intricate nests, but evolution has blessed the species with one sinister adaptive trait: near-invisibility. Bedbugs are masters of disguise. They live in tiny crevices in hard-to-find places — box springs, mattresses, baseboards, etc. — and usually only come out when people are sleeping. But nocturnal dining habits and the ability to hide aren’t the only tools in a bedbug’s arsenal.

The real reason we can sleep soundly while hordes of insects wriggle through our undergarments and suck our blood is that these particular insects are equipped with anesthetic. Simply put, bedbug bites do not hurt. What’s even worse is that, unless you happen to be allergic to the numbing agent found in bedbug saliva, there’s not going to be any evidence in the morning either.

That’s why I thought my girlfriend was either completely insane or perhaps the victim of some unknown skin disorder, even after she got back from the doctor. I just couldn’t understand how a colony of insects could repeatedly bite one person and not even touch the other as he slept inches away. My girlfriend still had her doubts as well, but for lack of any other plausible answer, we decided to look deeper into the issue. This is when things got nasty and when I learned that many people (about half the population, according to various sources) do not react to bedbug bites at all.

After reading everything we could about bedbugs, watching horrendous videos of elderly people swatting insects off their bodies, and perusing vomit-inducing pictures of telltale bedbug signs — smeared blood, fecal stains, and carcass buildups — we did a thorough search of our bedroom and found a cluster between the carpet and the baseboard behind our bed. Now the question was: what to do next? It’s what everyone asks when they encounter an infestation. And sometimes, it’s hard to answer.

DEALING WITH THEM


"Many of the people who come into our office with bedbug issues are afraid of retaliation," said Ted Gullicksen, head of the San Francisco Tenants Union. "They don’t want to tell their landlords because they don’t want to lose their apartments or get fined."

But in most cases, they’re wrong. City health codes specify that rental properties be free of "any public nuisance," a category that includes bedbugs. Because my girlfriend and I didn’t know that at the time, we worried that we’d somehow be blamed for the infestation.

When we found our nest, we did what most tenants fearing eviction and/or more bills would do. We tried to handle the problem on our own, turning to family and the Internet for advice. Folk remedies soon poured in and we tried them all. We threw out excess clothing, sprayed our bedroom with cedar oil, steam-cleaned our carpet, and then sprinkled diatomaceous earth, an organic powder that kills insects, into every nook and cranny we could find. Then we started sleeping on the couch to wait for the bugs in our bedroom to die. But after four days, the unthinkable happened: more bites.

Potter said it’s a common problem because bedbugs respond to store-bought pesticides by scattering into walls, often showing up a few days later in other rooms or units. "What’s worse," Potter added, "is that there’s nothing saying they can’t be reintroduced even after you’ve invested in professional treatment. And, depending on the size of the problem, that can cost more than $10,000." Indeed, the only method of eradication that most pest control companies, including Pestec, guarantee these days is heat treatment, which necessitates the use of expensive technology and requires multiple follow-ups to ensure success. Plus, it’s not cheap.

When my girlfriend and I realized that our problem wasn’t going to magically disappear, we looked into the cost of treatment and freaked out. We were prepared to pay a couple hundred bucks, but the quotes we got were crazy — thousands of dollars for two rooms. We’re not broke, but forking out that kind of money would hobble us. And besides, by then we were getting scared. What if our landlord found out we’d had bugs for weeks? Could our decision to go it alone be used against us? Could it be grounds for eviction?

We didn’t want to find out and, at that point, we didn’t understand how difficult bedbug eradication could be. So we decided to repeat home treatment and simply hoped for the best. The result? It seems to have worked. My girlfriend has been bite-free for over a month and we haven’t seen a bedbug since July.

But now I’m wondering if we just dug ourselves a deeper hole. I mean, up until about two weeks ago when I started doing heavy research for this article, we thought we were in the clear. That’s why we never reported the problem (which is another reason I decided to write this under a pseudonym). But now that I’m painfully aware of how resilient these fuckers are, I’m wondering if we made the right choice. Still, the thought of coming out with this now fills me with dread. Despite what the Tenant’s Union says, I just can’t imagine getting out of this without some sort of fine. And even if money isn’t an issue, I don’t want to get on my landlord’s bad side. But what now? Should we just move? And what about the tenants who follow us?

It’s probably not the most responsible choice, but this line of thinking is common among first time bedbug sufferers — something my girlfriend and I learned on Yelp.com’s local message boards. Despite all the coverage the bedbug resurgence has gotten in recent years, people on Yelp (a.k.a. everybody you know) seem to be in the dark when it comes to tenants’ rights and responsibilities, with many posters opting for temporary solutions to avoid the possibility of financial penalties.

The most revealing post to date comes from a Yelper named JU who got bedbugs in early August and decided to handle matters on his own. "I know I’m moving out in four months … I’m just trying to make it more livable until then," he wrote. Which raises the question: what about landlords? If a tenant neglects to blow the whistle on a blossoming infestation, can the property manager or building owner charge that tenant for treatment? Can JU be held responsible if his bugs move into neighboring units? Were my girlfriend and I right to think we might get evicted or fined for negligence? Maybe.

"The bedbug issue is complicated and it really boils down to cooperation," said Janna New, director of San Francisco Apartment Association. "If the problem is eradicated and then reoccurs due to a tenant’s negligence or refusal to abandon risky behavior, then the cost of remediation could be negotiable. And evictions could occur."

New says she hasn’t heard of anyone getting evicted for harboring bedbugs, but adds that it’s important for tenants to report infestations immediately because if they ignore the problem, their entire building could quickly become infested. "It’s like the flu," she said. "If you get sick, you talk to your doctor. You should do the same thing with your landlord. Teamwork is the only way to get rid of bedbugs."

That’s something I wish I knew a couple months ago and something Tiffinnie McEntire, a 43 year-old acupuncturist, intuited when she noticed bugs in her Cathedral Hill apartment in 2006. Rather than waste time with store-bought insecticides, she immediately called her landlord, who responded by sending an exterminator. When that didn’t work, he sent anotherm and another, until McEntire and the rest of his tenants felt safe. "It was a pain in the butt," McEntire said. "But in the end, we were all happy."

That’s how an infestation should be solved, and that’s probably how it’ll go down if you report one as soon as you notice it. Both the Tenant’s Union and the Apartment Association agree that the burden of eradication usually falls on the landlords. So if you find bugs, your best mode of action is to report the problem as soon as possible. And if you happen to be an apartment or hotel owner, you should do frequent checks and respond to reports immediately. It might cost thousands of dollars, but it could save you from a lawsuit or prolonged infestation.

THE FINAL STAGE: ACCEPTANCE


So what does it mean to live in an infested city, in an infested nation and world? Well, for one, it means that we all have some lifestyle changes to make. For Njon Weinroth, an out-of-work software salesman whose 14th floor condo has been infested for six months, that has meant staying away from friends and developing an amicable relationship with the little monsters. People without bedbugs can obviously skip this step, but Weinroth can’t afford professional treatment at the moment and feels like he has no other choice.

"I do what I can to control them, but I still kill at least two a night," he said. "When I squish ’em, my blood comes out. It’s gross and that’s really been the hardest part — overcoming the stigma." And that’s something everyone — my girlfriend and I included — need to do if we ever hope to get this problem under control. We have to accept that the only thing bedbugs care about is blood and that they will suck it from a bum as quickly as a movie star (just ask actress Mary Louise Parker from "Weeds," who recently had a bedbug scare in her home). Other than that, specialists recommend being wary of buying used clothing and furniture and avoiding clutter.

With that out of the way, we need to start talking about the problem so that first time bedbug sufferers like my girlfriend and I won’t feel so helpless and ashamed when their bodies and beds become infested and, more important, so they will report bedbug activity before it gets out of hand.

Last, we have to come to grips with how rampant this epidemic is. "I don’t want to be the one tooting the horn saying it’s doomsday and that bed bugs are falling from the sky," Agurto said. "But I can’t think of a person alive who doesn’t know someone — or at least know of someone — who has had a problem." But don’t take it from him alone. If you really want nightmares, take a look the Bedbug Registry (www.bedbugregistry.com).

Started in 2006 by a computer programmer living in San Francisco, the Bedbug Registry is an anonymous record of bedbug activity across North America. It has maps tracking the spread of infestations and a search engine that allows you to see how close the creatures are crawling toward your house, hotel, or workplace (36 reports within two miles of Guardian headquarters — yikes!).

Maciej Ceglowski got the idea for the service when he found bumps on his body and dying bugs in the coffeepot at a San Francisco motel. "I reported the problem and got a resigned shrug from the front desk," Ceglowski said. Then he researched the issue and realized that because it’s so hard to get rid of bedbugs, it would not be in a hotel owner or landlord’s interest to publicize an infestation. "I started the site because I thought it would be a good way to fight back against bedbugs."

But is that even possible? With bedbug activity steadily rising in all corners of the world, a simple solution seems doubtful. Which raises another question: how soon before we all have bedbugs?

"Well, that’s hard to answer," Potter said. "But there’s absolutely no reason to think that our problem is going to get better or go away. We’re in for a real struggle with this critter."
Great. What the hell am I supposed to do now? Under normal circumstances, I would have stopped worrying about these bloodsuckers after a week of not seeing them in my apartment. But now that I’ve done all this research, my girlfriend and I are faced with another tough decision: do we tell our landlord or do we just hope our last home treatment actually worked?
We’re still thinking about it.

Volume 43 Number 51 Flip-through Edition

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Running with the night

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FILM NOIR FEST The Columbia trademark: a literal goddess swathed in virginal white robes, she serenely holds aloft a torch à la the Statue of Liberty. What say we gussy her up in black satin and replace that blazing torch with a hot little .45? It seems apropos, considering the Roxie Theater is hosting a "Best of Columbia Noir" retrospective. But does the program manage to eclipse all that angelic light? Yes and no. While there is plenty of nefarious activity on display, a weirdly frequent moralizing often fails to capture the noir spirit.

Take Knock on Any Door (1949). A social justice–courtroom drama steeped in moral outrage, it has the gall to cast Humphrey Bogart not as rogue private dick but as upstanding defense attorney. As directed by Nicholas Ray, Door is a prestige picture flirting with humanity’s underbelly, eventually offering a mea culpa to wash itself clean.

Even "B" movie bona fides like The Whistler (1944) can’t help suffer a little moral affront. Its titular character operates in Rod Serling mode: part superego, part harbinger of doom. Robert Rossen’s Johnny O’Clock (1947) offers all the traditional noir elements, but dang if its criminal antihero (Dick Powell) doesn’t get redeemed by true love. When the SF-set The Lineup (1958) focuses on a pair of drug henchmen, it’s a fascinating character study; when it follows forthright SFPD detectives, it’s Dragnet.

Speaking of lineups, there’s a curious dearth of femmes fatales in this one. Even Sam Fuller, the king of exploitation with a social conscience, fails to deliver one in his otherwise crackerjack Crimson Kimono (1959), a gritty exploration of race relations in midcentury Los Angeles. Anita Ekberg camps it up in the uproarious, Freudian cheesecake-fest Screaming Mimi (1958), but her femme fatale status is seriously undermined by a lack of personal responsibility — she’s like a buxom Barbara Stanwyck with a frontal lobotomy.

Thank the dark lord for the grotesquely atmospheric and oddball Soul of a Monster (1944). It won’t be giving much away to reveal that the movie takes the femme fatale concept to its logical end. Never mind the film’s coda about faith and redemption, the sight of the devil marching resolutely through dark streets, downing power lines in her wake, obliterates all that corn. We can finally chalk one up for the bad girls.

THE BEST OF COLUMBIA NOIR

Sept. 17–30, $5–$9.75

Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., SF

(415) 863-1087, www.roxie.com

Fringe follies

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

The San Francisco Fringe Festival is, like, 18 or something this year. That used to mean you were middle-aged in, like, the Middle Ages. But this is 2000-and-something. The multi-venue Exit Theatre–centered Fringe, lottery-based democratic mayhem at its most unsound and intriguing, appears as youthful as ever. Witness the healthy emphasis on clowns, derelicts, and deviants, the longstanding stalwarts of its revolving stage.

One of the kickoff shows Wednesday eve was LandEscape, Rowena Richie’s decidedly quirky but adept, factually hefty, and not unamusing theater-dance piece based on the work of real-food advocate Michael Pollan. It’s about the disastrous perversity of industrial farming and the hope in old-fashioned alternatives. But top of the 2009 crop (or at least what was glimpsed from among roughly 40 scheduled shows in the two days before print deadline) is The Godling, which marks the creepy-sexy and dependably weird return of New York’s Endtimes Productions, purveyors of last year’s homerun, Knuckleball. This time it’s a whole new cast and crew, with writing credit for this nicely rendered — and that’s a nice word for it — dark carnival descent going to Mark Borkowski, with a firm hand on the helm from artistic director Russell Dobular.

A sideshow sandwich-board advert for "The Godling" and small, scattered piles of clutter litter the stage at the outset of this horror-charmer, where soon a memorable set of disreputables take shape in the dim light. At the demented head of things is a randy carny showman and seething psychopath (a volcanic Leal Vona) sporting an altered hockey mask and straight razor. Nearby stands, sometimes on hands, his shapely assistant (Leah Dashe). On a chain is their little incubator: a thin naked waif (Candace Janee) hunched over and cupping her protruding stomach, her mess of long hair obscuring angelic features. The couple discusses the keeping of time, nervously, while taking time to mock their prize — the girl with the growing freak in her belly — and awaiting the arrival of a certain "him" who, when he does appear, turns out to be a dapper, gentlemanly torturer.

As Fringe shows go this is a veritable bear on a trike. Nicely acted too. But there’s a line running from The Godling to the other playlets I happened to catch immediately prior, including Cockroach and Hell, the Musical. SF’s Dark Porch Theatre offers a little fevered dream of its own, centered on the eternal return of one wandering brutalized madman-cum–shopping cart (played to a kind of operatic perfection by the ever able Nathan Tucker). Tucker, eyes wild and as prominent as two eight-balls, stirs the stage like a demon chef, as his tormentor (Alison Sacha Ross) rasps accusations and slights his way, all pointing back to a psychosexually fraught night 10 years earlier and its lingering scars mental and otherwise. Director Margery Fairchild also choreographs a trio of Cockroach dancers, three men in beige unitards moving frenetically and continually reconfiguring like blobs of mercury in solution. The nature of the incident is weird enough, and Tucker’s a treat, though not always served by playwright Martin Schwartz’ elevated language and furtive storyline, and a dramatic arc that doesn’t quite come off despite some strong moments amid the faltering momentum.

Darkness descends again in a philosophical and even more comical key with 2006 Best of Fringe winner K.S. Haddock’s Hell, the Musical, which astutely realizes that while Jean Paul Sartre cooked up the perfect image of hell in other people, he completely left out the power chords. The charismatic cast of this revamped No Exit can sing and act, and the live musical accompaniment by the Crooked Family provides the Pat Benatar-esque punch you’d expect to be leveled by and against the damned.

SAN FRANCISCO FRINGE FESTIVAL

Through Sept. 20, $10 or less
Various venues, SF
(415) 673-3847, www.sffringe.org

Rock me, Amadeus

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kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER How do you fluff up sagging ole demon rock in the 21st century? Break it down to just one dude with a laptop and free-floating mix of hip-hop and hesher, ho’-pulling and hoary? Take it up a couple jillion notches and set it free of verse, chorus, and bridge to nowhere, heading into noise’s bristling, gristly outerzone? Or just turn it around and send it through the filter of another country, another tongue, another cult-cha — and back. The latter is the case for French combo Phoenix and Israeli outfit Monotonix (see sidebar), two travelers in the rutted, wrecked roads of rock — both playing this week in this bobo bastion by the Bay.

"When we were young," says Phoenix guitarist Laurent "Branco" Brancowitz, 35, "we tried to sound like the Velvet Underground and tried to erase the Frenchness." He chuckles under his breath. He’s on the phone from Versailles, where Phoenix first rose up from old Europe’s antiquities. "But now that we’ve grown up, we don’t try to hide our accent. We love the fact that we had to admit we come from a different country than most rock musicians. We can’t talk about Cadillacs, but we talk about our own things: we talk about the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, the things that are our Mississippi and cotton fields."

Tough to reenvision the Eiffel as a small-town Midwestern water tower — but Phoenix manages its own reinvention on the Parisian landmark on "1901," off Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Loyaute/Glassnote) — as well as, Brancowitz explains, "all these things that were so modern at the time, that are now so obvious and cliché. There was a moment when [the Eiffel was] scary, offering a new vision for the future. It was an idea we were fascinated by, the idea of modernity in the past and how you relate to that."

Phoenix has flown far since the days when it served as early Air’s live band and had a sleeper hit of sorts with "Too Young" via the Lost in Translation soundtrack. Vocalist Thomas Mars might have graduated to the gossip columns as director Sofia Coppola’s baby daddy, but Wolfgang can stand proudly on its own (with help from producer Philippe Zdar of Cassius), straddling the kingdom of Killers-ish dancefloor-friendly rock-pop with ethereal numbers like "Fences" and the more austere, ambitious ambient outskirts, as embodied by the lovely "Love Like a Sunset Part I."

Thanks to its old Versailles nest, the outfit is accustomed to both staring inward at the past and out. There, says Brancowitz, "the buildings were perfectly symmetrical. There’s the boredom — that’s important. We had all these dreams of escaping. The combination of boredom and beauty shaped us." The band members hid out in their basements listening to the Velvets and the Beatles and retreating to another kind of inspiring yet imposing past, while Mozart, Liszt, and the like blared in the background. As kids, Brancowitz recalls, "We had a lot of soccer matches with a soundtrack of classical music — very loud classical music."

That breed of bonding has led to the fact, as the guitarist puts it, "for some very strange reason, all the good French artists are friends." Brancowitz himself started out in a band called Darlin’ with Daft Punk’s Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, the pair who changed the world’s perception of French pop. The punk Beach Boys-inspired band crumbled when the other two "decided to go to a lot of rave parties, and I didn’t because I didn’t like the nightclub life. I’m a bit of a snob about it — I find it very vulgar." He laughs. "But we are friends. No issues." *

PHOENIX

Thurs/17, 8 p.m., $30–$32

Warfield

982 Market, SF

www.goldenboice.com


MONOTONIX IN STEREO

"Sit the fuck down! Sit the fuck down!" yelled Monotonix vocalist Levi "Ha Haziz" Elvis, né Ami Shalev, at this year’s Mess with Texas getdown during South by Southwest. An impressive display of crowd control, honed by somewhat unexpected circumstances. "I was trained in the Israeli Army," says Shalev. "They want you to be able to control people — just kidding!" But seriously, kids: "I must say every time the crowd does whatever I tell them to do, it’s kind of surprising." He’s on the phone in Jaffa, outside Tel Aviv, where the rock-out rage machine known as Monotonix is still based, despite the city’s (and country’s) small rock scene: "The only way for us to get bigger, develop, was to go outside Israel," he says. "There are a lot of good things in Israel, but not in rock music. Rock music is not in our culture." Nevertheless Monotonix’s first full-length, Where Were You When It Happened (Drag City), which the group recorded with Tim Green in SF, sounds like it’s running spectacularly well on the filthy fumes of stateside guitar-army conscripts like MC5. And word keeps spreading about Monotonix’s fiery shows. "I don’t want to sound arrogant," says Shalev, "but it keeps snowballing."

Thurs/17, 9 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Playlist

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CROCODILES

Summer of Hate

(Fat Possum)

If it’s 1988 all over again, Crocodiles are our Spacemen 3, ready to deliver the perfect prescription: drum machines. vintage organs, drugs = god lyrics. They’ve got the best Jesus and Mary Chain death anthems too, and the occasional burst of energy, trading ‘ludes for upper-spiked punk on "Soft Skull (In My Room)." The poise and epic production here are surprising for a debut.

GRASS WIDOW

Grass Widow EP

(Make a Mess)

Bullseye. Times four.

BARBARA LYNN

Here is Barbara Lynn

(Water)

A lost gem of Atlantic, saved by the boys of Water in Oakland. The clarity and purity of Lynn’s voice are rare — and don’t let those adjectives fool you into thinking she’s a frail flower. Here, the left-handed guitarist makes wise ballads she wrote as a teen burn as strong and steady as anything by Irma Thomas. It’s all in the voice.

EMITT RHODES

The Emitt Rhodes Recordings [1969-1973]

(Hip-O-Select)

Oh, Emitt. At your peak you were picture-perfect: thick brown hair parted down the middle, angelic face with a doll’s complexion. The music business’ merry-go-round was cruel to you, but what glorious pop songs you’ve given us: "Live Till You Die" has been holding me together the last week or two, and it’s just one of many beauties from your self-titled 1970 LP.

SALLY SHAPIRO

My Guilty Pleasure

(Paper Bag)

The mystery girl who goes by the name of Sally and her partner in song Johan Agebjörn trade the melancholic depths of their first synth pop collection for lighter, sunnier fare. But the Expose-like "Save Your Love" has its charms, as does the song that pits love versus people dying in Africa.

SORCERER

Neon Leon

(Tirk)

On his second album, SF’s Daniel Judd veers away from the Hawaiian and beach themes and takes inspiration from novelist Elmore Leonard while adding some funk touches. But the tracks here still bloom and glisten like a tropical flower seen through time-lapse photography. "Dayglow" is gorgeous and many-faceted. "Raydio (Play It)" is the loveliest tribute to Ray Parker Jr. in the history of recorded sound.

The revolution will not be regionalized

0

a&eletters@sfbg.com

It’s safe to say that Achim Bergmann of Trikont, Germany’s oldest independent record label, has an affinity for the underdog. From his favorite soccer team (Munich’s best-loved losers, the 1860 Löwen) to his favorite musicians, it is outsiders who attract Bergmann’s attentions, personal and professional, rather than the heroes of the mainstream. Of course, outsider music comes in many variations, and somehow Trikont manages to embrace them all. From Finnish Tango to American yodeling, German-language reggae to Turkish techno, British punk to Black Panther soul, the label’s eclectic catalog has been transcending language boundaries and international borders long before "world music" became a Billboard buzzword.

First founded in 1967 as a radical publishing arm of the SDS, Trikont started publishing books of political and philosophical ideology collected mainly from the so-called "third world" (Trikont, short for trikontinentale, is a colloquial expression for same), including the Bolivian diaries of Che Guevera, the incendiary Revolution in the Revolution by Régis Debray, and the ubiquitous Little Red Book or Quotations from Chairman Mao. In 1971, Trikont released its first record album — a compilation of neoprimitive folk and radical "self-made music" titled Wir Befreien Uns Selbst or We Free Ourselves, a phrase that could stand as the label’s unofficial motto even today.

"It was very simple, very rough, not polished at all," Bergmann tells me as we sit at a wobbly kitchen table in Trikont’s Munich-Obergiesing headquarters. His youthful exuberance belies his bushy, white Ernest Hemingway beard. When Wir Befreien Uns Selbst sold 20,000 copies, for Bergmann it sparked the realization that "music was the non-dogmatic part of left-radicalism, a way to connect with the working class." It also provided the radicals with music — beyond the endlessly circuutf8g MC5 and Rolling Stones albums — they could call their own. Trikont’s official motto, "our own voice," reflects this ideal to this day.

And what a range of voices call the label home. After splitting from the book publishing side of the business in 1980, Trikont’s focus shifted from being a mouthpiece for the radical German left to being a conduit for what Bergmann terms "popular music" from all over the world. Not popular in the MTV hit-parade sense, but popular as in sphere-of-influence: from the emblematic zydeco of the Louisiana Bayou to the dramatic excesses of Mexican bolero, the label excels at tapping into that particular cultural zeitgeist expressible only through music. It does so through exactingly executed compilations curated by DJs, music journalists, and fellow aficionados of the slightly askew. Their ranks include a veritable who’s who of luminaries from the European music scene — John Peel, Jon Savage, Jonathan Fischer, Thomas Meineke, Bernadette La Hengst — while from our side of the pond, Greil Marcus provided the liner notes for Christoph Wagner’s harrowing 2002 compilation Prayers from Hell: White Gospel and Sinner’s Blues

Like the best mixed tapes, Trikont’s compilations are elegantly cohesive while still retaining the essential element of surprise. My first Trikont album, 1997’s Dead and Gone #2: Songs of Death — which I scored from a department store bargain bin while living in Munich — is an unlikely amalgamation of Serbian requiems, chilling soul tracks, avant-garde moaning provided by Lydia Lunch, Lou Reed, Nico, and Diamanda Galás, a suicidal lament by Bushwick Bill and the Geto Boyz, and an astonishingly moving funeral hymn from South Africa. Not exactly the stock-in-trade set list of goth clubs and vampire movies, yet as suitable a soundtrack for reflection on mortality as any Rosetta Stone album could aspire to be.

A current favorite, last year’s Roll Your Moneymaker: Early Black Rock ‘n’ Roll 1948-1958, plumbs the earliest incarnations of rock music. It includes the first recording of the Preston Foster song "Got My Mojo Working" (sung by the enigmatic Ann Cole), two classic Ike Turner tracks, the powerhouse Etta James anthem "W-O-M-A-N," and the hilariously snarky "Pneumonia" by Joe Tex. Trikont’s acclaimed swamp music series — nine albums’ worth of forgotten zydeco and Cajun gems — evolved from a crash course in music appreciation. Bergmann reminisces: "We came to Floyd Soileau of Flat Town Music … and told him to go to the cellar where the music that he couldn’t sell anymore was stored … [afterward] we were sitting here for weeks, reading things, listening to big boxes of it without any knowledge [of the genre] and ended up with the first three compilations, which were an incredible success."

One of the most outré of Trikont’s compilations is also perhaps one of its most universal: the "La Paloma" series — an audacious collection of 141 versions of one song. Originally penned around 1863 by a Basque national called Sebastian Iraider, the stately habanera spread from continent to continent, insinuating itself into the collective musical consciousness. In Mexico, it’s a call to arms (or to amor). In Romania, it’s a funeral march. In Tanzania, it’s chanted at weddings. In Germany, it’s a seafarer’s anthem. In Hawaii, it’s plucked out on the slack key guitar first introduced to the island by Spanish-speaking vaqueros. In fact, series curator Kalle Laar estimates that "La Paloma" has been recorded well over 2,000 times, in every possible language and style.

Even though his label is open to experimentation and quirk, Bergmann admits that when the "La Paloma" project was first pitched by Laar — a prominent sound artist and "a collector of very strange music" — Trikont’s first reaction was unequivocal: "We said, hey, Kalle Laar, we are crazy, but not that crazy." But Laar persisted, bringing mixed tapes of the song, presenting the history of the tune, and expounding on its worldwide popularity. "It was very interesting to hear," Bergmann recalls. "It was the same song each time, but it wasn’t. You could listen to all these versions at one time and it wasn’t boring or repetitive."

In 1995, the first volume of La Paloma: One Song for All Worlds was released. With versions recorded by Amon Duul II, Hans Albers, Carla Bley, Jelly Roll Morton, and Szedo Miklos, it documents a full 100 years’ worth of "La Palomania," and has since led to the eventual release of five more volumes. In turn Laar’s project inspired Sigrid Faltin’s 2008 documentary La Paloma. Sehnsucht. Weltwide (a.k.a. La Paloma. Longing, Worldwide) which screened at San Francisco’s Berlin and Beyond festival last January.

In addition to genre-crossing compilations, Trikont’s lineup of German-language folk, jazz, and avant-garde pop musicians keeps the label connected to its original mission. Collectively, the label’s single-artist albums are as varied as its compilations: they include recordings by Bayrische Rastafarian Hans Söllner, Berlin-based jazzman Coco Schumann, and Bavaria’s contribution to the anarchist brass band genre, La Brass Banda.

Though Trikont’s desire to free music from the narrow confines of regionalism applies to its German-language artists, the label is best recognized for its compilations of obscure Americana. American music, Bergmann points out, has long been the preferred music of German youth in regions occupied by the U.S. Armed Forces. Alien yet electrifying, the music broadcast on the AFN (Armed Forces Network) during the occupation and through the 1960s inspired a whole generation of young Germans searching for individuality and self-determination. It did so with more success than German volksmusik. "In Germany, we had never really had a revolution, so we didn’t have the music for it," Bergmann muses. "It’s hard for an old leftist like me to say it, but it was the American soldiers who brought freedom. But in the cultural sense, it was true."

On its unexamined surface, Munich seems like an unlikely place for a revolutionary underground music scene. Unlike its edgier northern counterparts, the city has enviably low unemployment and a relatively stable middle-class. It manages — somewhat tenuously — to strike a balance between being the capital of traditionally conservative Bavaria and the southernmost stronghold of the left-leaning Social Democrats. But scrape beneath and you’ll find that the same stubborn spirit that compels Bavaria to retain its status as a "Freistaat" within the German Bundesrepublik, and which has also fueled a streak of hard-left radicalism since the 1960s. Observe Trikont: with limited resources and anticapital ideologies considered counterintuitive by the so-called big players in a slumping music industry, the label nonetheless has created a stable home and well-deserved audience for the previously unheard music from every continent and classification.

What, then, is the key to Trikont’s longevity? "We never really had an agenda," Bergmann reflects. "We just wanted to say, ‘We will tell you a story in music, so you can see how good and how strong music can be.’ People have got an innate sense for it. If they listen to good music, they want good music." No matter what your definition of good music is, chances are, Trikont has it.

www.trikont.com

What they do matters

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johnny@sfbg.com

Something is happening. San Francisco and the greater Bay Area is, even more than usual, home to some bands that hardwire the heart: Grass Widow, Nodzzz, Rank/Xerox, Mayyors, Ty Segall. But more than that, the place we call home is a nexus for a bunch of great new rock albums — ones that just might be classics. Girls’ Album (True Panther/Matador) is the popular one with the media blitz behind it, but the Mantles’ debut is the come-from-behind outsider, the secret star, the crushworthy keeper. You’ll know it when you hear it, from the one-two-three punch of the first trio of tracks: the Byrds-y jangle of "Disappearing Act"; the churning propulsive energy of "What We Do Matters"; and maybe most of all, the brooding balladry of "Look Away," a now-I-see-you-now-I-don’t relationship ode which possesses a kind of offhand melodic and vocal strength that sounds easy to achieve, but obviously isn’t, because so few ever manage to do it.

Those are some of the things that go into The Mantles (Siltbreeze), along with guitar blazes (the climactic "Thin Reminder") and the overall feel of a band as a thriving living thing. What went on outside the album is an entirely different story. The group recorded with Greg Ashley in Oakland, where the adventures often began before they entered the studio. "One day this cracked-out lady walked up and punched this other lady in the face right in front of our car," says drummer Virginia Weatherby. "There’s a giant pile of trash right in front of his [Ashley’s] door," chimes in bassist Matt Roberts. "This one afternoon I showed up and there was a guy by it wearing no shirt and a Yoda mask — it was totally absurd."

Fueled by friendship and romance, the Mantles are relaxed enough to enjoy absurdity, whether it arrives in the form of a shirtless dude in a Yoda mask or entails playing the role of "psychedelic band" and "mid-tempo downer" at a sweltering garage rock party where people are doing cannonballs into a pool. If anything, the group was too relaxed for Ashley’s spontaneous and live-sounding recording process, an achievement of sorts. "You think you have the situation figured out on the third day of recording," says vocalist-guitarist Mike Oliveras, as the group discusses the different facets of Ashley’s home studio and warehouse setup, where graffiti and ciggies floating in glasses of beer are one norm. "Then he [Ashley] comes down with a bounty of nice-looking tomatoes and says, Do you guys want any tomatoes? These are from my garden on the roof."

The Mantles is being released by Siltbreeze, a pairing that should yield interesting results. The pop immediacy of the group’s songs might make them seem a good fit for Berkeley’s Slumberland, even if they tend to rock a bit more vigorously and wildly than many groups on Mike Shulman’s rightfully vaunted label. A standout track like the easygoing, assured "Don’t Lie" — understated yet almost anthemic at the close — is more melodic than most music released by Siltbreeze owner Tom Lax, whose enthusiasm came from hearing the first of the group’s two 7-inch singles to date. "There’s a certain amount of people who will buy it [the album] because it’s on Siltbreeze," Roberts says. "And there’s a certain amount of people who will specifically not buy it because it’s on Siltbreeze."

Fortunately, The Mantles is the kind of album that defies expectations. Its shades of New Zealand-ry (an organ sound and laconic vocal delivery not far from Flying Nun groups such as the Chills and the Verlaines), its Paisley Underground touches (some reviewers have mentioned Steve Wynn and Dream Syndicate), and its better-than-NME‘s-C86-cassette pop appeal seem very au courant, but come across as natural as breathing. Oliveras’ vocal presence is both a weapon and a major reason for this — he’s got more confidence and presence than your average rocker, yet he never falls into cringeworthy or over-the-top rock star gestures. There’s no T.T.H. (tries-too-hard) to his or the band’s approach. This forthright pleasure and assurance might have grown from the group’s recording experiences to date, which range from the experimentation and live takes of Ashley to the precision and attention to detail of Papercuts’ Jason Quever, who produced one of their singles.

Along with friendship and romance, family plays a role in the Mantles’ music — not corny Christian family values, but a bond with family members that’s taken a variety of funny forms during the group’s existence. "At [a show at] Café Du Nord, my mom said she wanted a drink, and when I told her to go to the bar, she said, It’s not my milieu," says Roberts to much laughter. He lists his favorite show to date as one the group did for Oliveras’ family: "There was an audience of six people on patio chairs sitting 20 yards away from us," he says.

"The Mantles: Being Earnest," Oliveras jokes.

The Mantles has the arresting look required of a vinyl-only release, thanks to a stark and handsome design by local musician Nathan Berlinguette, art by Colter Jacobsen, and another family touch: the photo on the album’s cover. As evocative in a nostalgic way as the cover of Night Control’s Death Control (Kill Shaman) is in a 2009 manner, it’s a picture of a man holding a picture — a photo of Jimi Hendrix. The man, standing in front of a gorgeous mountain-lined horizon, is Weatherby’s father. "My dad is beside himself," she says with a smile. "He went to one of our shows recently and was walking around saying, Album Cover Guy’s here. Want to meet the album cover?"

THE MANTLES

Album release party

Oct. 1

Eagle Tavern

398 12th St, SF

(415) 626-0880

www.myspace.com/mantles

Pho la love

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS Don’t worry, I sat down at the conference table in my office in Oakland with Earl Butter, a big bottle of gin, a small bottle of grapefruit soda, a bowl of ice, and two small glasses, and we talked until almost midnight. It’s taken care of. We’re all going to be okay. Even you.

He’d brought a couple bones over from Looney’s Barbecue, around the corner, but I’d already bloated myself on takeout pho from Kang Nam, around the other corner. While we were talking, a mosquito came in through one of the many open windows in my hot hot upstairs apartment, and established itself in the bedroom. Weirdo the Cat blinked.

Earl Butter is a peach. Technically, this isn’t true, but in some respects it’s the perfect way to describe him. He’s soft and furry and sweet, and there’s a little stem sticking out of the top of his head.

He grows on trees, for another example.

One of my favorite things about pho (pronounced pha) is that it’s pronounced pha (but spelled pho). Those crazy Vietnameses! The good thing about getting pho to go (pronounced pha to ga) is that — if all goes well — you will find they have packaged the "rare beef" separately. So it’s raw beef, sliced really very thin, and it cooks in the broth when you put the two together. That’s the idea. But you can always let the broth sit in your bowl, and go to the bathroom, and make a couple phone calls, and check your e-mail, and lecture your cat, and clear off your desk, maybe put a load of laundry in, and then add the beef to the broth. That way it won’t cook so much as warm up a little, and that’s how I like it. Jalapeños, bean sprouts, fresh basil and cilantro …

We go back a long way, me and all those things, but especially Earl Butter. It’s one of those friendships that, in spite of everything — remote control ownership disputes, abandonment issues, actual abandonment, bad advice given (and taken), pork-related deception, petty jealousy, petty thievery of hats, grand theft of an automobile, grand jealousy, strange smells in the bathroom, botched interventions, band blowups, automotive breakdowns, nervous ones, and, you know, everything, tube socks … you get the sense that nothing can stop you, no one can beat you. You go back a long way and you’re going to go forward an even longer way.

Being which as it may, the fucker brings me two cold bones, one spoon’s worth of black-eyed peas, onion rings (and I don’t like onion rings), and a half of a crab-cake with mayonnaise in it. True, I had already eaten, but did he know this?

No. He did not. Wait, maybe he did. I’m trying to remember our phone conversation while I was waiting for my broth to cool off.

Anyway, this isn’t about Earl Butter, or me, or barbecue, or pho, or even my love, Romeo (pronounced Romea), who will be here in five, four, three days. Watch out, everybody. You are about to be absolutely grossed out. If scenes of romantical bliss make you barf, close your eyes, OK? I’ll tell you when to open them.

Really the person I really meant for this one to be about was the mosquito. But you know what? I’m in love, and feeling intoxicated and insane. I’ll let you imagine the cartoonish battle of wits that went down in the bedroom. All. Night. That. Night. And the bloody mess I left on the bathroom door the next morning, when, Popeye-armed and pissed off, I finally found him, or her.

Call me crazy, but I’m going to leave you with a few words about Kang Nam: it’s a both is and isn’t kind of place. Nice track lighting and big, ugly overhead fluorescents. Nice art on the wall and taped-on paper flyers for specials. Of the two waitresspersonpeople I encountered, one was calm, the other running around like a waitressperson with her head still on.

I didn’t see what the hurry was.

I did like my soup. A lot.

KANG NAM PHO HOUSE

Daily: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

4419 Telegraph, Oakl

(510) 984-0900

Beer & wine

MC/V

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

The Mix

0

(1) For Alexis (2009), Apichatpong Weerasethakul

(2) Dancin’ at Lil’ Baobab

(3) Aiyana Udesen’s art in "Future Colors of America" at Giant Robot

(4) Steamy disco rarities and hot queers, Le Perle degli Squalor

(5) Dexter season two

Environmental review, Inc.

0

rebeccab@sfbg.com

Michael Cohen, director of San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, called us from the back of a taxi on a recent Thursday afternoon and complained that he was feeling "perplexed" by all the negative attention aimed at a plan his office helped design.

Perplexed? Maybe — but the concept of having a private consultant take over some planning work during the environmental review of major development projects was never going to happen without a fight.

No sooner had Cohen, OEWD Development Advisor Michael Yarne, and Planning Department Director John Rahaim publicly floated the idea than it was roundly criticized by a host of opponents who called it a danger to public jobs and an invitation for conflict-of-interest nightmares.

The controversy was triggered by a draft request for qualifications (RFQ), released jointly by OEWD and the Planning Department, to hire a private consultant to help the city’s environmental review of major development projects. The consultant would be hired on the developers’ dime. The idea, Cohen said, was to do something about the long backlog in city planning’s Major Environmental Analysis division. Developers often complain that environmental review takes too long, and delays cost money.

"MEA doesn’t have enough resources to do all the work," Cohen told us. "Our simple suggestion is to require private development projects to pay to provide extra resources to the department." The RFQ states in an underlined font that the private consultant would work under the supervision of city staff, and that final policy decisions would remain with public employees. Cohen emphasized that if it goes forward, "not a single planner will lose their job."

Nonetheless, the RFQ was lambasted in a letter sent to Rahaim on behalf of IFPTE Local 21, a union representing about 250 city planners. The letter charges that it could undermine city jobs and allow developers to essentially purchase an environmental analysis that would pave the way for project approval.

Under the current system, a developer who requests a permit to build, say, a condominium high-rise must hire a private consulting firm to write a report describing how the new condos would affect the existing landscape. That report then gets forwarded to the Planning Department for review by MEA staff, a time- and labor-intensive process.

The RFQ would make it possible for a large-scale developer who desired a speedier environmental review to shell out more money for the private consultant, who would do much of the legwork of reviewing the environmental impact report. While city staff would still have the final say, the environmental review process for those projects would consist largely of a consultant overseeing a consultant.

And nearly all the consultants in the environmental-review field make their money from developers.

A source close to city planning told the Guardian that Yarne drafted the RFQ, and that the impetus behind it was to remedy delays encountered by the Treasure Island and Lennar Corp. Hunters Point Shipyard projects.

A critic who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Guardian that there’s a lot of skepticism surrounding the idea since it comes from a former developer. Yarne was a principal at development firm Martin Building Co. until 2007, and he publicly complained about the slow environmental review process while in that role.

"The only deficiencies that we have been informed of have been relayed to us by Michael Yarne in the Mayor’s Office," the Local 21 letter notes. "His primary observation has to do with the expediency by which these reviews have turned around. We do not believe that outsourcing these services addresses the problems he expressed to us." On the contrary, the letter states, "in-house staff would have to review a second consultant’s work, which would prolong rather than streamline the environmental review process."

Rahaim, the planning director, told us that "the idea was to look for ways to help the staff out," and stressed that he viewed it as "augmenting as opposed to outsourcing" city jobs. However, he added that it’s "not something I’m sold on as the only way to do this."

Rahaim seemed receptive to the union’s concerns, said Adam Gubser, president of the Planner’s Chapter of Local 21. But union members remain universally opposed to the proposal as it stands. "There are serious flaws that need to be addressed," Gubser said. "We’re very concerned about contracting out, so any proposal is held under a microscope."

Urban man

0

steve@sfbg.com

Maybe Burning Man can’t save the world, but its leaders and participants are increasingly focused on using the models and principles involved with building and dismantling Black Rock City in the Nevada desert every year to help renew and restore urbanism in the 21st century.

The arts festival and countercultural gathering that was born in San Francisco 23 years long ago defied the doomsayers and became a perpetual institution, particularly here in the Bay Area, where it has become a year-round culture with its own unique social mores, language, fashion, calendar, ethos, and infrastructure.

Now, the SF-based corporation that stages the event, Black Rock LLC, has set its sights on taking the next big steps by trying to create a year-round retreat and think tank on a spectacular property on the edge of the playa and by trying to move its headquarters into a high-profile property in downtown San Francisco — perhaps even the San Francisco Chronicle Building.

Complementing those ambitions is the art theme that Burning Man honcho Larry Harvey recently announced for 2010 — "Metropolis: The Life of Cities" — which seeks to connect the event’s experiments in community and sustainability with the new urbanism movements in places like San Francisco and New York City. Harvey told us the idea came to him earlier this year as he attended the Burning Man regional event called Figment and toured some of New York’s efforts to reclaim public spaces from automobiles.

"I found that inspiring," Harvey said of the recent changes to Times Square, marveling at the conversation circles people set up in the gathering spaces that used to be traffic lanes. "Here we have New York City creating a civic space that works like the city we create. It would be even better if they’d put up some interactive art."

In a video segment on the 2009 event by Time.com entitled "5 Things Cities Can Learn from Burning Man," Harvey spelled out some key urban living principles cultivated in Black Rock City: ban the automobile, encourage self-reliance, rethink commerce, foster virtue, and encourage art.

"It’s become a better and better social environment," Harvey said of Black Rock City, the population of which peaked at about 43,000 this year, down slightly from last year. "People have come to respect its urban character, so we’re ready for a discussion like this."

As part of next year’s theme, Harvey said he plans to invite urban planners and architects from around the world to come experience Black Rock City and share their ideas about encouraging vitality in cities, before and during the event. Cultivation of the vast interdisciplinary expertise that creates Burning Man each year is also why the organization is seeking to buy Fly Hot Springs on the edge of the Black Rock Desert.

"That’s what the think tank is about: Let’s get together and think about the world and use Burning Man as a lens for that," Harvey told us. "I think art should imitate life, but I’m not really happy until life imitates art."

Harvey is reluctant to talk much about his plans for the property until they can seal the deal — something the attorneys are now actively trying to hammer out — but he said the basic idea is to create "a laboratory for ideas." To try to raise capital for the project, Burning Man bused 100 rich burners — including Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Laura Kimpton of the Kimpton Hotel chain — to a dinner at the site on Aug. 27.

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, where Black Rock LLC was earlier this year forced to move from its longtime Third Street headquarters because of plans by UC Mission Bay to build a hospital on the site, Burning Man and city officials are collaborating on plans for a showcase space.

"While all this is going on, we have been talking to the city about moving downtown. They really want us there," Harvey said.

The organization came close to landing on a big space in the Tenderloin, but that fell through. Recently, Harvey and city officials even toured the San Francisco Chronicle building at the corner of Mission and Fifth streets, which Hearst Corporation has had on the real estate market for some time, exploring the possibility of it becoming the new Burning Man headquarters.

For that site and other high-profile spots around downtown, city planners and economic development officials are actively courting significant tenants that would bring interactive art and creative vitality to street life in the urban core. "Well, that’s like a theme camp," Harvey said. "That’s what we do."

In recent years, Black Rock LLC has expanded what it does through Black Rock Arts Foundation (which funds and facilitates public art off the playa), Burners Without Borders (which does good works from Hurricane Katrina cleanup to rebuilding after the earthquake in Pisco, Peru), Black Rock Solar (which uses volunteer labor to do affordable solar project for public entities), and other efforts.

But simultaneously creating a think tank, retreat, and high-profile headquarters — with all the money that would require — could reshape the institution and its relationship with San Francisco in big and unpredictable ways. Harvey describes it as entering a new era, one he says he is approaching carefully and with the intention of maximum community involvement in key decisions: "You want to build trust and enthusiasm as you go along."

Come a cropper

0

superego@sfbg.com


SUPEREGO I had absolutely no idea that there was a hysterical ’90s gay dance hits mashup scene!

This was just one of the many, many worlds that opened up for me as Hunky Beau and I girded our burgeoning loins and embarked one recent Saturday on a whirlwind Castro bar crawl. Despite the nutso economics of late, a large new crop of attractively unpretentious San Francisco nightspots has bloomed, from the odd-but-pleasant hunter-themed Bloodhound in SoMa (1145 Folsom, www.bloodhoundsf.com) and multi-chandeliered DJ paradise Triple Crown in Mid-Market (1760 Market, www.triplecrownsf.com) to Potrero Hill’s underground-minded Project One Gallery (251 Rhode Island, www.p1sf.com), the Mission’s jazz-inflected supperclub Coda (1710 Mission, www.codasf.com), and — hurray? — our first "dessert lounge" CandyBar in the Western Addition (1335 Fulton, www.candybarsf.com). Even a few mainstays have had fresh alt-cred life breathed into them, like absinthe-happy Buckshot Tavern (3848 Geary, SF. www.buckshot-sf.com), classy dive the Hearth (4701 Geary), and reinvigorated Madrone Lounge (500 Divisadero, www.madronelounge.com).

It’s a regular autumn harvest of buzz-heavy embarrassment opportunities — a barvest, if you will. But it’s the Castro that’s seen the most openings in the past few months, so that seemed the logical destination for a night of guzzling look-see.

For the sake of my flawless skin, I try to stay positive. Complaining about the Castro is like crapping on a pigeon: you feel a little vindication, but then you realize, "Wow, I just crapped on a pigeon." So you have to just take our increasingly generic, Kylie-nauseating gay Mecca on its own terms, acknowledging that among the upscale influx there’s at least some crazy drag and heartfelt effort at the Lookout (3600 16th St., www.lookoutsf.com), a very nice overdue remodel of the hip-pop Café (2369 Market, www.cafesf.com), with a lot fewer tiny backpacks in line to get in, even a cozy laidback alcoholic outpost called Last Call (3988 18th St., www.thelastcallbar.com), which slid right into the old Men’s Room space. And Q Bar (456 Castro, www.qbarsf.com) hosts some some damn cute weekly parties.

That hoo-hoo gay mashup scene I mentioned — think Armand Van Helden’s rejigger of "Professional Widow" by Tori Amos overlaid with Deee-Lite’s "Groove is in the Heart" and Stardust’s "Music Sounds Better with You" — was rocking a dance floor of five at the distractingly bright Toad Hall (4146 18th St., www.toadhallbar.com) but the nifty back patio was packed, mostly with amply proportioned women who’d probably wandered over from the Castro Theater’s Erotic Film Festival. I suppose apoplectic owner Les Natali is trying to somehow channel the spirit of the original clone-era Toad Hall bar through a blaze of big-screens and several hot pink waterfalls?

The cover at Trigger (2348 Market, www.clubtrigger.com) was $8.

By far the best new arrival to the cologne zone is Blackbird (2124 Market, www.blackbirdbar.com), a relaxed, narrow, and hiply appointed joint around the corner from the former Transfer, now known creatively as Bar on Church (198 Church, www.thebarsf.com). Blackbird has been in the news a lot lately due to the sad death of droll co-owner Doug Murphy from swine flu, eclipsing the happier news that the bar has quickly become one of the city’s more celebrated hotspots. Blackbird’s other co-owner, Shawn Vergara, knows that a few rough edges, a risk-taking cocktail menu — try the sparkling, tequila-based "grape drink" — and a freak-welcoming vibe stick in the mind more than wannabe polish.

As for the rest of the Castro: Is trying to do something different too much to ask? Did I just crap on a pigeon?

Events listings

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Events listings are compiled by Paula Connelly. Submit items for the listings at listings@sfbg.com.

THURSDAY 17

Crafty Hour Element Lounge, 1028 Geary, SF; (415) 440-0111. 5pm, free. Check out new work from 16 emerging local artists, working in varying mediums at this Lightbox happy hour Lightbox is a support system for emerging artists and proceeds from the event will go toward creating a permanent workspace and gallery.

Curry Contest a.Muse Art Gallery, 614 Alabama, SF; www.yourmusegallery.com. 6pm, $10 suggested donation. Sample vegetarian curry made by both professional and non-professional chefs and vote for your favorite by putting a tip in their jar. The chef with the most tips wins! All tips go to the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB).

"Darkness is Your Candle" First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin, SF; 1-800-233-6984. 7pm, $15. Enjoy an evening of poetry and music with mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade, mystical poets Rumi and Hafiz, and devotional music by the Qadim Ensemble to benefit at risk youth and intercultural projects.

Fetish Photography Blue Sky Studios, 2325 3rd St., SF; www.blueskysf.com. 6pm, $10. Join renowned fetish photographer Eric Kroll for a presentation and discussion of his Fetish Photography Art from his early days to the present.

Internet Bookburning Books Inc., 601 Van Ness, SF; (415) 776-1111. 7pm, free. Learn more about the problems that the internet poses for the book business with a panel of outlaw thinkers including, Peter Maraveilis, Peter Plate, Herbert Gold, Ethan Watters, and Brenda Knight.

FRIDAY 18

Round 2 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna, SF; (415) 974-1719. 5pm. Help raise funds and awareness for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at his benefit and art auction featuring artists Brett Amory, Kevin E. Taylor, Regino Gonzales, Ferris Plock, and more, and live painting, drawing, and music.

SATURDAY 19

West Coast Live Ferry Building, Port Commission Room, 2nd floor, 1 Ferry Plaza, SF; (415) 433-9500. 10am, $18. Attend a live broadcast of the West Coast Live radio show moderated by Sedge Thomson featuring music by Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnnie Irion, and authors Gennifer Choldenko, Sue Monk Kidd, and Ann Kidd Taylor.

Roadworks Steamroller Prints SF Center for the Book, Rhode Island between 16th and 17th St., SF; (415) 565-0545. Noon – 5pm, free. Check out this street fair where featured artists and community members can have their work printed by a steamroller. Also featuring vendors, music, food, and activities.

SUNDAY 20

Rock For MS Boom Boom Room, 1601 Fillmore, SF; (415) 673-8000. 7:30pm, $25. Enjoy a smokin’ hot show with Roy Rogers at this benefit for the MS Friends foundation, featuring author Deborah Grabien signing copies of her new JP Kinkaid mystery series books.

TUESDAY 22

Digital Publishing Revolution Mechanics Institute Library, 57 Post, SF; (415) 393-0101. 7pm, $10. Hear more about how digital publishing is changing the lives of writers at this American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) meeting, featuring a panel of local experts with Bob Cauthorn, Mark Coker, and Ivory Madison.


Music listings

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Music listings are compiled by Paula Connelly and Cheryl Eddy. Since club life is unpredictable, it’s a good idea to call ahead to confirm bookings and hours. Prices are listed when provided to us. Submit items at listings@sfbg.com.

WEDNESDAY 16

ROCK/BLUES/HIP-HOP

Altarboys, Midnight Bombers, Inferno of Joy Annie’s Social Club. 9pm, $7.

*Bad Brains, P.O.S., Trouble Andrew Slim’s. 8pm, $26.

Pete Bernhard, Leopold and His Fiction, Erin Brazil Rickshaw Stop. 8pm, $8.

Dave the Pastor Dalton, Mike and Ruthy, Meri St. Mary, Virgil Shaw Hotel Utah. 8pm, $6.

Disastroid, Solid, Sticks and Stones Elbo Room. 9pm, $6.

Every Time I Die, Bring Me the Horizon, Oh Sleeper, Architects Regency Ballroom. 8pm, $20.

Global Noize Boom Boom Room. 9:30pm, $15.

Joshua James and Cory Chisel Independent. 9pm, $12.

Jinx and Jezzebelle Simple Pleasures, 3434 Balboa, SF; (415) 387-4022. 8pm, free.

Light Machine, Charlie Gone Mad, Black Eagle Trust Red Devil Lounge. 8pm, $5.

Love Language, All Smiles Café du Nord. 8:30pm, $10.

Oh My God, Highway Patrol, Wave Array Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $7.

Okmoniks, Magnetix, Wau y Los Arrgghs, Rantouls Knockout. 9pm, $9.

Tip of the Top Rasselas Jazz. 8pm, free.

Todd Wolfe Biscuits and Blues. 8pm, $15.

Yourself and the Air, Excuses for Skipping, Mister Loveless Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $10.

BAY AREA

Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal Paramount Theatre. 8pm, $39.75-59.75.

JAZZ/NEW MUSIC

"B3 Wednesdays" Coda. 9pm, $7. With Sylvia Cuenca Organ Trio.

Cat’s Corner Savanna Jazz. 7pm, $5-10.

Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $22.

Leigh Gregory Plough and Stars. 9pm, free.

Ben Marcato and the Mondo Combo Top of the Mark. 7:30pm, $10.

"San Francisco Electronic Music Festival" Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; www.sfemf.org. 7pm, $10-17. With Miya Masaoka, Lukas Ligeti, and Amy X Neuburg.

Tin Cup Serenade Le Colonial, 20 Cosmo Place, SF; (415) 931-3600. 7pm, free.

FOLK/WORLD/COUNTRY

Freddy Clarke Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 8pm, $12. Latin, Middle Eastern funk.

DANCE CLUBS

Booty Call Q-Bar, 456 Castro; www.bootycallwednesdays.com. 9pm. Juanita Moore hosts this dance party, featuring DJ Robot Hustle.

Fringe Madrone Lounge. 9pm, free. With DJs subOctave and Blondie K spinning the best of indie rock and classic new wave.

Hands Down! Bar on Church. 9pm, free. With DJs Claksaarb, Mykill, and guests spinning indie, electro, house, and bangers.

Jam Wednesday Infusion Lounge. 9pm, free. With DJ Slick D.

Qoöl 111 Minna Gallery. 5-10pm, $5. Pan-techno lounge with DJs Spesh, Gil, Hyper D, and Jondi.

RedWine Social Dalva. 9pm-2am, free. DJ TophOne and guests spin outernational funk and get drunk.

Respect Wednesdays End Up. 10pm, $5. Rotating DJs Lonestar Sound, Young Fyah, Sake One, Serg, and more spinning reggae, dancehall, roots, lovers rock, and mash ups.

Synchronize Il Pirata, 2007 16th St.; (415) 626-2626. 10pm, free. Psychedelic dance music with DJs Helios, Gatto Matto, Psy Lotus, Intergalactoid, and guests.

THURSDAY 17

ROCK/BLUES/HIP-HOP

Blank Slates, Jank, Warren Teagarden Hotel Utah. 9pm, $8.

Blues Traveler Fillmore. 8pm, $27.50.

Buxter Hoot’n, David and Joanna, Nathan Hughes El Rio. 10pm, $5.

Chairlift, Magic Bullets, El Ten Eleven Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $15.

Terry Hanck Biscuits and Blues. 8pm, $15.

Happy Mondays, Psychedelic Furs, Amusement Parks on Fire Regency Ballroom. 8pm, $35.

Hundred Days, Trophy Fire, Atlantic Line Knockout. 9:30pm, $5.

Jahlectrik, Big Lion, Erica Sunshine Lee Red Devil Lounge. 8pm, $8.

Monotonix, Triclops, Anavan Independent. 8pm, $15.

Phoenix, Soft Pack Warfield. 8pm, $32.

Rademacher, Young Hunting, Gold Medalists Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

*Tarrakian, Christian Mistress, Meow Annie’s Social Club. 9pm, $7.

Telepath and Big Gigantic Boom Boom Room. 9:30pm, $10.

Throw Me the Statue, Brunettes, My First Earthquake Rickshaw Stop. 8pm, $12.

Turbonegra, Switchblade Riot, My Parade, DJ Squid Thee Parkside. 9pm, $6.

World/Inferno Friendship Society Great American Music Hall. 9pm, $15.

BAY AREA

*Avengers, Pansy Division, Paul Collins Beat Uptown. 9pm, $12.

Ben Harper and Relentless7 Fox Theater. 8pm, $35.

JAZZ/NEW MUSIC

Al Coster Trio Savanna Jazz. 8pm, $5.

Duuy Quintet Coda. 9pm, $7.

Eric Kurtzrock Trio Ana Mandara, Ghirardelli Square, 891 Beach, SF; (415) 771-6800. 7:30pm, free.

Mads Tolling Trio Shanghai 1930. 7pm, free.

Marlina Teich Trio Brickhouse, 426 Brannan, SF; (415) 820-1595. 7-10pm, free.

Stephen Merriman Simple Pleasures, 3434 Balboa, SF; (415) 387-4022. 8pm, free.

Sakai Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8pm, $14.

"San Francisco Electronic Music Festival" Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; www.sfemf.org. 7pm, $10-17. With Mark Trayle, Donald Swearington, Maria Chavez, and Mason Bates.

Scott Amendola Trio with Jeff Parker and John Shifflet Café du Nord. 8pm, $15.

Stompy Jones Top of the Mark. 7:30pm, $10.

Bernie Worrell, Broun Fellinis Yoshi’s San Francisco. 10:30pm, $15.

FOLK/WORLD/COUNTRY

Rebecca Cross and the Saints, Stella Royale, New Map of the West Bollyhood Café. 9pm, free.

Flamenco Thursdays Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 8pm, 9:30pm; $12.

Robyn Harris, Chris Trapper Dolores Park Café. 7:30pm, free.

Belle Monroe and Her Brewglass Boys Atlas Café. 8pm, free.

Tipsy House Plough and Stars. 9pm, free.

DANCE CLUBS

Afrolicious Elbo Room. 9:30pm, $5-6. DJs Pleasuremaker, Señor Oz, J Elrod, and B Lee spin Afrobeat, Tropicália, electro, samba, and funk.

Bingotopia Knockout. 7:30-9:30pm, free. Play for drinks and dignity with Lady Stacy Pants.

Caribbean Connection Little Baobab, 3388 19th St; 643-3558. 10pm, $3. DJ Stevie B and guests spin reggae, soca, zouk, reggaetón, and more.

Club Jammies Edinburgh Castle. 10pm, free. DJs EBERrad and White Mice spinning reggae, punk, dub, and post punk.

Drop the Pressure Underground SF. 6-10pm, free. Electro, house, and datafunk highlight this weekly happy hour.

Funky Rewind Skylark. 9pm, free. DJ Kung Fu Chris, MAKossa, and rotating guest DJs spin heavy funk breaks, early hip-hop, boogie, and classic Jamaican riddims.

Heat Icon Ultra Lounge. 10pm, free. Hip-hop, R&B, reggae, and soul.

Kick It Bar on Church. 9pm. Hip-hop with DJ Jorge Terez.

Koko Puffs Koko Cocktails, 1060 Geary; 885-4788. 10pm, free. Dubby roots reggae and Jamaican funk from rotating DJs.

Mestiza Bollywood Café, 3376 19th St., SF; (415) 970-0362. 10pm, free. Showcasing progressive Latin and global beats with DJ Juan Data.

Mirza Party and Soul Movers Infusion Lounge. 9pm, free. With DJ E Rock.

Popscene 330 Rich. 10pm, $10. Rotating DJs spinning indie, Britpop, electro, new wave, and post-punk.

Represent Icon Lounge. 10pm, $5. With Resident DJ Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist and DJs Green B, Daneekah, and Smoke 1.

Rock Candy Stud. 9pm-2am, $5. Luscious Lucy Lipps hosts this electro-punk-pop party with music by ReXick.

Toppa Top Thursdays Club Six. 9pm, $5. Jah Warrior, Jah Yzer, I-Vier, and Irie Dole spin the reggae jams for your maximum irie-ness.

FRIDAY 18

ROCK/BLUES/HIP-HOP

*Avengers, Pansy Division, Paul Collins Beat Bottom of the Hill. 10pm, $12.

Blue Rabbit, Marcus Very Ordinary, Gregg Tillery, Hoof and the Heel Hotel Utah. 9pm, $8.

Citizen Cope Fillmore. 9pm, $27.50.

Dead Guise Connecticut Yankee, 100 Connecticut, SF; www.theyankee.com. 9pm.

Drones, Model/Actress, Spyrals, DJ Duke of Windsor Café du Nord. 9:30pm, $10.

Grand Lake, White Cloud, Rad Cloud Hemlock Tavern. 9:30pm, $6.

Ice Cream Socialites Thee Parkside. 9pm, $6.

Illness, Sideshow Fiasco, Groundskeeper Kimo’s. 9pm, $6.

Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Depreciation Guild, Cymbals Eat Guitars Great American Music Hall. 9pm, $15.

Porcupine Tree, That 1 Guy Warfield. 9pm, $27.50-32.50.

Sea Wolf, Old-Fashioned Way, Sara Lov Bimbo’s 365 Club. 9pm, $15.

Shotty, Lipstick Conspiracy, Richie and the Curious Proclivities El Rio. 10pm, $5.

Timber Timbre, Harbours Rickshaw Stop. 6pm, $10.

"Your Music Magazine Band Olympicks" Red Devil Lounge. 9pm, $10.

BAY AREA

Miley Cyrus, Metro Station Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Wy, Oakl; www.ticketmaster.com. 7pm, $39.50-79.50.

Furthur Fox Theater. 7:30pm, $49.50.

White Witch Canyon, 3rd Rail, 667 Uptown. 9pm, $10.

JAZZ/NEW MUSIC

Audium 9 1616 Bush, SF; (415) 771-1616. 8:30pm, $15.

Black Market Jazz Orchestra Top of the Mark. 9pm, $10.

"Cultural Encounters: Friday Nights at the deYoung presents Jazz at Intersection" Wilsey Court, de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, SF; www.deyoungmuseum.org. 6:30pm, free. With Crushing Spiral Ensemble.

Eric Kurtzrock Trio Ana Mandara, Ghirardelli Square, 891 Beach, SF; 771-6800. 8pm, free.

Barry Finnerty and trio Savanna Jazz. 8pm, $5.

"Idle Warship: Talib Kweli, Res, and Graph Nobel" Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $16.

Jessica Johnson Shanghai 1930. 7:30pm, free.

Lucid Lovers Rex Hotel, 562 Sutter, SF; (415) 433-4434. 6-8pm.

"San Francisco Electronic Music Festival" Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; www.sfemf.org. 7pm, $10-17. With Ed Osborn, Preshish Moments, Frank Bretschneider, and Joan La Barbara.

Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $20.

David Tranchina Simple Pleasures, 3434 Balboa, SF; (415) 387-4022. 8pm, free.

Will Bernard Band, Skerik Boom Boom Room. 9:30pm, $15.

FOLK/WORLD/COUNTRY

Bluegrass Bonanza Plough and Stars. 9pm. Presented by Shelby Ash.

Boca Do Rio Coda. 10pm, $10.

Brownout, Manicato, DJs Pleasuremaker and Señor Oz Elbo Room. 10pm, $10.

Crushing Spiral Ensemble deYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, SF; (415) 750-3600. 6:30pm, free.

Cuban Nights Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 8:30pm, $15.

Shayle Matuda Dolores Park Café. 7:30pm, free.

Mestizo, Caravanserai: The Santana Tribute, Vortex Tribe feat. Mingo Lewis Slim’s. 8pm, $13.

"Methods of Defiance" Regency Ballroom. 9pm, $25-37.50. With Dr. Israel, Bernie Worrell, Toshinori Kondo, Hawkman, Guy Licata, and Bill Laswell.

Julia Nunes Swedish American Hall (upstairs from Café du Nord). 7:30pm, $15.

DANCE CLUBS

Activate! Lookout, 3600 16th St; (415) 431-0306. 9pm, $3. Face your demigods and demons at this Red Bull-fueled party.

Bar on Church 9pm. Rotating DJs Zax, Zhaldee, and Nuxx.

Blow Up Rickshaw Stop. 10pm, $10-15. With DJ Jefrodisiac and Ava Berlin.

Boombox Saints Club Six. 9pm, $10. With DJs Pep Love, Amp Live, Xein How, and more spinning hip hop.

Deep Fried Butter, 354 11th St., SF; (415) 863-5964. DJs jaybee, David Justin, and Dean Manning spinning indie, dance rock, electronica, funk, hip hop, and more.

Exhale, Fridays Project One Gallery, 251 Rhode Island; (415) 465-2129. 5pm, $5. Happy hour with art, fine food, and music with Vin Sol, King Most, DJ Centipede, and Shane King.

Fat Stack Fridays Koko Cocktails, 1060 Geary, SF; (415) 885-4788. 10pm, free. With rotating DJs Romanowski, B-Love, Tomas, Toph One, and Vinnie Esparza.

Gay Asian Paradise Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF; www.eightsf.com. 9pm, $8. Featuring two dance floors playing dance and hip hop, smoking patio, and 2 for 1 drinks before 10pm.

Jump Off Club Six. 9pm, $10. With DJs Eddie Leader, Hector Moralez, and Oscar Miranda spinning house.

Look Out Weekend Bambuddha Lounge. 4pm, free. Drink specials, food menu and resident DJs White Girl Lust, Swayzee, Philie Ocean, and more.

Loose Stud. 10pm-3am, $5. DJs Domino and Six spin electro and indie, with vintage porn visual projections to get you in the mood.

M4M Fridays Underground SF. 10pm-2am. Joshua J and Frankie Sharp host this man-tastic party.

Oldies Night Knockout. 9pm, $2-4. DJs Primo, Daniel, and Lost Cat spin doo-wop, one-hit wonders, and soul.

Punk Rock and Shlock Karaoke Annie’s Social Club. 9pm-2am, $5. Eileen and Jody bring you songs from multiple genres to butcher: punk, new wave, alternative, classic rock, and more.

David Savior and Don Lynch Infusion Lounge. 9pm, $20.

SATURDAY 19

ROCK/BLUES/HIP-HOP

Agent Ribbons, Splinters, Sarees Thee Parkside. 9pm, $6.

Amazing Baby, Entrance Band, Total Hound Bottom of the Hill. 10pm, $12.

Citizen Cope Fillmore. 9pm, $27.50.

*Dirty Three, Faun Fables Great American Music Hall. 9pm, $19.

Dragonforce, Sonata Arctica, Taking Dawn Regency Ballroom. 8pm, $28.

Fleeting Trance, Foreign Cinema, Boatclub Li Po Lounge. 8:30pm, $7.

Mark Hummel and Rusty Zinn Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $20.

Little Boots, Music Go Music, Yes Giantess, DJ Aaron Axelsen Independent. 9pm, $17.

Loretta Lynch, Hollyhocks, Yard Sale Hotel Utah. 9pm, $7.

Lou Dog Trio, Audiodub, Search Party Red Devil Lounge. 9pm, $15.

*Meat Puppets, Dead Confederate, Ume Slim’s. 8pm, $13.

Middle Class Murder, Tomorrowmen, Hi-Watters Thee Parkside. 3pm, free.

No Alternative, Druglords of the Avenues, Downtown Struts El Rio. 9pm, $8.

Sex Vid, Corpus, Milk Music Hemlock Tavern. 9:30pm, $7.

Starving Weirdos, William Fowler Collins, Metal Rouge, Darwinsbitch, Jim Haynes, John Davis, Danny Paul Grody Swedish American Hall (upstairs from Café du Nord). 2pm, $10.

Tarentel, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Alps, Ducktails, Pete Swanson, Joe Grimm, Operative Café du Nord. 8pm, $15.

Will Bernard Band with Skerik Boom Boom Room. 10pm, $15.

BAY AREA

Dave Rude Band Uptown. 9pm, $10.

Furthur, Vice Fox Theater. 6:15pm, $49.50.

JAZZ/NEW MUSIC

Audium 9 1616 Bush, SF; (415) 771-1616. 8:30pm, $15.

Bop City Coda. 10pm, $10.

Terrence Brewer Shanghai 1930. 7:30pm, free.

Eric Kurtzrock Trio Ana Mandara, Ghirardelli Square, 891 Beach, SF; (415) 771-6800. 8pm, free.

Groove Rebellion Simple Pleasures, 3434 Balboa, SF; (415) 387-4022. 8pm, free.

"Idle Warship: Talib Kweli, Res, and Graph Nobel" Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $16.

"San Francisco Electronic Music Festival" Brava Theater, 2781 24th St, SF; www.sfemf.org. 7pm, $10-17. With Jorge Bachmann, Gino Robair, and Pamela Z.

Savanna Jazz Trio Savanna Jazz. 8pm, $5. With jazz harpist Motoshi Kosako.

Ricardo Scales Top of the Mark. 9pm, $10.

"Sounds of Unity Jazz Concert" Unity Church of San Francisco, 2222 Bush, SF; www.unitysf.com. 7:30pm, free.

Will Bernard Band, Skerik Boom Boom Room. 9:30pm, $15.

FOLK/WORLD/COUNTRY

Rahim AlHaj and Alam Khan Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, SF; (415) 621-6600. Music from Iraq and India.

Bajofondo Bimbo’s 365 Club. 9pm, $25.

Carnaval Del Sur Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 8pm, $15.

Plucked Seventh Avenue Performances, 1329 7th Ave., SF; (415) 664-2543. 7:30pm, $18. With Diane Rowan, Celtic harp and Dominic Schaner, lute and vihuela.

Whiskey Richards, Amanda Duncan Plough and Stars. 9pm.

DANCE CLUBS

Bar on Church 9pm. Rotating DJs Foxxee, Joseph Lee, Zhaldee, Mark Andrus, and Niuxx.

Booty Bassment Knockout. 10pm, $5. Hip-hop with DJs Ryan Poulsen and Dimitri Dickenson.

Cock Fight Underground SF. 9pm, $6. Locker room antics galore with electro-spinning DJ Earworm and hostess Felicia Fellatio.

Doherty’s Birthday Bash EndUp. Late Show 10pm-5am, Early Show 5am-Noon; $15. With Late Show DJs spinning breakbeats, electro, hip hop hybrids, and more and Early Show DJs spinning house, tech house, and progressive house.

Fire Corner Koko Cocktails, 1060 Geary; 885-4788. 9:30pm, free. Rare and outrageous ska, rocksteady, and reggae vinyl with Revival Sound System and guests.

HYP Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF; www.eightsf.com. 10pm, free. Gay and lesbian hip hop party, featuring DJs spinning the newest in the top 40s hip hop and hyphy.

Juakali Triple Crown. 10pm, $7.

Knocked Up Knockout. 6-9pm, free. With DJ Touchy Feely.

Let’s Blaze Club Six. 9pm, $10. With live performances by C U Next Weekend, Jeanine Da Feen, and more.

Life S.F. Infusion Lounge. 9pm, $20. With DJ J Espinosa and Designer DJs.

NonStop Bhangra Rickshaw Stop. 9pm, $15. Dholrhythms and DJ Jimmy Love present the latest Bhangra grooves.

Saturday Night Live Fat City, 314 11th St; selfmade2c@yahoo.com. 10:30pm.Saturday Night Soul Party Elbo Room. 10pm, $10. DJs Lucky, Phengren Oswald, and Paul Paul spin 60s soul 45s.

Soul Slam IV: Prince and Michael Jackson Mezzanine. 9pm, $25.

Spirit Fingers Sessions 330 Ritch. 9pm, free. With DJ Morse Code and live guest performances.

Summer Saturdays Bar On Church. 9pm, free. With DJ Mark Andrus spinning top 40, mashups, hip hop, and electro.

SUNDAY 20

ROCK/BLUES/HIP-HOP

Daikaiju, Pollo Del Mar, Secret Samurai, TomorrowMen Hotel Utah. 2pm, $10.

*Flood, Emeralds, Early Graves Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

Gaslight Anthem, Murder By Death, Loved Ones, Frank Turner Fillmore. 8pm, $20.

Grouper, Christina Carter, Ilayas Ahmed, Barn Owl, Sun Circle, Common Eider King Eider,

Austin Lucas, Two Cow Garage, Mike Hale Thee Parkside. 8pm, $8.

Ming and Ping, Miss Derringer, Wooden Ponies Slim’s. 8pm, $15.

Brendon Murray Swedish American Hall (upstairs from Café du Nord). 6:30pm, $20.

Pink Mountaintops, Pack AD Independent. 8pm, $12.

"Rock for MS presents Roy Rogers" Boom Boom Room. 8:30pm, $25-100.

"Sunset Youth Services presents: Top Performers from Upstar Records" Bottom of the Hill. 1:30pm, $10.

These United States Café du Nord. 8pm, $10.

Tigercity, Royal Bangs, Actors Bottom of the Hill. 8pm, $10.

BAY AREA

Furthur Fox Theater. 7:30pm, $49.50.

JAZZ/NEW MUSIC

Rob Modica and friends Simple Pleasures, 3434 Balboa, SF; (415) 387-4022. 3pm, free.

Moped Mojito, 1337 Grant; www.mojitosf.com. 8pm.

Savanna Jazz Trio Savanna Jazz. 7:30pm, $5.

Tony Lindsay Band Yoshi’s San Francisco. 7pm, $18.

FOLK/WORLD/COUNTRY

Bajofondo Bimbo’s 365 Club. 8pm, $25.

Marla Fibish and friends Plough and Stars. 9pm, free.

Fiesta Adina! Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 7pm, $12. With Eddy Navia and Sukay.

King Cab Thee Parkside. 4pm, free.

Maria Volonte: Tango Dance Party Coda. 8pm, $10.

Hank Williams Birthday Tribute Amnesia. 10pm, $5. Live-band country karaoke.

DANCE CLUBS

DiscoFunk Mashups Cat Club. 10pm, free. House and 70’s music.

Dub Mission Elbo Room. 9pm, $6. Dub, roots, and classic dancehall with DJs Sep, Maneesh the Twister, and Ludichris.

Gloss Sundays Trigger, 2344 Market, SF; (415) 551-CLUB. 7pm. With DJ Hawthorne spinning house, funk, soul, retro, and disco.

Honey Soundsystem Paradise Lounge. 8pm-2am. "Dance floor for dancers – sound system for lovers." Got that?

Jock! Lookout, 3600 16th; 431-0306. 3pm, $2. This high-energy party raises money for LGBT sports teams.

Kick It Bar on Church. 9pm. Hip-hop with DJ Zax.

Religion Bar on Church. 3pm. With DJ Nikita.

Stag AsiaSF. 6pm, $5. Gay bachelor parties are the target demo of this weekly erotic tea dance.

T-Dance Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF; (415) 346-2025. 4pm, $5 suggested donation. Positive guys and their friends are welcome at this benefit for Positive Force featuring DJ Robbie Martin.

MONDAY 21

ROCK/BLUES/HIP-HOP

Buffalo Collision Independent. 8pm, $20.

Get Up Kids, Youth Group, Pretty and Nice Fillmore. 8pm, $23.50.

In Flames, Between the Buried and Me, 3 Inches of Blood, Faceless Regency Ballroom. 7:30pm, $26.

Qwel and Maker, Denizen Kane, Rock Bottom, Influence and Ro Knew, Bwan Elbo Room. 9pm, $5.

Titus Andronicus, So So Glos, Relatives Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $8.

JAZZ/NEW MUSIC

"Jazz at the Rrazz" Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; www.therrazzroom.com. 8pm, $25. With Jeremy Cohen.

John Patitucci Trio Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $14-18.

Lavay Smith Trio Enrico’s, 504 Broadway, SF; www.enricossf.com. 7pm, free.

DANCE CLUBS

Black Gold Koko Cocktails, 1060 Geary; 885-4788. 10pm-2am, free. Senator Soul spins Detroit soul, Motown, New Orleans R&B, and more — all on 45!

Ceremony Knockout. 10m, free. Dark pop, goth, industrial, and new wave with DJs Deadbeat and Yule Be Sorry.

Going Steady Dalva. 10pm, free. DJs Amy and Troy spinning 60’s girl groups, soul, garage, and more.

King of Beats Tunnel Top. 10pm. DJs J-Roca and Kool Karlo spinning reggae, electro, boogie, funk, 90’s hip hop, and more.

Krazy for Karaoke Happy Hour Knockout. 5-10pm, free. Belt it out with host Deadbeat.

Mainroom Mondays Annie’s Social Club. 9pm, free. Live the dream: karaoke on Annie’s stage and pretend you’re Jello Biafra.

Manic Mondays Bar on Church. 9pm. Drink 80-cent cosmos with Djs Mark Andrus and Dangerous Dan.

Monster Show Underground SF. 10pm, $5. Cookie Dough and DJ MC2 make Mondays worth dancing about, with a killer drag show at 11pm.

Network Mondays Azul Lounge, One Tillman Pl; www.inhousetalent.com. 9pm, $5. Hip-hop, R&B, and spoken word open mic, plus featured performers.

Spliff Sessions Tunnel Top. 10pm, free. DJs MAKossa, Kung Fu Chris, and C. Moore spin funk, soul, reggae, hip-hop, and psychedelia on vinyl.

TUESDAY 22

ROCK/BLUES/HIP-HOP

Bon Iver Fillmore. 8pm, $25.

Complaints, Sharp Objects, High and Tight Knockout. 10pm, free.

Fat Tuesday Band Biscuits and Blues. 8pm, $15.

Five Finger Death Punch, Shadows Fall, Otep, 2Cents Regency Ballroom. 7:30pm, $22.

Erin McCarley, Landon Pigg Independent. 8pm, $15.

Moneybrother, Farewell Typewriter Red Devil Lounge. 8pm, $8.

Most Serene Republic, Grand Archives, Lonely Forest Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $12.

One Eskimo, Haley Bonar Hotel Utah. 9pm, $10.

Pet Shop Boys Warfield. 9pm, $55-89.50.

Prizehog, Rabbits, Iron Witch Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

Jill Tracy, Eli August, Vernian Process Elbo Room. 9pm, $5.

BAY AREA

Australian Pink Floyd Show Fox Theater. 8pm, $32.50-39.50.

JAZZ/NEW MUSIC

Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabakin Quartet Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 19pm, $16-20.

Dave Parker Quintet Rasselas Jazz. 8pm.

"Jazz Mafia Tuesdays" Coda. 9pm, $7. With the Park and special guests.

Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; www.therrazzroom.com. 8pm, $50-65.

MO Jazz Simple Pleasures, 3434 Balboa, SF; (415) 387-4022. 8pm, free.

Ricardo Scales Top of the Mark. 6:30pm, $5.

DANCE CLUBS

Alcoholocaust Presents Argus Lounge. 9pm, free. With DJs What’s His Fuck, Deadbeat, and Big Nate.

Drunken Monkey Annie’s Social Club. 9pm, free. Weekly guest DJs and shot specials.

Eclectic Company Skylark, 9pm, free. DJs Tones and Jaybee spin old school hip hop, bass, dub, glitch, and electro.

POSH Infusion Lounge. 5pm, $20. Featuring a live band.

Rock Out Karaoke! Amnesia. 7:30pm. With Glenny Kravitz.

Share the Love Trigger, 2344 Market, SF; (415) 551-CLUB. 5pm, free. With DJ Pam Hubbuck spinning house.

Womanizer Bar on Church. 9pm. With DJ Nuxx.


PARK(ing) Day

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PREVIEW Screw the consumerism of Christmas, the war imagery of Independence Day, and the inevitable disappointment of New Year’s Eve. Our favorite holiday of the year is PARK(ing) Day, when individuals and groups around the world turn metered parking spots into the playgrounds of their dreams. Started in 2005 by the SF art and design collective Rebar, the event takes advantage of a legal loophole that allows any (legal) use of parking spots as long as the meter gets paid. (Think of it as miniature, short-term space rental.) Want kiddie pools and pink flamingos on Valencia Street? Sod and benches outside a Haight Street shop? A mobile grassy knoll taking up residence in the mayor’s parking spot? It’s all fair game. Nearly five years in, the idea has become so popular that, on certain city boulevards, a stroll on PARK(ing) Day can feel like a street festival — minus the annoying commerce (if people are playing by Rebar’s rules). One part fun, one part frivolity, and two parts commentary on the way we use urban space, this open source project makes an ordinary workday … ahem … a walk in the park.

PARK(ING) DAY Fri/18. Find information, maps, and instructions on how to construct your own park at www.parkingday.org>.

Liverpool

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REVIEW Liverpool may belong to the slow club of cinema — long takes, downcast eyes, and monumental landscapes — but the friction between its patient formalism and wild terrain is anything but staid. As with Werner Herzog, Lisandro Alonso sites the existential condition in plainly inhospitable ecologies. But whereas Herzog paradoxically employs grandiloquence to remonstrate the folly of human pomposity, Liverpool‘s withdrawn narration moves with the stealth purpose of a folk tale. The story is unavoidably mythic — a sailor’s return home — but we’re liable to forget this as Alonso’s camera travels to the vanishing point of landscape and labor.

We begin inside a hulking container ship with features indistinguishable from its cargo. Perhaps it’s just the frequent nips of vodka Farrel (Juan Fernandez) takes once he’s left the ship to visit his ailing mother, but non-actor Fernandez imparts a human rawness the hollowed role might not otherwise suggest. After announcing his plans to the captain in a brief strip of exposition, he docks in dirty snow and sets off across mountainous Tierra del Fuego for a home which appears anything but.

Alonso establishes the everyday reality of the sawmill outpost with a few spare strokes, crystallizing a portrait of hardship and taciturnity that outmatches Carlos Reygadas’ similarly remote Silent Light (2007). If that film’s magical realism was self-consciously steeped in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet (1955), then perhaps Liverpool is under the sign of John Ford. Farrel echoes John Wayne’s famous Searchers (1956) slouch in the doorway at a crucial moment: a classic outsider pose turns in on itself as the film shifts from portraying the individual solitude to communal isolation. When Farrel disappears into the yonder, Liverpool stays behind. The remainder is both epilogue and revision, with 80 minutes of vast extrication finally condensed into a surprisingly intimate token of distance.

LIVERPOOL runs Thurs/17–Sat/19, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

DanceWright Project and special guests

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PREVIEW "Jamie Ray Wright came to dance later than most," the choreographer and artistic director of the DanceWright Project says of himself — an understatement if there ever was one. At Stanford, Wright was a pop musician who then embarked on a career in marketing. For 20 years he watched dance from the audience’s perspective but finally "could stand it no longer" and started to study ballet 24/7, three hours a day. No, he didn’t become even a second-rate Barishnikov — but he did become a choreographer whose work has been floating around the Bay Area for the last half dozen years or so, most prominently at the Black Choreographers Festival. Neither are his dancers virtuosi. But what he and they have in common is a sense for craft, a lack of pretense, and a love for ballet that enlivens every turn, every gesture and every encounter. In addition to pieces from the rep, the evening will feature a world premiere, Bella Donna, performed to the live playing by jazz guitarist Chris Tozzi. This is the DanceWright’s first self-produced evening, and it has invited some other "newcomers" to share the program. Enrico Labayen, who used to be very active in the Bay Area a decade ago, is resurrecting his Labayen Dance/SF; Kat Worthington, a dancer with Wright, is introducing her own group; and the locally little-known Dac Pac, a youth company from Santa Clara.

DANCEWRIGHT PROJECT AND SPECIAL GUESTS Fri/18–Sat/19, 8 p.m., $15–$18, Dance Mission, 3316 24th St., SF, (415) 826-4441, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/76954

Repulsion

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PREVIEW Repulsion: the name says it all, really. Napalm Death covered them, Darkthrone’s Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell — that eternal beacon of uncompromising black metal misanthropy — has a tattoo of their logo, and countless other longhairs heard something lurking beneath the muffled fuzz of an nth-generation bootlegged tape. The extreme music scene would be a very different place had these Flint, Mich., all-purpose metal dudes never disseminated their meteoric, immaculately shitty demos.

The band came up in a democratic period of heavy metal — which, lucky for us, seems to be on the rise again — where amateurs like Venom and Hellhammer managed to write some brutally effective heavy metal with only the most rudimentary musical knowledge. Thanks to this audacious garage metal sensibility, coupled with the aerobic drive of speedfreak hardcore groups like Siege and England’s Extreme Noise Terror and, of course, ye olde Bay Area thrash, Repulsion’s sound became the manifestation of metal’s thriving tape-trading scene, a rudimentary grindcore and death metal onslaught destined to be way more influential than it had any right to be. Crappy production values and occasionally sloppy playing aside, Repulsion wasn’t entirely musically clueless — careful listeners can pick out some impressive (albeit niche) musicianship, like Scott Carlson’s percussive vocal delivery ("You are! Rotting! Maggots! In your coffin!") and the mythically accelerated drumming of Dave Grave (current drummer Col Jones is no slouch himself.)

Let’s be honest: demigod virtuosity in its most ostentatious expression is part of what makes metal so exciting; it’s a unique bragging right we hold over the heads of our rock fan compatriots ("Let’s see [foppish indie band] shred like that!"). But sometimes the metal muse (I’m visualizing a sexless cross between Dio and a Frank Frazetta barbarianess here) gets the most visceral results by visiting us normals. If I’m losing you here, just listen to the grainy, misshapen, infinitely replayable reissue of Horrified (Relapse, 2003). Or better yet, go see them live this Saturday. For free!

With Reciprocal, Dismal Lapse, Flesh Consumed, Depths of Chaos. Sat/19, 7:30 p.m. (doors 7 p.m.), free. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St. (415) 626-1409, www.dnalounge.com

Take warning

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a&eletters@sfbg.com

The forests are in flames, the desert is advancing, the glaciers have vanished, and in a solar-powered facility towering above the ice-free waters of the Arctic, some 800 miles north of Norway, a solitary older man (Pete Postlethwaite) roams the hallways of the Global Archive, a warehouse sheltering banks of data-storage servers, a civilization’s worth of art and invention, and a Noah’s ark of extinguished species. From this lonely outpost, he gravely explores a stomach-churning inquiry: "We could have saved ourselves. But we didn’t. It’s amazing. What state of mind were we in to face extinction and simply shrug it off?"

Good question, and one that Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid, a hybrid merging documentary material and a fictional frame tale, forcefully suggests we start addressing like we mean it — immediately. That is to say, before runaway climate change makes its debut and some or all of its widely forecasted ecological consequences begin to manifest, along with resource shortages, food and water riots, and massive societal collapse.

Delineating the complex global network of climate-change causes and effects, The Age of Stupid interweaves real-life documentary footage from the lives of six present-day subjects in New Orleans, the French Alps, Jordan, southwest England, a small Nigerian fishing village, and Mumbai, India. Interspersed is real and faux (future) archival footage depicting and predicting the environmental consequences of humanity’s bad habits. And all of it is presented as the digital artifacts of a dying-off civilization, preserved for uncertain posterity in the Global Archive. While covering similar terrain to that of An Inconvenient Truth (2006), the film serves as a kind of "No, but really, folks …" in the face of frighteningly incremental gestures toward sustainability — and continued shortsighted resistance — at the levels of national, state, and local government as well as citizenry.

The film’s opening sequence begins with the big bang and hurtles via countdown clock through billions of years, flying past the earliest stages of evolution, past dinosaurs, past the industrial revolution, and past the present day, the titular Age of Stupid, so fast that we barely have time to notice ourselves on the screen before it’s 2055, the Age of Too Late. The message: in the grand scheme of things, we have about a nanosecond left to kid ourselves as we refill our metal water bottle and press the start button on our Energy Star-qualified washer-dryer or Prius — or to find a way, at the level of populace, not green-minded individual, to radically swerve from our current path. According to Armstrong and her cohorts in the Not Stupid Campaign, the film’s companion activist effort, our fate will pretty much be decided by December’s climate talks in Copenhagen. (The film, which premiered in the U.K. in March, has its 50-country "global premiere" Sept. 21-22.)

So then, do the canvas bags, travel mugs, energy-saving appliances, clotheslines, CSA memberships, cycling, recycling, composting, and other ecologically minded efforts of a smattering of well-intentioned individuals matter at all? Or matter enough — in the face of factories, factory farming, methane-emitting landfills, canyons of office towers lit up 24/7, a continent-sized constellation of plastic detritus in the Pacific, and millions of trips cross-country at an average elevation of 30,000 feet?

Colin Beavan, the subject of Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s No Impact Man, is banking on yes, being of the "be the change you wish to see in the world" school of thought (admittedly in good company, with Mahatma Gandhi). Taking its name from Beavan’s book project and blog, No Impact Man shadows the NYC-based writer; his wife, Michelle Conlin, a senior writer at BusinessWeek admitting to "an intense relationship with retail" and a high-fructose corn syrup addiction; and their toddler daughter, Isabella, during a year in which they try to achieve a net-neutral environmental impact.

This entails giving up, in successive stages, with varying degrees of exactitude, packaged food (hard on a family whose caloric mainstay is take-out), nonlocal food (hard on a woman who drinks multiple quadruple-shot espressos a day; impossible, as it turns out), paper products (magazine subscriptions, TP), fossil-fuel-dependent transit (airplanes, elevators, and even the subway), electricity (i.e., the refrigerator), and, to a large extent, trash. The idea is to learn empirically — and demonstrate — which behaviors might be permanently ditched and which are virtually hardwired.

There are, predictably, certain criticisms –- from irritated environmentalists, from semianonymous blog commenters, from the New York Times Home and Garden section. There is the matter of giving up public transportation rather than championing it, and the issue (raised by a community gardener who takes Beavan under his wing) of Conlin’s laboring for a high-circulation publication that trumpets capitalist virtues antithetical to the project of tapering off consumption and waste. And Beavan sometimes comes across, particularly in the book, as well-meaning but stubbornly myopic in his focus on self-improvement.

Then again, the guy and his family gave up toilet paper, electric light, motor vehicles, spontaneous slices of pizza, and many deeply ingrained habits of wastefulness for a year while most of the rest of the country got up each morning and brushed their teeth with the water running. What impact the No Impact project might have on, for instance, the mounds of trash-filled Heftys that line Manhattan’s sidewalks each week remains to be seen. But as the Age of Stupid winds down, it’s probably a waste of time to fault anyone’s attempts to forestall the Age of Too Late.

NO IMPACT MAN opens Fri/18 in Bay Area theaters.

THE AGE OF STUPID plays Mon/21, 8 p.m., SF Center. Visit www.ageofstupid.net for additional Bay Area screenings.

On Land Festival

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PREVIEW Root Strata, the San Francisco-based avant/out music label co-owned by Jefre Cantu and Maxwell Croy, has released over 50 records since its inception. Its foundations and mission are humble, but after nearly five years of work, the label has seen fit to celebrate in a quietly extravagant way with the On Land Festival, a two-night event in the city where it initially, um, took root. "This is the first time we’ve collectively tried to do something on this scale," Cantu, Root Strata’s founder and a member of Tarentel (who perform the first night of the festival) explains over the phone. Sure, On Land is relatively small compared to SF’s other fall festivals, but it’s a damned feast for the right audience. Ducktails and Keith Fullerton Whitman at Café Du Nord on the same night? Killer!

Although On Land is not a label showcase per se, nearly every artist on the 21-act weekend bill at Du Nord and the Swedish American Hall has put out at least one record with Root Strata, or will be doing so soon. The label began in late 2004 as a way for Cantu to release a solo CD-R prior to a Japanese tour with Tarentel, but it quickly snowballed into a wide-ranging outlet for artists local and distant, whether they be noisy, pretty, glitched-out, or all or none of the above. For instance, Root Strata recently released Common Eider, King Eider’s Figs, Wasps, and Monotremes, in which core member Rob Fisk’s viola, guitar, and piano meanderings coalesce into a frail, haunting song cycle.

The headliner of Sunday’s bill at the Swedish American is Portland, Ore.-based Bay Area expat Grouper, a.k.a. Liz Harris, whose harmonic haze will dovetail beautifully alongside the sounds of the venerable Christina Carter, the Austin, Texas cofounder of drone-folk outfit Charalambides and superb visual and musical artist. Although a straight-up music festival in most senses, On Land also possesses some cool nonauditory aspects: Paul Clipson will be showing films to accompany several of the performances, and, according to Cantu, Joe Grimm has been generating music by placing contact mics on two 16mm projectors. A handful of other labels will vend their wares as well, including Eclipse Records and Last Visible Dog. Bring a few bucks and an open mind — this is an ideal, totally stacked entrance to San Francisco’s rich underground.

ON LAND FESTIVAL Sat/19–Sun/20, various times. Café Du Nord and the Swedish American Music Hall, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016. www.onlandfestival.com

Metro Cafe

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paulr@sfbg.com

A half-score (or so) years ago, there came to the border country between the upper and lower Haight a restaurant called Metro Café. The place was an offshoot of Baker Street Bistro, and, like its progenitor, it was rather wonderful and quite affordable. In the mid-aughts the restaurant morphed into Metro Kathmandu, which served a Nepalese-Indian menu. The change was improbable, but the food was just as good in its way. Now, after a too-short run, Metro Kathmandu has disappeared, only to become … Metro Café again.

Actually, it hasn’t altogether disappeared: the look of the dining room remains the same, with a tendency toward red and umber tones and fanciful light fixtures that look like bubbles of colored Plexiglass that someone sawed off the bottoms of. Nor is it quite accurate, perhaps, to speak of the new Metro Café as a return of the original. There are points of similarity, yes, mainly in the emphasis on a three-course prix-fixe menu. At $25, it’s quite a bit more than in the good old days (on the order of $10 more), but what isn’t? It’s still a good deal, especially when you consider that you can have any starter, main dish, and dessert. And no surcharges for the fancier stuff like New York steak or duck confit. I call that sporting.

But the food doesn’t seem to be quite as pointedly French as the last time. The pediment of Chef Jacques Rousseau’s style is unmistakably Gallic — he offers snails, and need we say more? — but the menu is Californian, not French. There are dishes here you’d have a tough time finding in Paris — and not just macaroni and cheese ($8), although Metro’s version is quite tony, with cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan mingling under a thick crust of garlic-bread crumbs. The only thing missing was a bit of salt, but this was easily added from a shaker already on the table. We liked the serving dish, an earthenware crock in the shape of a paddle.

Equally in a Ameri-Cali, if more elevated, vein was a plate of grilled squid ($6.50), accompanied by white beans, bits of frisee and chopped black olives, and a beguilingly fragrant olive oil infused with preserved lemon. The pieces of squid were beautifully tender — no small trick; squid overcooks and toughens easily — while the lemon oil cast a spell like sunshine over everything.

And I do not think you’d easily find in Paris any preparation to match the baby back ribs ($15), with their glaze of honey, cardamom, and coffee — darkly sweet but also a little smoky, like a demitasse of espresso with a half-cube of sugar. Since pork is naturally sweet, a sly mix of sweetness and smoke produced a complex harmony with the meat. The ribs arrived atop a generous slathering of green lentils, properly cooked al dente.

As for the ultimate French treat, les esgargots ($7): they came discreetly swaddled in pastry pockets that looked like empanadas. There was plenty of garlic on hand and, on the floor of the plate, a garish pool of red-pepper purée; these were quite useful flourishes if you needed some distraction from the advertised main ingredient. But the real main ingredient turned out not to be snails but pastry.

Duck confit ($16) is another quintessentially French dish, and Rousseau’s kitchen handles it with aplomb. The result: tender, juicy meat inside appealingly crisp, golden skin. The potatoes landaise did not particularly impress, however; instead of the traditional Pyrenees-style version, of potato cubes fried with onion, garlic, and ham, Metro offered what appeared to be handful of roasted, and underseasoned, potato quarters. An underseasoned potato is a piteous thing, naked and flabby, even if there’s some red-pepper purée on the plate for consolation.

The dessert list is the most purely French sector of the menu. Tarte tatin? Check. It costs $6 and is distinguished by large chunks of apple that are the shape of Gary Oldman’s strange, puffy hair in Dracula. The apple also retained some of its texture — a plus — but I did suspect the kitchen had used big, sweetish apples (maybe some sort of Delicious) rather than one of the smaller, sourer, denser varieties that, in my experience, work better in this tart.

The one non-French note struck among the desserts involved the chocolate cake ($6), which turned out to be a layered mousse cake that included a stratum of raspberry preserves. Sort of a variation on the Viennese specialty Sachertorte, with the raspberry preserves substituted for apricot. I like these kinds of small flourishes, which go a long way toward lifting the pall of enslavement that can sometimes hang over French-influenced restaurants in our corner of the New World. If, at some point, Metro Café becomes Cosmo Café, I would gladly clink my champagne flute.

METRO CAFÉ

Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5:30–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5:30–11 p.m.

Brunch: Sat.–Sun., 9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

311 Divisadero, SF

(415) 552-0903

www.metrocafe311.com

Beer and wine

AE/MC/V

Moderately noisy

Wheelchair accessible

Editor’s Notes

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Tredmond@sfbg.com

I’m really glad that you can watch the state Legislature on streaming video, because it gave me something to do Friday night. For a couple of hours, I sat there transfixed, flicking from the Assembly channel to the Senate channel, as the exhausted and somewhat punchy leaders of our state government blazed through about 100 different bills.

I think my favorite moment was when the Assembly Republicans tried to derail AB 962, a bill by Assembly Member Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) that bans the sale of mail-order ammunition. De Leon tried to explain how reasonable the measure is — you can still order ammo on the Internet, but it has to be delivered to a licensed gun store, someplace where a clerk can check to make sure you’re over 18 and not a felon. He spoke of teenagers in his district ordering thousands of rounds of deadly bullets and getting them delivered to their doorsteps.

But oh my, the GOP was outraged. One Assembly Member announced that this was a violation of the Second Amendment and started chanting "let my people go." Another described a letter she received from a senior citizen who apparently had trouble getting around but needed a thousand rounds of live ammo for a "cowboy reenactment." The guy can’t drive to a gun store, but he can shoot live bullets at other old cowboys? What a great country.

At any rate, the Assembly passed the bill, with the minimum 41 votes, and the governor will now get to decide once again if he’s with the gun nuts or reasonable law enforcement.

I was a little worried that the modest prison reform bill would fail. Barely enough Assembly Democrats supported it, and some of the more liberal state Senators said it didn’t go far enough. Which it didn’t, and it doesn’t, and it’s at best a weak plan that could lead to the release of 17,000 nonviolent inmates. But the heart of the original bill, which called for a commission to review the state’s insane and often arbitrary sentencing policies, died. And some Assembly Democrats — including San Francisco’s Fiona Ma — refused to support a proposal to release more inmates to alternative custody, including home detention with electronic monitoring. So an alternative-release bill never made it to the floor.

That means the state is at least $200 million short of the cuts it needs to make in the prison system to balance the budget — cuts that were already included in the fiscal plan approved this summer. And California is still out of compliance with the federal courts, which have ordered the state to release some 40,000 inmates.

Something’s got to give.

The water system isn’t getting any better, either. The five key water bills failed to get approval, so it appears the Legislature will be coming back for a special session on water. Maybe one on education, too. Maybe more prison reform will come up in those sessions. Maybe Fiona Ma will realize that unlike some moderate Dems, she runs no risk of losing reelection over prison releases and can vote the right way next time.

And maybe Tantalus will get to eat some apples. Last I heard, he was still hungry.