Volume 47 Number 34
THEATER Audience members entering the drill court of the Mission Armory and climbing the bleachers to their seats do so amid the buzzing drone of Highland music and an eager swarm of searchlights, all of it punctuated by booming pre-show announcements over the PA. When silence falls at last, a solitary man in jeans and leather jacket emerges a bit sheepishly from a doorway at the far end of the stage. Appearing small and inconsequential against the stadium-like surroundings and the preceding pomp and circumstance, he stutters a few opening lines before returning to his element — the local pub in Scotland’s Fife. There he assumes wholly different proportions, as he and his friends relay their own perspectives on the spectacle of war.
In Black Watch, the touring revival of a site-specific 2006 production by the National Theatre of Scotland (currently being presented by American Conservatory Theater), writer Gregory Burke and director John Tiffany set out to present a spectacle grounded in real lives. To that end, they blend fictionalized scenes with the accounts of young Fife veterans who served in Iraq as part of Scotland’s famed 300-year-old Black Watch regiment.
Meanwhile, the show employs a hybrid theatrical form that draws equally on the conventions of the music hall, the docudrama, and physical theater. The stage is a wide and busy corridor running between two tall banks of seats, with scaffolding on either end where actors also play, video monitors flicker, and large video projections are sometimes cast.
This is the production’s fourth international tour, remarkably. But despite its continued popularity abroad, little in it seems especially surprising or penetrating. There’s a lot of brash dialogue (hyper-macho, casually chauvinistic, expletive-laden soldierly banter in slightly toned-down Scottish brogues); some muscular dance routines (with the martial drills the most interesting); a sometimes affecting, sometimes overbearing musical score; and a few flashy staging ideas (including an eerily unexpected entrance in the barroom).
But whether the play is offering gritty realism or stylized interpretation, the message is generally and familiarly on-the-nose: war seems glamorous to the young man back home, and hell to the soldier in the field; soldiers are sold out by politicians; and soldiers don’t fight for their country or some high ideal, but for less abstract ties and especially for their fellow soldiers. The lies, illegality, and massive unpopularity surrounding the Iraq War is also hardly new ground in itself — though one line rings with unintended irony in the Armory setting (where Kink.com has been in residence since 2007) when a Scottish officer (Stephen McCole) jokingly admits the war is being waged for “petrol and porn.”
The narrative toggles between the aforementioned pub — where Cammy (Stuart Martin) and his fellow vets somewhat grudgingly and aggressively divulge their experiences to a timid middle-class Writer (Robert Jack) — and a flashback to the daily drudgery and danger of Iraq in 2004, where the company’s assignment in support of devastating American military assault on Fallujah leads to the death of three Scottish soldiers in a suicide car bombing. There’s also a segue into a somewhat silly if historically relevant recruitment scene at the outset of World War I, which further convolutes a narrative already burdened with details about political machinations at home and distress over “amalgamation” (the British government’s ill-timed decision to dissolve the Black Watch and fold it into a single, cheaper Royal Scottish Regiment).
The play never represents Iraqi lives or perspectives, nor is there more than passing sympathy for them among the characters; this is instead a work focused squarely on the Scottish soldier’s experience and, most significantly, the molding of that experience by a state reliant on a voluntary military. In a world of limited and dispiriting options, the military opportunistically and very successfully offers young men a seeming basis for pride in themselves and in an inflated (or degraded) masculine ideal. Black Watch is itself successful in those rare moments where sentimental spectacle gives way to images that register the profound, uneasy, and complex implications of this fact.
Through June 16
Tue-Sat, 8pm (also Wed and Sat, 2pm); Sun, 2pm, $100
Drill Court, Armory Community Center
333 14th St, SF
MUSIC “Tastemaker” is a word that gets thrown around enough to be meaningless. Anyone can share a track on Facebook or attempt social apotheosis via Twitter, most likely to find that Pitchfork reposts get drowned in the echo chamber and Do415 accounts are D.O.A. Not everyone can be Gilles Peterson, a DJ in every sense. Whether in a club, as a compiler of obscurities, or as a pirate radio turned BBC radio personality and interviewer, when Peterson plays a song, people actually listen.
“It’s been to my benefit, but I just find that many radio DJs are so conservative about programming.” Peterson combines a continental eclecticism picked up from French radio, the underground approach of ’80s UK pirate stations, and “a kind of British pop, feeling-part-of-a-movement way of playing records.” As a result, as a DJ on BBC’s Radio 1 for more than a decade and now on BBC Radio Six Music, he’s frequently been at the head of the movement, with a reputation for playing artists before they were “famous.”
“Whether it’s James Blake, or Amy Winehouse, or the Roots — such incredible music — people weren’t playing it because they weren’t being told it was good. For me it all landed on my plate, so I was like, yeah man, I’ll play that, this is real good.”
Still, Peterson is quick to recognize where something slipped through his filter, telling me “Burial is a good example of an artist I never played, until a long way down the line. It was a little bit too avant garde for a lot of people, and it was the media, the journalists who really broke that, and then a lot of DJs, myself included, reacted to being tipped off.”
With more conventional radio jocks — tasked with chasing trends and setting up artists owned by a subsidiary of their parent company — it could be too late by that point, on to the next flavor of the week. But Peterson selects tracks with an exceptional disregard for genre or era. Soul and acid jazz may be his standards, but a given playlist goes well beyond, drawing connections in natural but not obvious ways. A recent episode of the syndicated Gilles Peterson Worldwide, a tribute to late great soul jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, included a slick remix of the easy to Google Glaswegian electro pop Chvrches, a rare Prince related cut, and a bit of Johnny Hammond, for starters.
The next big thing is great, but Gilles is as much on the lookout for rare grooves. “I still go around to people’s houses and do crazy swaps, or spend 200 pounds on a rare seven-inch. That’s probably my biggest vice, apart from smoking and drinking and everything else that I do.” Frequently re-releasing these finds on compilations on labels including his own Brownswood Recording, the effect can be huge for the original artist, as it did for an obscure Bay Area soul singer a few years back. “I bought Darondo’s ‘Didn’t I’ as a rare record and started playing it. It was kind of like an Al Green track, but not by Al Green,” Gilles recounted. “I had quite a good connection with Andrew Jervis who was working at Luv ‘N Haight/Ubiquity at the time. He picked up on the fact that I was playing it, and then he went out and obviously found out Darondo was living in San Francisco, and it was great to see he got rediscovered.” As a result, more material from Darondo was released, and seeing the singer at a show at the Rickshaw Stop in ’07, I couldn’t help but feel it wouldn’t have happened without Peterson’s influence.
A club DJ, Peterson has overseen wave after wave of dance music trends, counting himself among a certain class of pre-1988 DJs — the year of the acid house explosion in the UK. As he puts it, he was “one of those guys who was spinning in 1981 on pirate radio stations and playing six nights a week in 1985 at every club in London.” Today that seniority (and no shortage of opportunities to be heard on radio or online) comes with an ability to be more selective of the venues and appearances he makes outside Europe, generally sticking to New York and L.A. “It’s not just about turning up and playing randomly for money. I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years now so the pleasure for me is more the social interaction and the fun. I hate when it becomes a chore or its just kind of forced.”
Given the years since his last SF appearance, I was curious how he viewed recent trends, namely the monolithic rise of EDM in the US. “For the first time in America, after many many years seems, it’s made it properly nationwide, a mainstream part of music. Whereas before, dance music in whatever form was always very fringe, it was always very gay or very specialist.”
A self-described contradiction, with an ear for both the mainstream and the underground, Peterson is most “fascinated by seeing, especially at the moment, this new generation of British producers, predominately what you’d call the bass music scene, people like James Blake, Mount Kimbie, and Mala,” all artists he supported early on, when they were emerging beat makers. “To see them now becoming hugely important in not just underground music but contemporary music makes me very proud,” Gilles said. “The more high quality people working at the high end level, the more exciting that is. For every David Guetta you have a Hudson Mohawke. Basically, that’s dance music.”
GILLES PETERSON “BAY AREA EDITION”
With Jeremy Sole, Wiseacre, Jonathan Rudnick, Sweater Funk DJs
Fri/24, 9pm-3am, $20-25
161 Erie St., SF
MUSIC Can you even recall your first run-in with the mythic, boundary-less creature that is Björk? Perhaps it was bounding through the neon blue forest with tiny crystals underneath her eyes as a giant paper-mache bear chased her through Michel Gondry’s video for “Human Behaviour,” off 1993 solo album Debut. Or maybe it was poised for the tabloids in an elegant swan dress, holding a large egg purse and preening for the worst dressed lists at the ’01 Academy Awards after her devastating performance in Dancer in the Dark (2000). Those long obsessed will likely point to first hearing ’88’s “Birthday” by the Sugarcubes, her early Icelandic act (post teenage punk bands), on international radio.
Whenever — and however — it went down, it left a lasting impression, the stunning shock of that otherworldly voice tends to permeate memories. Solo, Bjork has long coupled that voice with innovation, always grasping at new objects and sounds, or as she described it to me in conversation, she’s “like a kid in a toy shop.”
Her latest triumph was Biophilia, the ’11 album that paired science, nature, iPads, Tesla coils, and tinkling church bells. Since its release, she’s hopped the planet with her sonic education in tow, spreading pixie dust and learning tools at schools and museums along the way. Next up, she’ll play a trio of shows at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond (Wed/22, Sat/25, and Tue/28). Also during that time, her Biophilia Education Program comes to the Exploratorium, which means interactive workshops exploring connections between music and technology, Wed/22 through Tue/28.
In her unassuming but confident way — with the most endearing accent I’ve ever heard — the avant-pop megastar opened up to the SF Bay Guardian about her song writing process (yes, there’s a new project in the works), early punk career, natural musicology, and how to keep it all DIY:
SF Bay Guardian How did you initially come up with idea to include apps for every song on Biophillia?
Björk It started in 2008. I wanted to use touch screens…though the iPads weren’t out ’till 2010 or something. But I’d been using touch screens on my Volta tour, but more just to perform on stage. When I started doing Biophillia, I was very determined that I wanted to write with [touch screens], not just perform. That’s when I started to map out, to visualize. I had to decide, what did I want to hear on the touch screen when I’m writing this song. That sent me back to my own music education as a child, when I felt the way they explained scales and rhythms and those basic musicology themes, was way too academic. It was like reading a book to learn to dance.
Music is something that doesn’t work that well in the written word, you know? Especially not explaining to kids. So I started making my own map…this is how I would I like to have scales and this is how I would like to have chords and this is how I would like to have arpeggios and this is how I would like to have counterpoint, and so on. This project became naturally educational. I was kind of like, repairing my own education. I was trying to cover what I thought was lacking when I was in music school. In that way, I was able to share it.
We [created] a different program for each song. For example, one song would feature arpeggios, and then I would pick an actual element that would be the simplest way for a kid to understand what an arpeggio is, to visualize it. So we took a pendulum to explain counterpoint, a little bit like how church bells swing back and forth, and that’s like a bass line that swings.
I wrote 10 songs and we did different programs for each song, and it came together using natural elements. For example, one song is called is called “Crystalline” and there are crystals kind of growing as the song changes.
In 2010, when we were programming this and were kind of almost done, the iPad arrived, so we were like, ‘wow!’ It’d be silly just to record these songs and put them on a CD because we’d already written all these programs, we might as well share the programs, and put them with some more poetic, natural things — the moons, the tides, things like this. It was a very gradual thing.
SFBG And now it’s been brought in to educate children at schools throughout Iceland, but also there are related events where you’re touring, as well?
Björk It differs from city to city. So far it’s been in Manchester, Iceland, New York, Buenos Aires, and Paris, and now it’s going to be in California. Some places, like for example, New York Library and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, took on the curriculum for a few months, and the middle school of Reykjavik, the 10 to 12-year-olds, they have it now in their curriculum for the next three years. It’s looking like it’s going to go to more countries. It sort of keeps growing.
SFBG It seems like you’ve long been ahead of the curve, as far as creating music with new technology, is that something you grew up with as well?
Björk I’m actually really bad with technology. I think that’s why I’m so excited about, for example, the touch screen, because it’s like I waited until technology caught up with me, for it to be simple enough. You have your imagination, and whatever helps you express yourself, I’m all for it, if it’s the violin or piano or singing. Or what has been really helpful for me, since I started doing my own solo albums, the computer has made me a lot more self-sufficient. I guess that comes from being in bands for 10 years, where things are more democratic. It was always drums and bass and keyboards and guitars in every single song [laughs], which is great. But then when I started doing my own album, I was like a kid in a toy shop, I wanted to have every single noise. And this is great, using the computers to do this yourself. It’s quite empowering, especially for a girl. You don’t have to go through this whole hierarchy of whatever, you can just be self-sufficient.
SFBG Some of your early groups were punk bands [Tappi Tíkarrass, and KUKL, which toured with Crass], I was wondering how you discovered punk as a teen, and ended up working with Crass?
Björk I was hanging out with kids that were older than me, like the other guy who used to sing in the Sugarcubes and another guy who was friends with Crass. They played our country, and then we would go and visit them at their farm [Dial House in Essex], and for me what was most important was that one of the bands that was on Crass’ label, a band called Flux of Pink Indians, had a bass player called Derek Birkett and he helped the Sugarcubes release their first album, just from his bedroom. And he’s my manager still today. So I’ve worked with him for like, 30 years now.
It’s pretty much DIY, especially now when the labels are not really functional like they used to be. It’s pretty much just three of us that do most of my stuff.
SFBG Do you have any other long-term goals with Biophillia, or are you working on your next project?
Björk I think I will be doing that on the side, but when it comes to writing my own stuff, I always like the first couple of years to be kind of mysterious. It’s important to play around in the dark, blind-folded, not really knowing what you’re doing. Biophillia was very much like that the first two years, it was very intuitive and impulsive and having no idea what would come out of it. And I’m at that stage with my next album. I really enjoy that. As much as it’s rewarding when [an album] first sees the daylight, I think I even enjoy more the first half of the process, when it’s all still a mystery.
SFBG Were you living in New York during the early playing stage of Biophillia? It seems to have a real connection to natural elements, and science, so I assumed you were in Iceland?
Björk I’ve been living half the year in New York and half in Iceland. I think Biophillia addresses my life in Iceland and the financial crises in a direct way because it’s sort of very DIY. And one of my first dreams was that Biophillia would be a music house and each room would be a song — eventually these rooms became the apps. But it might be that we would be able to go back and make a musical house in Iceland that would serves also as a children’s’ museum and we would use one of the buildings that got kind of half-built in the financial crises and create jobs that way.
But also Biophillia is also about urban areas, because you could stay connected with the moon through your iPad, or to nature and natural structures with your phone.
SFBG My time is almost up but may I ask a few of your favorite things? Like your favorite songs currently, or music that’s helping inspire you creatively now?
Björk At the moment I’ve been listening to the new James Blake album a lot. These things change all the time!
SFBG Favorite mythological story or creature?
Björk I like Icelandic mythology, there’s a lot of amazing tales there.
SFBG And a favorite tour snack?
Björk Um, I like berries.
SFBG Any kind in particular?
Björk Mmmm, no, I like all of them.
Wed/22, Sat/25, Tue/28, 8:30pm, $75
1414 Harbour Way, Richmond
COCKTAILS In San Francisco, there’s a bar for practically every situation. Feeling high-class yet mysterious? Bourbon and Branch is right up your alley. Colorful and trendy? Go to Trick Dog. If you need to drown your sorrows in the dark, there are plenty of dive bars ready to pour you a heavy-handed drink.
But if you’re just looking for a well-made cocktail in friendly spot after work, let me introduce you to Southside Spirit House, the newest bar to hit SoMa.
Greeted by a chalkboard sign declaring “Whiskey. It’s what’s for dinner,” I walked into the then-week-old spot with no expectations. Despite working in the neighborhood, I don’t really frequent many SoMa bars for some reason. And I’d never been to nightclub Eve Lounge, which closed down earlier this year when the owners decided to transform the space as a casual, happy hour bar with an emphasis on solid cocktails.
I was instantly at ease with the space. The wooden floors, tables and walls would send chills down any rustic atmosphere-lover’s spine, and the three or four TVs lining the walls ensure sports fans won’t miss key plays. Most important, one look at the robustly stocked bar told me I could feel confident knowing the bartenders could make any drink I desired. I mixed into the crowd of 20- and 30-somethings — all pretty much dressed like they walked right in after work, like myself — and made my way to the bar for a cocktail.
I ordered a Torero en Llamas ($11), a Corralejo Blanco tequila drink with a float of absinthe. The bartender described it as a deconstructed margarita. As I took photos of the bartender at work preparing it (and waved off others at the bar asking if I worked for 7×7), the bartender quickly said “No, wait. Wait for this.”
He then lit a match and set my drink on fire.
Now I know this is a common trick used in dive bars practically everywhere. But we’re not talking about a shot of 151 here. This drink was in a coup glass for Christ’s sake. As I sat there, with the lime in my glass set aflame, I almost didn’t want to blow it out in order to take a sip. When I finally tried the drink, the bartender was right. It tasted like a margarita without the overt salty, beachy flavor.
Then my friend Tim showed up. Being new to the old-fashionedy artisan cocktail scene (his usual drink is Liquid Cocaine), I advised him to try an ever-trusty Old Fashioned ($11), here made beautifully. We grabbed our cocktails from the bar and easily found two stools in a sweet little corner below some Transformer-eque art work.
While Time was telling me stories about bong hits, his new jeans, and Japanese card games, I kept eyeing the small dishes circling the bar — tiny sets of sliders that made me regret having a big lunch. Tim nursed his Old Fashioned, clearly not used to such a strong classic, while I tried not to gulp down the remainder of my own drink.
Next up: I ordered the Maiden Lane while, to my disappointment, Tim declined a second round for himself. (I haven’t given up on converting him to the artisan trend.) While we continued chatting about work and love, the attentive staff routinely checked back with us until my drink arrived.
Served in a mason jar, The Maiden Lane — Bulleit bourbon, strawberries, housemade ginger syrup, agave, lemon juice — is perfect for a sunny day, but probably not for drinkers like myself who aren’t huge fans of ginger beer. I quickly drank that cocktail, seeing that even though I was with company, I was drinking alone.
After paying our tab and taking a closer look at the beautiful art on the walls, we were bid farewell at the door by a quote from W.C. Fields:
“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite. And furthermore, always carry a small snake.”
Cheers to that.
575 Howard, SF. (415) 543-5874, www.facebook.com/SouthsideSF
FILM Noah Baumbach isn’t exactly known for romance and bright-eyed optimism. Co-writing 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox with director Wes Anderson is maybe the closest to “whimsy” as he’s ever come; his own features (2010’s Greenberg, 2007’s Margot at the Wedding, 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, 1997’s Mr. Jealousy, and 1995’s Kicking and Screaming) tend to veer into grumpier, more intellectual realms. You might say his films are an acquired taste. Actual declaration overheard at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival: “Am I going to see Frances Ha? Ugh, no. I can’t stand Noah Baumbach.”
Haters beware. Frances Ha — the black-and-white tale of a New York City hipster (Baumbach’s real-life squeeze, Greta Gerwig) blundering her way into adulthood — is probably the least Baumbach-ian Baumbach movie ever. Owing stylistic debts to both vintage Woody Allen and the French New Wave, Frances Ha relies heavily on Gerwig’s adorable-disaster title character to propel its plot, which is little more than a timeline of Frances’ neverending micro-adventures: pursuing her nascent modern-dance career, bouncing from address to address, taking an impromptu trip to Paris, visiting her parents (portrayed by the Sacramento-raised Gerwig’s real-life parents), “breaking up” with her best friend. It’s charming, poignant, it’s quotable (“Don’t treat me like a three-hour brunch friend!”), and even those who claim to be allergic to Baumbach just might find themselves succumbing to it.
Frances Ha marks the second film to feature a dance subplot for Gerwig, after Whit Stillman’s 2011 Damsels in Distress. (She also appeared in Greenberg but is probably best-known for her mumblecore oeuvre: 2008’s Baghead; 2007’s Hannah Takes the Stairs.)
“I love dancing,” she admitted on a SFIFF-timed visit to San Francisco. “I was never a professional, but I danced a lot growing up and I still go to dance class whenever I can. I don’t think there’s enough dancing in movies.”
Like Frances, she studied modern dance in college. “I did this kind of modern dance called release technique. A big component of it is learning how to fall. It’s connected to bouncing back from the ground, or giving into the ground — letting everything flow. It’s a beautiful way to dance, and the dance company that [Frances] wants to be a part of, that’s the kind of dance that they do,” she said. “I also thought it was this incredible metaphor for life: learning how to fall, because you’re going to. At first, as you’re learning how to do it, you get terribly banged up — and then at some point you just are falling and it’s not hurting you anymore.”
Though much of Frances Ha, which was co-scripted by Baumbach and Gerwig, is about its protagonist’s various relationship struggles, there’s another less-expected theme: class warfare (a mild version of it, anyway). Frances scrambles to pay her $1200 rent — previously, she’s seen paying $950 a month to sleep on a couch — while her housemate, who comes from a wealthy family and spends his days noodling on spec scripts, casually mentions the necessity of hiring a maid service. You know, for, “like, 400 bucks a month.”
“We didn’t set out to make a movie about class, specifically,” Gerwig noted. “But I think typically Americans have a lot of trouble talking about class, or even acknowledging that it exists. It operates on a really subtle level. You get out of college and you suddenly realize that some people are paying off loans, and some people aren’t. It can be hard to talk about. I’m very inspired by Mike Leigh’s movies, where it’s always there in the background. I felt like I wanted to have it in the movie, and Noah felt the same way, too.”
Later that day, Baumbach elaborated on the same thought. “Economics were really going to influence a lot of what Frances does, because the movie was structured by finding a home, lack of a home, constant movement,” he said. “Her economic reality had to be a huge component of her story.”
Frances Ha captures twentysomething ennui with the same honesty Baumbach deployed in Kicking and Screaming, though there are some key differences: the Kicking and Screaming guys were mere months post-graduation, while Frances, who is 27, is more removed from college — whether she wants to admit it or not. “It didn’t feel like the exact same territory, but I was aware that it was kind of addressing some of the stuff that I was addressing back then,” Baumbach said. (Not coincidental, one presumes, is the cameo in Frances Ha by Kicking and Screaming star Josh Hamilton.)
Though he won’t cop to naming his main character after, um, France, Baumbach does admit that the country’s films (he points specifically to works by Truffaut, Rohmer, and Carax) have had a strong influence on him as a director, and on Frances Ha in particular.
“I think [for these filmmakers], the joy of making the movie is somehow evident in the movie itself,” he said. “Sometimes, that can be annoying! But the rush you get from it, you can just feel, like, the pleasure of movies. With Frances Ha, I wanted to push that, and do things like have her run down the street [while David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ plays on the soundtrack]. Just go for it, because the movie really could hold it. I think a lot of [the films that inspired me] have that. And because a lot of the music is borrowed from those movies, it feels even more like a clear connection.”
FRANCES HA opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters
SUPER EGO What good is freedom if we don’t toss a wig on it?
The incredibly fun, superfriendly gay party is back, now monthly at DNA Lounge — bigger diggs, hotter hotness, giant bass, and, best of all, more fags. Also: Prince of NYC house Quentin Harris (my favorite producer of the ’00s) and DJ David Harness to set the spirits of the dancefloor aflame.
Fri/24, 10pm-very late, $10 before midnight. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com
“Put on the weirdest shit you can find in your costume box. Regardless, come dance your ass off!” says party host Broke-Ass Stuart. Free Ike’s sandwiches and Hey Cookie! cookies, too.
Fri/24, 10pm-2am, $5. Showdown, 10 Sixth St., SF. www.brokeassstuart.com
AZARI & III
Canadian duo Azari & III are acid sex. LA hottie Lee Foss is tech house bliss. Legendary Todd Terry is king of cuts. They will all be there at the Lights Down Low seventh anniversary bash. CAN U PARTY?
Sat/25, 9pm-3am, $22. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com
The deep house sage from Greece is doing some serious shit on a spiritual level.
Sat/25, 10pm-4am, $20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com
A super-rare appearance by the revered Paris groovemaster at the untouchable Stompy + Sunset all-day patio party tradition. He’s backed up by Detroit boy wonder Kyle Hall, who’ll take us somewhere real.
Sun/26, 2pm-2am, $10 before 5pm, $20 after. Cafe Cocomo, 650 Indiana, SF. www.pacificsound.net
MAGIC MOUNTAIN HIGH
One of my favorite deep techno DJs, Move D of Germany, has teamed up with Juju and Jordash, wonderfully oddball Israeli improvisational jazz-house duo, to form this live act. I have a feeling with this much smarts in the room, it’s gonna be amazing. With the As You Like It party crew.
Sun/26, 9pm-4am, $15 before 10pm, $20 after. Monarch, 101 Sixth St., SF. www.monarchsf.com
Annual rock ‘n’ roll fantasy-insanity at Cat Club with bad-ass characters in torn fishnets galore: DJs Jenny and Omar, Lady Bear, Jackie Sugarlumps, Princess Pandora, Carnita, Galene Modmoiselle, Creepy B, Union Jackoff, and a motley crew more.
Sun/26,10pm-3am, $10. 1190 Folsom, SF. www.sfcatclub.com
Treats! The fantastic Panorama Bar resident comes at us with the full force of her gorgeous, hypnotically muscular sound at Honey Soundsystem. Then at 2am, Honey moves down the street to Beatbox, driving into dawn with special secret guests for five dollars.
Sun/26, 10pm, $10. Holy Cow, 1535 Folsom, SF. www.honeysoundsystem.com
TWILIGHT CIRCUS DUB SOUND SYSTEM
For 25 years, dub wizard Ryan Moore of the Netherlands (psychedelic heads know him from Legendary Pink Dots) has blown minds with his reverberating soundscapes, pumping up classic ragga sound with sly wit and smokin’ updates. This is top sound, folks. Sun/26, 9pm-2am, $7–$10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.dubmission.com
On a recent Tuesday night, some of the city’s most influential developers, architects, and land-use lawyers gathered in a conference room at the ritzy W Hotel for a panel discussion, titled, “San Francisco’s Housing Crisis: Can the Tech Boom Help Us?”
It was a provocative question by any measure, but equally intriguing was the lack of even a hint of objection to the dead-serious framing of increasing unaffordability as a “crisis.”
Even among well-heeled property brokers at the event, which was hosted by San Francisco Magazine and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, there appears to be universal acceptance that the city stands at a crossroads.
“The question asks itself: Who gets to live in San Francisco?” Tim Colen, HAC’s executive director, stated by way of introduction.
To break it down into extremely simplified terms: High-salaried professionals easily make the cut, while tenants of modest means who lack stable rent control are more hard-pressed to find housing they can afford. Opinions on how to approach this problem differ sharply.
Colen and other panelists posited that the solution is to build as the city has never built before, aiming for the construction of 100,000 units in the next two decades. But panelist Peter Cohen of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations countered that today’s development projects aren’t being constructed for people who actually live in the city, 61 percent of whom make less than 120 percent of the Area Median Income.
The city’s real-estate market is invariably described by those who closely track it as “hot,” or “bubbly,” bringing to mind a cappuccino, perhaps, that induces a jittery feeling. Speculation abounds.
The ripple effect extends beyond residential units. All across the seven-by-seven peninsula that once represented a haven for misfits and iconoclasts, stories abound of arts organizations, nonprofits, and community gathering spaces getting priced out, pressured to move, or otherwise swept away due to economic circumstances beyond their control.
From 2009 to 2013, UC Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti noted, explosive job growth coincided with San Francisco bearing the third-largest spike in rental prices on average, nationwide. In 2011, San Francisco rents were 34 percent higher than they had been 2003; by 2012, they had jumped to 53 percent higher, according to a market analysis prepared by The Concord Group. According to San Francisco Rent Board data, 1,757 eviction notices were filed from March of 2012 to February of 2013, reflecting a 12-year high.
“The problem has serious social consequences,” Moretti said at the event, sounding for an instant like a tenant advocate. “There is a serious amount of displacement.”
Every upheaval is messy, every tenant-landlord rift is complicated, and circumstances vary case by case. But taking a broad view, the overwhelming consequence of San Francisco’s gale-force property market pressure is a cultural shift; the fabric of a longstanding community is unraveling. Below are a few stories of the people and projects that are finding they won’t be able to stay in the San Francisco spaces they occupy for much longer.
THE CORNER OF HAIGHT AND RESENTMENT
Jon Zuckman, better known as Jon Sugar, showed up for a May 15 court appearance on his pending eviction proceeding with an entourage in tow. He was flanked by LGBT housing activist Tommi Mecca, perennial political candidate and sex worker Starchild, and radical activist Jerry the Faerie, among others, all longtime characters of the city’s lefty, radical LGBT scene.
Judge James Robertson, citing a letter he’d received from Zuckman’s doctor, agreed to grant a 60-day continuance, “for the purpose of allowing the defendant to try and locate alternative housing.”
A former KPFA radio personality, comic, writer, and DJ, Zuckman moved to San Francisco in his early 20s and lived in the Haight for 40 years. He’s now 63. He played in a band, ran an underground sex venue called the Mini Adult Theater, helped organize against a Republican-led 1978 proposal to ban gay teachers from California schools, supported AIDS benefits and battered-women support groups, and founded GAWK, the Gay Artists and Writers Kollective. He’s getting evicted from the Stanyan Street apartment building he’s lived in for 25 years, and has no idea where he’ll go after that.
Officially, he’s being evicted for violating the terms of a legal stipulation hashed out with landlord Al DeLorenzi pertaining to a bedbug infestation treatment. Zuckman claims he notified his landlord about the pest problem two years ago and no action was taken until he phoned the Department of Public Health.
DeLorenzi told the Bay Guardian that Zuckman is to blame for the bugs and that he’s just trying to keep the infestation in check. “There is no comment, he can say what he wants to say about this and that,” DeLorenzi said when reached by phone.
Complaints filed with the city’s Department of Public Health reveal a host of issues associated with the property over the years, from mice to broken light fixtures to a malfunctioning door buzzer.
Zuckman lives with a roommate in a rent-controlled unit, paying considerably less than tenants who pay market rate to live in the building. “I live,” he tells people, “on the corner of Haight and resentment.”
Zuckman is disabled, and says he’s undergone seven surgeries on his foot, plus a knee replacement. Asked if he’s on a fixed income, he responds, “It’s broken. I am on disability. It’s $869 a month. My rent is $600. My phone and Internet is like $55 to $60. And the rest is like, party, party, party.”
Tony Robles, of the elder advocacy organization Senior Disability Action, submitted a letter to the court in support of Zuckman. Robles said his office has experienced a spike in demand for services lately. “We’ve been having a large increase in calls, and people walking in and wanting to know if there’s available housing,” he says, adding that most clients are seniors grappling with eviction. “A lot of these folks, they’re scared.”
For his part, Jon Sugar is trying to maintain his sense of humor. “If I curl into a ball and let out with great heaving sobs, it’s not going to help,” he says. He doesn’t know of any good answers for stemming the tide of evictions currently sweeping San Francisco. “There’s got to be other ways than throwing crippled old DJs out into the street,” he says. Then he lets out a laugh. “I crack me up.”
URBAN FARMS AND CIRCUS ARTS: MAKE WAY FOR DEVELOPMENT
On a recent Saturday, the collective that started Esperanza Gardens hosted an event at its tiny fenced-in San Francisco garden plot, billed as a “be-in.” Ukulele music floated in the air as several people painted sweeping brushstrokes onto a mural. Volunteers dished up organic pizza with donated ingredients, cooked in a handcrafted cob oven. A dreadlocked gardener named Ryan Rising was preparing to host a permaculture workshop. The sun was hot, and flowers bloomed in vibrant hues.
Esparanza Gardens was started four years earlier, and the suntanned gardeners gathered under the shade of a 20-foot high cypress that had been a wee sapling when they first started out. But the afternoon gathering was bittersweet; this was a farewell ceremony.
They’d always known the project would be temporary. “We definitely understood what we were getting into,” explained Jonathan Youtt, an urban farmer clad in purple overalls and a straw hat, who’s recently been devoting more time to an urban farming project in Oakland.
The landlord, Lloyd Klein, had granted rent-free use of the space to the underfunded farmers with the stipulation that they’d have to clear out when the time came. He’s since secured entitlements for an ultra-green, four-unit building for that lot and told the Guardian he hopes to break ground by July, if he can secure building permits in time. “We’re trying to accomplish a net-zero energy usage building,” Klein told the Guardian in a telephone interview. “It will create its own energy from solar.”
None of the gardeners seemed to harbor bitter feelings toward Klein, who sanctioned their all-volunteer effort, but all those interviewed expressed concern that the loss of Esperanza coincides with the loss of two other urban farming plots in San Francisco. This was a space where they’d raised bees, harvested produce together, and led workshops with groups of at-risk youth from the surrounding area.
“The loss of space to teach farming is what the issue is,” Youtt says. “Without that, we’re going to have a void. It’s tragic in light of what’s happening simultaneously.”
The Hayes Valley Farm, at Fell and Octavia streets, is also on its way to being cleared to make way for housing, an outcome that was anticipated from the start of the project. Another urban agriculture project on Gough and Eddy, called the Free Farm, also has to vacate by the end of the year, when a development project goes up on that lot.
For years, the produce grown at Esperanza and Free Farm has supplied the nutritious bounty that is freely distributed every Sunday at a Mission intersection via the Free Farm Stand. An urban farmer, who goes simply by Tree, spearheaded the all-volunteer project in 2008. “We wanted to make sure that low-income people have access to fresh, locally grown produce,” Tree explained when reached by phone. “Everywhere I look in the Mission, there’s new restaurants. But wherever there’s affluence, there’s always people thrown in the cracks.”
The loss of a sliver of urban farms is just one change that could dramatically transform that Mission District parcel, located on Bryant between 18th and 19th streets. The Esperanza garden plot is sandwiched up against an arts venue called Inner Mission, which has been hosting events like circus and burlesque shows and aerial arts performances in its recently renovated space since January. Inner Mission is located in the same building that previously housed CELLspace (“CELL” stood for Collective Exploratory Learning Lab), a famed underground San Francisco arts collective launched in the 1990s.
An online “obituary” penned for CELLspace by caretaker Devin Holt offered a glimpse into what it was like in the early days: “It was 1996 in San Francisco. A time when you could still find a room in the Mission for $300, and the dotcom boom hadn’t turned empty warehouses into prime real estate. When the screen printing business moved out, the dreamers moved in. … The early years at Cell were marked by chaos and construction. Dave X was known to test his flamethrowers behind the building on Florida St., Jojo La Plume created an open craft loft in the homemade mezzanine, and the Sisterz of the Underground offered free break dancing lessons for aspiring b-girls on the main space floor.”
On March 14, the Nick Podell Company, a development firm, submitted a project review application to the San Francisco Planning Department, city records show. The developer has initiated talks about a proposal to raze the warehouse where Inner Mission operates and erect a six-story, 166-unit apartment complex in its place, with parking for 141 vehicles. The company is under contract to purchase the property, according to company representative Linsey Perlov, but it has not yet changed hands. Klein declined to discuss the sale or development proposal at this stage, saying, “I’m not at liberty to speak about it.”
A statement distributed at the “be-in” noted that a group called Mission of the Commons envisions a crowd-funding project that would raise enough funds to purchase the warehouse, though details are sketchy on how exactly this would be accomplished. “Selling off this block to a developer will deeply disable our community, displace many,” the notice reads, “and perpetuate these very issues [of gentrification] we seek to mitigate and stop.”
MISSION BUILDING IS NO PLACE FOR RADICAL ACTIVISTS
The thwack of a stick against a Google-bus piñata at the 16th Street BART station attracted considerable attention on Twitter a few weeks ago during a May 5 event billed as a Mission Anti-Gentrification Block Party. It was organized in part because a 5,200-square feet collective space run by a group of activists is facing eviction from 3265 17th Street. Sometimes called the 17 Reasons building, the property houses Thrift Town, Discount Fabrics and several other businesses at Mission and 17th streets.
The activists signed a four-year commercial lease on the space in August of 2011. Since then, they’ve been using it as a Food Not Bombs cookhouse, where volunteers prepare giant vats of food for the homeless using donated ingredients, and serve it up weekly at the 16th and Mission BART station. The Food Not Bombs collective and two other collective groups, known as In the Works and Rincon, have used the space to host political events, fix bicycles, and provide a place where penniless activists can get projects off the ground.
“The whole point was to make an accessible space,” explained Chema Hernandez Gil, who is involved with the In the Works collective. “We don’t have that in the Mission anymore.”
Now, their idealistic endeavor is quickly spiraling toward a messy legal clash. This past April, Rick Holman, a managing partner at Asher Insights Inc. whose background is in investment banking and corporate finance, purchased the property. On April 10, leaseholders received a three-day notice to quit, the first step in an eviction, charging they’d subletted the space in violation of their lease terms.
In the Works collective members told the Guardian that the building’s locks were changed and they still haven’t been issued new keys, although they are able to gain access using a keypad. They’ve hired an attorney and are exploring their legal options. They view their plight as part of a wider trend of Mission gentrification.
“Every legitimate tenant who was asked has been issued keys,” Holman said when reached by phone. He declined to answer questions about the eviction, saying, “I’m respectful of these people and their privacy.”
TIME’S ALMOST UP FOR BOOKSTORE OF 41 YEARS
On May 8, Modern Times Bookstore Collective sent out an email blast inviting supporters to a town hall meeting to address the loaded question of what their future holds.
“For 41 years, Modern Times has had its doors open to activists, educators, rabble-rousers, queers, and scholars of all stripes,” the collective members of the bookstore wrote. “We’ve maintained our position as a progressive resource, stocking thousands of titles and collections that you’d be hard-pressed to find at most bookstores: queer theory, sex/uality, disability justice, well-curated and left-leaning section of libros en espanol, critical race studies, anarchy, radical retellings of US history, political economy, socialism, Raza studies, African American and Asian American history and analysis, criticisms of the Prison Industrial Complex, and global activism (just to name a few).”
There are myriad reasons why the bookstore is facing challenges, one being the declining market for print books. But there’s also been an erosion of the store’s membership and customer base; so many of the former shoppers have been priced out.
Collective member Lex Non Scripta described the collective’s community as “politically radical, rabble-rousing activists, artists, and a variety of just total weirdos.” But a lot of them “just can’t afford to be in San Francisco anymore,” they went on, singing a familiar tune. “There’s just been a huge shift over to the East Bay.”
On May 16, the bookstore held a town hall meeting with supporters to hash out possible future scenarios. “We don’t want to close. We’re all very attached to it,” they said. But at the same time, “we want a more sustainable model, and it’s hard to figure out what it looks like for books.”
The future of Modern Times remains unclear, and Non Scripta chalked it up to this: “Capitalism and community don’t really mix well.”
DANCE For all of the hype about the communicative power of social media, the energy that flows from one body to another has yet to be beat. Dancers know that. That’s why they keep searching for new ways to make this silent language speak.
The Garage on Folsom is one place where they do it; the studio is run on a first-come, first-served basis with a compulsory performance component, so a lot of what you will see there is unfinished. Yet the other night, two Finnish-born choreographers presented pieces as refined and polished as anything shown in bigger venues.
Another venue that fosters innovation is Yannis Adoniou’s Kunst-Stoff Arts, above a Burger King across from the San Francisco Main Library. It takes a more focused approach by inviting similarly-minded artists (who don’t care about the occasional whiff of fried food making its way upstairs). The recent opening of Kunst-Stoff Arts Fest 2013 showcased three choreographers who pushed the dancing body to the edge of what seems humanly possible.
But first, back to the Garage — where Raisa Punkki’s punkkiCo world premiere, Other Space, took command. Some lengths could be edited to keep the trajectory better on track. Also, the image of a dancer emerging from a kind of subterranean existence in the shape of a raincoat didn’t ring true. But overall, this quartet (for three women and one man) was finely crafted dance making that explored states of being with a rich, multi-faceted vocabulary and formal controls that allowed for flux and even spontaneity.
Other is designed along the concept of making connections that could be in unison pirouettes or jumbled limbs of labyrinthine complexity. Densely layered encounters gave way to stillness or something as simple as a walk or sitting quietly. The spatial thinking pulsated against the stage’s perimeter, enlarged in a couple of places by mirrors. For the most part the dancing was fierce and full out, yet still had room for small gestures: hands that turned into claws, fists that pushed the dancers into relevé and down again. The idea of balance — and lack thereof — lay below much of Other, sharply brought to life by Jennifer Meek, Sarah Keeney, Meegan Hertensteiner, and Derek Harris.
The Bay Area premiere of Alpo Aaltokoski’s 2004 astounding Deep showed a dancer who seemed to exist simultaneously inside and outside his body. Gaunt with a shaven head, he whipped himself into a tornado, engaged in turns that layered his body horizontally, and stretched his frame beyond his height only to squat again and again. Crawling, he looked pre-human; howling, he became Everyman. At one point, he was on all fours and sucked in his spine to turn his shoulder blades into wings. Yet none of these physical feats were self-serving; there were stories aplenty in them. Mila Moilnan’s subsequent video, based on Deep, felt like an afterthought.
First-week performances at the Kunst-Stoff Arts Fest included three works, two of them in progress, and clearly presented as such. What I saw made me want to follow them because both choreographers seemed to think intriguingly about time.
Christina Bonansea’s Floaters #2, set on identical twin dancers Michaela and Liane Burns with excellent live music by Zachary Watkins, started as an installation in the basement. At first resembling statues of saints, the silver-gowned women came to life, slithering and scraping. Upstairs, they ripped into waves of frenzy that threatened to tear them inside out.
For Portraiture, the forbiddingly prodigious Lindsey Renee Derry, as much a gymnast as a dancer, assembled a linear structure from thematically distinct solos that ranged from lyrical to ferocious. In the future, she wants to extend this trajectory by inviting other choreographers, perhaps to evoke something like Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line installation in the Presidio.
Adoniou and the gorgeous Constantine Baecher, a former Royal Danish Ballet dancer, paired up for The Excruciating Death of St. Sebastian. One is dark and older, the other blond and tall, so the tracing of their relationship started on a note of difference. Their give and take began intertwined, as if they were asleep, and grew into teasing and tenderness, shot through with exploration and exuberance. Finally, with the help of a cane, the piece moved into darker territory. My tolerance for watching pain — real or pretend, received or given — is just about zero. Still, this was fine work.
KUNST-STOFF ARTS FEST 2013
Through June 7, most events $10-$15
One Grove, SF
NATIONAL QUEER ARTS FESTIVAL
May 31-July 3 (various curated events)
715 Bryant, SF
Visit queerculturalcenter.org/NQAF for NQAF events at different venues.
Every point on the map (click here for the detailed, interactive version) is a building where the landlord has used the state’s Ellis Act to evict all the tenants. (The points typically involve multi-unit buildings, so the number of tenants displaced is even worst than it looks). Some tenants have been here for decades, living in rent-controlled apartments, contributing to the community. And when the eviction notice arrives, they have nowhere else to go.
It feels as if all of crazy, radical, artistic, and unconventional San Francisco is under attack, as if a city that once welcomed waves of weirdos and malcontents — who, in turn, gave the city its attractive reputation and flavor — is changing forever. It’s as if there’s no longer any room for the working class — the people who, for example, keep the city’s number one industry (that’s hospitality and tourism, not tech) functioning.
It’s terrifying. Neighborhood after neighborhood is losing affordable rental housing as landlords cash in on soaring prices. And there’s a huge human cost.
In the end, if trends continue, this will soon be a very different city. We all know that change is part of life (and certainly part of hyper-capitalism) but the notion that there’s a value to a city culture that needs low rent housing and cheap commercial space has been all-but abandoned by the administration of Ed Lee, which wants high-paying jobs at all costs.
And it’s hard to imagine how the best of San Francisco — the city whose culture and sense of madness attracted all these creative folks in the first place — will ever survive. Call it Urbicide — because as Rebecca Bowe reports here, it goes way beyond residential evictions.
OPINION And so Pride has come to this: what began as a ragtag, radical potluck of perverts, fairies, and criminals (which is what we were in the early 1970s), celebrating the grassroots uprising that birthed the gay rights movement, is now a sleek, corporate-sponsored, multimillion dollar mega-event that refuses to engage with its own community.
From Stonewall to stonewalling. From protesting the Vietnam War and police oppression to “protecting” the military from any symbolic statement about its conduct or mismanagement during Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s going on?
“I live in a bubble, I guess I was naive when it came to how badly and inappropriately the Pride Board would react,” Joey Cain, the Radical Faerie elder and former Pride Community Grand Marshal who nominated Bradley Manning for the position, told me. (The full backstory of Wikileaker Manning’s election to grand marshal and the resulting firestorm? Here you are.) “Of course, I knew he was controversial — I hoped to bring more attention to him in the community at large and celebrate what he did. This is San Francisco, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal.”
“When I heard he’d been elected, I smiled, shrugged, and went on with my day. I had no idea it would blow up like this,” said Tom Temprano, young president of the progressive Harvey Milk Democratic Club, whose monthly meeting last week became a de facto forum on Pride’s rescission of Manning’s election, after the Pride Board announced via Facebook that it was cancelling its scheduled public meeting and that “the discussion of that matter is closed for this year.”
Indeed, Pride’s own utter ineptitude in handling this situation would be hilarious if it didn’t smack so much of outright disdain for the community it represents. It’s as if Pride board president Lisa Williams and CEO Earl Plante, specifically hired to repair Pride’s nagging budgetary and communication problems, have clumsily ripped a page from the “War on Terror,” or the BP oil spill, or Too Big To Fail. Press lockouts, media blackouts, decision by fiat, a complete lack of transparency, internal investigations, contested elections, massive flip-flops, a widely known but officially unnamed staffer fired and bound by contract not to speak about the incident…. add to all that surreptitiously deleted Facebook comments and a wacky story about Plante disappearing for days throughout the whole controversy due to “hitting his head,” and you pretty much have Borat in the Bush War Room.
Calm down honeys, it’s just Pride. Pour yourself a Bud Light and chill.
Manning’s election probably would have been celebrated by most of San Francisco in the Wikileaks heyday of late ’00s, when the tech scene was still streaked with misfit visionaries and data libertarians, our mayor was given to spouting utopian pronouncements that caused national headscratching, and the anti-war protest energy of the Bush era hadn’t been completely subsumed by domestic economic concerns (or whatever happened to that energy).
And maybe a majority of locals don’t have any objection to Manning, a queer person who did something, being honored at Pride, if they know who Manning is. Yet to the rest of the country — and to some gay military organizations perhaps still traumatized by Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, who reportedly flooded Pride with calls demanding that Pride rescind the Manning election — the advances we’ve made in terms of assimilation and tolerance are like a fragile egg that must be protected at all costs.
Fear, not pride, is still the major motivator for many in the fight for gay rights. It’s as if any whiff of controversy, or as Pride put it in its initial statement rejecting Manning’s election “even the hint of support for someone [like Manning]” will immediately turn the clock back and we’ll all be thrown in jail for cross-dressing. This narrative of fear has certainly pervaded the national media. Even before I had heard of Manning’s election, I was fielding calls from nervous relatives who saw the news on CNN, saying the gay community “didn’t need all this bad press and in-fighting right now.”
But the fact that the national news was paying attention at all underscored our development in the media from a single gay stereotype that plays nice in order to get rewarded with “rights” into a diverse mass of individuals roiling with differing viewpoints. It also reinforced the radical potential of Pride: Hey, Bradley Manning was back in the news. Can we nominate Guantanamo next?
The rumblings about Pride becoming a corporatized, assimilationist machine have divided the queer community for years, with organizations like Gay Shame formed specifically to protest what they saw as Pride’s estrangement from its original purpose. On the other side, there was the constant clutching of pearls about what Pride’s images of “outrageous” drag queens, breast-baring Dykes on Bikes, and grinding, chaps-clad leathermen (how dare we embrace sex as part of our sexual orientation!) were projecting to the world, and how they were endangering our potential for broader acceptance.
And yet, every year, there they were: the leather daddy twirling his flags behind the PFLAG grandma from Punxsutawney, the thriftstore-diving queer activist booing the oily, shirtless muscle queens on the Stoli float, the half-naked, mohawked baby dyke grinning at the button-down Log Cabin Republican, all in one spot, representing every color of the LGBTMNOPQ rainbow. And here we are in 2013: Twelve states with legal gay marriage, gays serving openly in the military, a president pushing for the overturn of DOMA, and gay rights the cause célèbre du jour.
Haven’t both our outrageous courage to live outspoken lives and our touching familiarity as neighbors and fellow human beings been equal partners in our recent history?
“This is the first time that I know of that Pride has put its foot down and said to members of its own organization and community: ‘You are not welcome. Your choice is not valid,'” Cain said. “Even when they arrested members of Gay Shame [for rushing Gavin Newsom’s car at Pride 2003], the Pride Board went to the police and said, ‘Hey, you need to let these people go.’
“That’s what made Pride what it is today, the notion of radical inclusivity. That yes, we’re all different, and of course we don’t agree. We should be free to elect Bradley Manning, just as others should be free to elect someone some of us think should be hanged for treason, or what have you.” (One wonders what the reaction would have been if, say, gay-marriage advocate Dick Cheney had been elected Community Grand Marshal.)
“But we’re all somehow in the same boat,” Cain went on. “And that’s how we can continue to have these debates that drive us forward while celebrating the incredible diversity in the community.”
With the recent actions of the Pride board, however — and especially now that the military ban is lifted, same-sex marriage is within our grasp, and “gay” is becoming just another flavor of Americana — I have to wonder: are we still all in the same boat?
IN THE GAME In a pink dress, with a pink hair tie and those little pink sneakers that light up every time you take a step, she dominated the Alameda High School hardwood. I’m going to guess she was three. How else to explain the dogged determination with which, time after time after time, she took aim at the far-away hoop, and with all her cute-little-cutey-pie might heaved the basketball to a point about a foot-and-a-half in front of her feet. Bounce, plop, and roll …
All around her, Alameda police and fire fighters were shooting jumpers, warming up for the second half of their game, entirely unfazed by li’l Pinkie, or any of the other children who had swarmed the court during the halftime raffle — and weren’t in any hurry to give it back to the grownups.
Pinkie took her shots from the top of the key. From the lane. From the foul line. She shot for two, and she shot for three, and though she never really managed to propel the ball more than a couple feet away from her self, she was on fire.
One jumper went about six inches in the air before coming back down and landing on her nose. But not even this could dampen her spirits. With a huge smile, and the forever blinking shoes, she went right back to work.
I want this! Not the child — although I’d take one — but the attitude. Yeah: there’s a thing I can’t possibly do but it sure is fun to try! . . . Maybe I’ll start a novel. Learn a new instrument, or language. Or, for that matter, basketball! A sport which has always eluded me. Because I am small, I have always said. But Pinkie changes everything.
I wonder if she’s had ACL surgery. Probably not. She’s three. But I’ll bet she would . . .
In one week I’ll be 50. My second-half goal is to do like her.
It took more than the ref’s whistle to clear the floor for the second half. Moms and dads had to come scoop up their kids. And I missed them, because the third quarter was sluggish.
Carl Rolleri, police officer, who had hit five of five three-pointers in the first half, came down to Earth and missed a shot. Jill Ottaviano, the game’s only female player, who had scored the first two points for the police, was on the bench. The fire department seemed a little burnt out. I speak from experience: half time will do that to you.
The score, 31-20 after two quarters, was only 37-26 at the end of the third. Not that it mattered who was winning — this was Alameda’s police and fire departments raising money for a whole slew of children’s programs — but the police were winning. Soundly, and from the get-go.
They had a mascot, an adorable pet pig named Charlie in a police hat and a fake mustache, who had been walked out onto the court before tip-off, and spent the rest of the game in a baby stroller, tormented by children.
They had a chant: “Let’s go pigs! Let’s go pigs!” . . .
They had a guy in a wig and one with hearts on his socks, and they had the game’s only woman.
But I was rooting for the fire fighters, because they had a boy cheerleader. And, for my money, that’s even braver than the many awesome picks I saw Ottaviano set against guys twice her weight.
The Alameda High Hornets cheerleaders cheered on the fire department, and the Jets from Encinal High cheered on the police. The Encinal squad had a couple of acrobats who went flipping across the court once or twice during breaks. Which seemed even more impressive later, when I overheard one of them tell the woman sitting next to me, “We have bad stomachaches from the sushi.”
Anyway, the game got interesting again in the fourth quarter. The fire department pulled to within two. (They might have tied it, but I think the scoreboard operator was just confused.)
It was 42-39, police, with two minutes left. What a comeback!
But, like the Celtics facing elimination against the Knicks earlier that Saturday afternoon, the Alameda Fire Department came on strong and came up short: 44-40 was the final.
We went and talked to Charlie the pig a little bit, but it wasn’t a post-game interview per se. Her owner, a friend of a police, was trying to redirect would-be petters away from the poor pig’s face.
“Pet him back here, sweetie,” she said to one of these children, explaining to me that the smell of cotton candy and such all over all the kids’ hands was “starting to confuse him.”
Who I really wanted to talk to was the little girl, Pinkie — but it was way past her bed time.
Carnaval Parade: Starts at 24th St. and Bryant, SF. Sun/26, 9:30am, free; Festival: Harrison between 16th and 24th Sts., SF. Sat/25-Sun/26, 10am-6pm, free. www.carnavalsf.com. The Mission’s most colorful processional and music fest had to change hands this year to avoid financial ruin. Show your delight at its survival by showing up in force for the samba, sequins, and spectacle.
MAY 30-JUNE 5
Green Film Festival Various locations, times, prices, SF. www.sfgreenfilmfest.org. An outdoor screening of a documentary on the tiny house movement is one highlight of this year’s 50 film-program exploring environmental issues today.
Latino Comic Expo Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission, SF. www.latinocomicsexpo.com. 11am-5pm, free with $7 museum admission. In its third year, the popular convergence of Latino panel-makers is dedicated to the memory of underground scribbler Spain Rodriguez.
Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival 1400-1800 Shattuck, Berk. www.anotherbullwinkelshow.com/chocolate-chalk-art. 10am-5pm, free entry, 20 chocolate tickets $20. Picante habanero chocolate chunks gelato? Chocolate ricotta pizza? Discover the possibilities of gourmet cacao and create a sidewalk chalk masterpiece at this fest.
Union Street Festival Union between Gough and Steiner, SF. www.unionstreetfestival.com. 10am-6pm, free. Union Street pops with its 37th annual street fair. Browse craft vendors, cruise your neighbors, and snack to the tunes of live jazz from local bands.
SF Doc Fest Various locations, times, prices. www.sfindie.com. Burning Man and Bettie Page flicks mark the program for this real-life film fest.
San Mateo County Fair San Mateo County Event Center, 2495 South Delaware, SF. June 8, 9, 11 and 14-16, 11am-10pm; June 10, 12-14, noon-10pm, $7–$10 single day, $17-22 season pass. www.sanmateocountyfair.com. Morris Day, an Aerosmith cover band, and Three Dog Night perform alongside a youth piano competition, bareback pony riding, floral art displays, and more at this traditional county fair.
Haight Ashbury Street Fair Haight between Stanyan and Masonic, SF. www.haightashburystreetfair.org. 11am-5:30pm, free. The groovy posters don’t lie — this classic, hippie-flavored street fair is great place to watch a battle of the band in the sun and ruminate on whether you can ever really have too much tie-dye.
Queer Women of Color Film Festival Brava Theater, 2789 24th St., SF. www.qwocmap.com. From Hawaiian to Navajo culture, this festival of 55 shorts in five programs shows the QWOC experience from a global perspective.
North Beach Festival North Beach neighborhood, SF. www.sresproductions/north_beach_festival.html. 10am-6pm, free. Harken back to North Beach’s days as a close-knit Italian community with this venerable street fair, featuring a traditional blessing of the animals at the National Shrine of St. Francis de Assisi, street painting, music, and snacks galore.
Marin Art Festival Marin Civic Center, 95 Buena Vista, Mill Valley. www.marinartfestival.com. 10am-6pm, $10. This showing of 350 fine artists is a fine excuse to ramble in the sun by the UFO-esque, Frank Lloyd Wright-built Marin Civic Center.
Crystal Fair Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, SF. www.crystalfair.com. June 15, 10am-6pm; June 16 10am-4pm, $6. Over 40 vendors of crystals, jewelery, metaphysical well-being make this the place to get your woo on.
SummerStruck Monterey Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairgrounds Rd, Monterey. www.summerstruckfestival.com. 11am-6pm, $22.50-40. Twangers unite — this debut year lineup of Jason Michael Carroll, American Young, Buck Ford, and more promises to be stocked with multi-gallon headwear and boots like you wouldn’t believe.
JUNE 16-AUGUST 12
Stern Grove Festival Stern Grove, 19th Ave. and Sloat, SF. www.sterngrove.org. Every Sunday, 2pm, free. Deltron 3030 with Kid Koala and Del the Funky Homosapien, Boz Scaggs, and the Symphony and Ballet’s yearly performances are all phenom draws at our favorite, free park ‘n’ picnic weekly summer concert soiree.
Frameline 37 Various locations, times, prices. www.frameline.org. SF’s premier LGBT film festival surges back hard with historical docs, animated features, and more. The opening night gala features Concussion, a head trauma-driven sexy drama. Fest closes with GBF, an at-times comical look at coming out and getting popular in high school.
Sierra Nevada World Music Festival Mendocino County Fairgrounds, 14480 Highway 128, Boonville. www.snwmf.com. $60-75 one-day festival pass, $170 three-day festival and camping pass. Those looking for a music fest with camping to which to bring their brood would be well-advised to choose SNWMF — a lineup headed by Damian Marley features sounds from across the world and a more mellow crowd.
Berkeley World Music Festival People’s Park, 2556 Haste, Berk., 1-6pm, free; Telegraph Avenue businesses, 1-9pm, free. www.berkeleyworldmusicfestival.org. Amble along and around Telegraph Avenue for a plethora of free shows, from Tunisian MC Rai at People’s Park to Vukani Mawethu Choir’s South African harmonies at the Berkeley Art Museum, with smaller concerts at businesses in between.
Mt. Tam Jam Mountain Theater, Mount Tamalpais State Park. www.tamjam.org. Noon-7pm, $50-100. After-party, 10:30pm, $30. Galactic, Cake, Taj Mahal Trio, and more rock this fundraiser for Mount Tam State Park — at a venue that hasn’t housed a rock concert since 1967.
Summer Sailstice Encinal Yacht Club, 1251 Pacific Marina, Alameda. www.summersailstice.com. 10:30am-8pm. Join the boating set to celebrate this worldwide day of sailing culture. In the Bay, view America’s Cup boats, guest ride a vessel, take in live tunes, and more.
JUNE 22-AUGUST 10
Stanford Jazz Festival Various venues, times, prices. www.stanfordjazz.org. Lil’ ones can learn more about this venerable American music genre at a special kids concert series and educational offerings. Older fans will get their fix at a plethora of concerts featuring up-and-comers (like Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage), offbeat geniuses (Savion Glover), and legends (hey, Herbie Hancock).
San Francisco Pride Various venues, times, prices. www.sfpride.org. Should the year’s champion-level PR idiocy of naming, then reneging on Bradley Manning as grand marshal leave you with a bad taste, check out the many, amazing unofficial queer parties, readings, and exhibits that rock the city the last week in June.
JUNE 29-SEPTEMBER 22
Shakespeare in the Park Various times and Bay Area venues. www.sfshakes.org. Why you live in the Bay Area: exquisite cultural offerings like the 30th year of free Bard offerings in peaceful park settings.
Burger Boogaloo Mosswood Park, Broadway and West Arthur, Oakl. www.burgerboogaloo.com. Noon-9pm, $40 weekend pass. Burger Records just keeps outdoing itself. It has fests around the country that bring together an elite mix of sloppy, legendary, and up-and-coming surf, garage, fun punk, and slack doo-wop acts.
Fillmore Jazz Festival Fillmore between Jackson and Eddy, SF. www.fillmorejazzfestival.com. 10am-6pm, free. Kim Nalley, Bayonics, Crystal Money Hall typify the wide-ranging sounds heard at this free, three-stage celebration of Fillmore’s jazztastic past.
Silent Film Festival Various times and prices. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF. www.silentfilm.org. Spend the weekend immersed in loaded looks and dialogue cards at this lineup of classic quiets.
Midsummer Mozart Various venues, times, prices. www.midsummermozart.org. Churches, missions, wineries, and the Legion of Honor all host concerts of Mozart’s genius for this fest’s 2013 season.
Sunset Campout Belden Town, Calif. www.sunsetcampout.com. Germany’s Dixon and Robag Wruhme are the early announced performers at party crew Sunset’s stellar camping trip — perfect for dancefloor stalwarts who can’t stomach the crowds at larger music fests.
JULY 25-AUGUST 12
Jewish Film Festival Various venues, times, prices. www.sfjff.org. “Rebels, rabbis, and reubens” seems about as amazing a descriptor as you need for this yearly celebration of the Chosen on film.
Gilroy Garlic Festival Christmas Park, Gilroy. www.gilroygarlicfestival.com. 10am-7pm, $17. Fear not having pungent breath at this classic small-town fest. Garlic-inflected free ice cream, cook-offs, and celebrity chef appearances make it the order of the day.
Berkeley Kite Festival Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina. www.highlinekites.com. 10am-6pm, free. World record-sized kites, flying lessons, aircraft crafting, and more at this celebration of soaring craft.
Renegade Craft Fair Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, SF. www.renegadecraft.com. 11am-7pm, free. Bring your ducats and splurge on DIY presents for all your 2013 birthdays, anniversaries, and plain old “I appreciate you” moments.
Up Your Alley Dore between Howard and Folsom, SF. www.folsomstreetfair.com/alley. 11am-6pm, $7 suggested donation. Hey daddy, cruise the local talent at this leather fair before the happy chaos of big sister Folsom Street Fair hits in September.
JULY 28-AUGUST 4
SF Chefs Union Square, SF. www.sfchefsfoodwine.com. Various times and prices. Sample the city’s best eats and learn from the best in expert demos and classes at this food festival.
Aloha Festival San Mateo County Event Center, 1346 Saratoga, San Mateo. www.pica-org.org. 10am-5pm, free. No booze allowed at this celebration of Pacific Islands culture, but you won’t miss it: tasty plates, infotaining activities for the little ones, and lots of music and performance rock.
Oakland Art and Soul Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakl. www.artandsouloakland.com. Aug. 3, noon-8pm; Aug. 4, noon-6pm, $10-15. The line-up will be announced in June for this East Bay music and food fest, where the tunes range from R&B to jazz and indie.
Nihonmachi Street Fair Post between Laguna and Fillmore, SF. www.nihonmachistreetfair.org. 11am-6pm, free. We’re down for a fair whose intended mission is to provide jobs for a neighborhood’s youth, and Nihonmachi always delivers community power-building and more – go to 2013’s edition for a doggie section, Asian artisans, and street cuisine.
Jerry Day Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, McLaren Park, 45 John F. Shelley, SF. www.jerryday.org. 11:30am, free, donate to reserve seats. A forgotten Excelsior playground was converted into the music venue for this annual celebration of the Dead’s godhead, who grew up nearby.
Outside Lands Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.sfoutsidelands.com. Three-day tickets now on sale, $249.50. Sway to Paul McCartney, grind to D’Angelo – and then get all those calories back at the superlative, locavore-oriented beer, wine, and food sections at this hip-kid SF music fest.
Tattoo Body Art Expo Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva, SF. www.bodyartexpo.com. Aug. 16, 2-11pm; Aug. 17, 11am-11pm; Aug. 18, 11am-8pm, $20. Babely bros and bro’d out babes gather to show off their ink, get tatted by visiting masters, and compete for body art superlatives.
Festa Coloniale Italiana Stockton between Union and Filbert, SF. www.sfiacfesta.com. Check website for details on time and price. Go beyond red sauce at this decadent convergence of Italian food trucks, artists, crafters, gluttons, more.
Street Food Festival Folsom and 24th St. and surrounding streets, SF. Check website for details, www.sfstreetfood.com. Alcoholic artisan Jello shots, fried grasshoppers, snacks from restaurants high and low — food entrepreneur incubators La Cocina throw a damn good street party that’ll leave you stuffed. We recommend making an appearance early in the day to avoid lines.
Stumptown Brewery Beer Revival and BBQ Cook-off Stumptown Brewery, 15045 River Road, Guerneville. www.stumptown.com. Check website for time, $75-100. Unlimited tastings with 30 breweries and 30 BBQ teams out in the summer glory of Guerneville. More information, we think, is unnecessary here.
Gem and Mineral Show SF County Fair Building, Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, SF. www.sfgemshow.org. Aug. 24, 10am-6pm; Aug. 25, 10am-5pm, check website for prices. Revel in sparkle and shine at this expo of glittering gewgaws – bring in your own to stump on-site classification experts.
Bodega Seafood, Art, and Wine 16885 Bodega Highway, Bodega. www.winecountryfestivals.com. Aug. 25, 10am-6pm; Aug. 26, 10am-5pm, check website for price. Sea breeze, fresh crab, hay bales – good times await at this food, art, and beer fest.
First City Monterey County Fair and Event Center, Monterey. www.firstcityfestival.com. $149.50-279.50 two-day passes. Did you know this seaside hamlet was the Golden State’s first capital? In a bid to recapture our hearts, the city is hosting a two-day musical line-up of big time acts like Modest Mouse, Passion Pit, MGMT, Neko Case, Beach House, Toro y Moi, and Devendra Banhart.
EcoFair Marin Marin County Fairgrounds, Civic Center, San Rafael. www.ecofairmarin.org. 10am-6pm, $5. Green jobs guru Van Jones headlines Marin’s second annual celebration of sustainability. Eat locally made bites, learn how to make butter and raise chickens, and browse the wares of enviro-retailers from pet shops to biodegradable casket makers.
Ceramics Annual of America Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, SF. www.ceramicsannual.com. Various times; $10 one-day pass, $20 two-day. Sculpt your mind with the vast, globally sourced panorama of ceramics art at this fest. Artist demos abound if you’d like to throw your own pot in the ring next year.
Comedy Day Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.comedyday.org. Noon-5pm, free. Yucks galore at this outdoor stand-up fest. Take in a Will Durst solo show, open mics, and local showcases.
Armenian Food Festival St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church, 825 Brotherhood Way, SF. facebook.com/annual-armenian-food-festival-bazaar. Check website for times, free. Sarma, sou-beoreg, spices – this homey community fest is great for kids, Armenian culture addicts, and hungry people.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point, SF. www.ghirardelli.com. Noon-5pm, $20-125. Your tasting tickets to this fest go towards Project Open Hand. That should add to the glow you’ll cull from sampling fine chocolates and wine, and watching local chefs demo their concoction skills.
Taste of Greece Annunciation Cathedral, 245 Valencia, SF. www.annunciation.org. Spit-grilled meat, fetching circular dances – SF’s only Greek food festival is a great place for a day of cultural meal-planning.
Super Hero Street Fair Islais Creek Promenade, Cesar Chavez and Indiana, SF. www.superherosf.com. 2pm-midnight, $10-20. It’s your time Diana Prince – whip out that golden lasso and head to this goofy celebration of Lycra and defeating evil. It all culminates in a street side dance party for the costumed and plain clothes alike.
Polk Street Blues Festival Polk between Pacific and Union, SF. www.polkstreetbluesfestival.com. 10am-6pm, free. Laze with the fam listening to this fest’s two stages of music, complimented nicely by an array of tasty street foods.
Eat Real Fest Jack London Square, Oakl. www.eatrealfest.com. Sept. 27, 1-9pm; Sept. 28, 10:30am-9pm; Sept. 29, 10:30am-5pm, free. One of our favorite food fests puts the emphasis on local foodcraft, wine, and beer. Three days of live entertainment and classes in DIY foodieism 4 U.
SEPTEMBER 29 Redwood City Salsa Festival Redwood City Courthouse Square. www.redwoodcity.org. Noon-8pm, free. Yes, the tomato-based spicy flavor agent. And yes, the hip-swiveling hot beats. Both, and more, at this small town’s downtown celebration.
Folsom Street Fair Folsom between Seventh and 12th Sts., SF. www.folsomstreetfair.com. 11am-6pm, $10 suggested donation. Its impressive donations to local charities makes this fetish and leather fair – the largest in the world – a community favorite and global center of BDSM culture with demos and sidewalk runways like you wouldn’t believe.