Volume 48 Number 34

Volume 48 Number 34 Flip-through Edition

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Gettin’ festy

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esilvers@sfbg.com

LEFT OF THE DIAL Earlier this month, Oakland singer-songwriter Ash Reiter was at Hipnic, an annual three-day music festival in Big Sur thrown by promoters folkYEAH!, featuring Cass McCombs, the Fresh & Onlys, the Mother Hips, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, and plenty of other Bay Area folky faves. Held at the Fernwood Resort and campgrounds, with families gathering under the shade of redwoods, it’s one of the cozier, more homegrown summer festivals in the greater Bay Area — there’s nary a Coachella-esque VIP section in sight — but a three-day pass still comes in at a cool $240.

Looking around, Reiter saw how the ticket price had shaped the crowd.

“There was obviously some great music, but that kind of boutique festival thing is so expensive that a lot of the audience seemed like older, well-off folks, parents — I mean, those are the people who can afford to go to these things,” she recalls. “I’m sure a lot of the bands playing wouldn’t be able to go to that festival, if they weren’t playing.”

It was that kind of thinking that sparked the idea for Hickey Fest, a three-day festival now in its second year and named for its location in Standish Hickey State Park in Mendocino County, “where the South Fork of the Eel River shimmers against the backdrop of the majestic redwoods,” according to the fest’s flyers. Born of the desire to curate a “musical experience outside of just your average festival, a chance for musicians to actually hang out and talk to each other and get to know each other that’s not just in a loud rock club,” Reiter launched Hickey Fest over Memorial Day weekend last year, with a lineup of friend-bands like Warm Soda, Farallons, Cool Ghouls, and Michael Musika. The goal: A festival her musician friends would actually enjoy, in an atmosphere that wouldn’t be “as overwhelming as a BottleRock or an Outside Lands.” She estimates some 500 to 600 people attended in total.

This year’s festival, which runs June 20-22 in the same location, includes another local-love lineup, including Papercuts, Sonny and the Sunsets, Black Cobra Vipers, and more. A $60 ticket gets you three days of music and camping. “I wanted it to be about community, about putting the fun back in music,” says Reiter, who will also perform. “So I did intentionally try to make it as cheap as possible.”

It’s a sentiment rarely heard from music promoters, especially as the days get longer and the work-ditching gets ubiquitous and the college kids are all turned loose for the summer. Festival season is upon us, Bay Area, and make no mistake: It’s a great way to see touring bands from all over the country. It’s a great platform for local bands, who get the chance to play bigger stages and reach new audiences. And as a music fan, it’s a great way to spend a shit-ton of money.

FIELD OF DREAMS

In the summer of 1969, when Woodstock was changing the meaning of “music festival” on the East Coast via Jimi solos and free, mud-covered love, plans were taking shape for a San Francisco festival that, had it actually taken place, would have been legendary: The Wild West Festival, scheduled for Aug. 22-24, was designed as a three-day party, with regular (ticketed) concerts each night in Kezar Stadium, while other bands performed free music all day, each day, in Golden Gate Park.

Bill Graham and other SF rock scene movers and shakers worked collaboratively on organizing the festival, which — had it happened — would have seen Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, the Steve Miller Band, and half a dozen other iconic bands of the decade all taking the stage within 72 hours.

Why’d it fall apart? According to most versions of the story, too many of those involved wanted the whole damn thing to be free. Graham, among others, countered that, while the free music utopia was a nice idea, lights, a sound system, and other basic accoutrements of a music festival did in fact cost American dollars. The plans collapsed amid in-fighting, and the infamous Altamont free music festival was planned as a sort of make-up for December of that year — an organizational disaster of an event that came to be known for the death of Meredith Hunter, among other violence, signaling the end of a certain starry-eyed era.

So yeah, money has always been a sticky part of live music festivals. But the industry has boomed in a particularly mind-boggling way over the last decade; never before have ticket prices served as such a clear barrier to entry for your average, middle-class music fan. Forget Hipnic: In the days after Outside Lands sold out, enterprising San Franciscans began plonking their three-day festival passes onto the “for sale” section of Craigslist at upwards of $1,000 each.

The alternative? The “screw that corporate shit, let’s do our own thing” attitude, which is, of course, exactly the kind of attitude that’s birthed the bumper crop of smaller summer festivals that have sprung up in the Bay Area over the past few years, like Phono del Sol (July 12, an indie-leaning daylong affair in SF’s Potrero del Sol Park, started by hip-kid music blog The Bay Bridged in 2010, tickets: $25-$30) and Burger Boogaloo (a cheekily irreverent punk, surf, and rockabilly fest over July 4 weekend in Oakland’s Mosswood Park — weekend pass: $50). Both pair bigger, buzzy acts with national reach like Wye Oak (Phono del Sol) or Thee Oh Sees and the great Ronnie Spector (Burger Boogaloo) with a slew of local openers.

“I’ve played a few festivals, and when it’s a really big thing, you realize there are just so many other huge bands that people would rather see,” says Mikey Maramag, better known as the folk-tronica brains behind SF’s Blackbird Blackbird. He’ll be sharing a bill with Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Nick Waterhouse, White Fence, A Million Billion Dying Suns, and others at Phono del Sol — which, judging by last year’s attendance, could draw some 5,000 to 6,000 people.

“I think at smaller festivals you have more people who take the time to really listen, appreciate the music more, really big fans,” he says. “There are fewer artists on this bill [than at large festivals] but they’re all great ones — I’m especially excited to see Wye Oak.”

Maramag will be debuting some songs from his new album, Tangerine Sky, out June 3; the show will serve as a welcome-home from a quick national tour to promote it.

Then there are the even more modest summer offerings, like SF Popfest, which takes place over four days (May 22-25) at various small venues in the city. It’s not exactly a traditional festival — you’re not likely to find slideshows online of the “BEST POPFEST FASHION!!1!” the way we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to from Coachella — but for the small contingent of super passionate ’90s indie-pop fans in the Bay Area (hi!), this is one not to miss.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from people who think it’s a very different kind of festival than it is. App people. This one guy had some kind of offer about a parking app for festivals, I think? Which would really not make any sense at all,” says Josh Yule, guitarist for SF jangle-pop maestros Cruel Summer, who received the mantle of SF Popfest organizer from his predecessor in the mid-aughts (older history of the festival is a little hazy, as it’s always been primarily organized by musicians for musicians — for fun and, says Yule, absolutely no profit whatsoever). There was talk of getting some beer sponsors at some point, but he decided against it. “We have friends working the door at most of these things. I was a punk kid in high school, I guess, I tend to stay away from things that would make this go in a more corporate direction.”

This year’s fest is centered around reunions of bands who’ve been broken up for a while, like cult-favorite Sacramento popsters Rocketship, who haven’t played together in at least a decade; the band will be at the Rickshaw Stop Fri/23 for a Slumberland Records showcase. Dressy Bessy, Dreamdate, the Mantles, Terry Malts, and plenty others will all make appearances throughout the fest, as well as a few newer bands, like the female-fronted Stockton garagey-punk band Monster Treasure.

“Obviously it’s not gonna be thousands of people, it’s not going to be outside — it’s going to be 100 to 200 like-minded individuals who all enjoy the same thing, and they all get it,” says Yule. “We got these bands back together to play and they’re all excited about it even though there’s no [financial] guarantee…It’s that community that I’ve always been involved in and sometimes I feel like it’s not around anymore. So it’s nice to go ‘Oh wait, there it is. It’s still there, and it’s still strong.'”

CROWD SURFING

For local bands just starting to make a name for themselves, of course, there’s nothing like a larger and yes, very corporate festival for reaching new audiences. Take the locals stage at LIVE 105’s BFD, the all-day radio-rock party celebrating its 20th year June 1 at the Shoreline: Curated by the station’s music director, Aaron Axelsen — aka the DJ who’s launched 1,000 careers, thanks to his Sunday night locals-only show, Soundcheck, as well as booking up-and-comers for Popscene — the locals stage at BFD has a pretty good track record for launching bands onto the next big thing. The French Cassettes, one of SF’s current indie-pop darlings, sure hope that holds true for them.

“Aaron Axelsen has been really generous to us. I think we’re all clear that none of this would be happening without him,” says singer-guitarist Scott Huerta. The band will be playing songs from its newest album, out on cassette (duh) at the end of May. “But we’re super excited just to be in there. Hopefully we make some new fans. I know I used to find out about new bands by going to BFD and just passing by that stage. It’s by all the food vendors, so as long as people are hungry, we’ll be good. Don’t eat before you come.”

For the Tumbleweed Wanderers, an Oakland-based soul-folk-rock band that’s been hustling back and forth across the country for the past year, hitting the stage at Outside Lands (Aug. 8-10) — that festival everyone loves to hate and hates to love — will be the culmination of years of playing around the festival, quite literally.

“In 2011, we busked outside, and I think that’s the year [our keyboard player] Patrick almost got arrested?” says Rob Fidel, singer-guitarist, with a laugh. “Then the next year we got asked to play Dr. Flotsam’s Hell Brew Review, which is this thing in the park just outside Outside Lands, and we did that for an hour and a half every day for free. And then busked outside. I like to say we played Outside Lands more than any other band that year.

“But to be on the other side of that all of a sudden is awesome,” he says, noting that the band will be playing some tunes from a new record set for release later this year. “It was the same when we played the Fillmore for the first time — we used to busk outside of there and the venue would get super pissed, and now, oh look, that same guy’s carrying our amps…but I think the experience of working our way up like that has kinda taught us you’re gonna see the same people on the way up as on the way down. And we’ve worked really hard these past few years. It’s nice to feel like we’ve earned it.”

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say there are roughly 1,000 other music festivals happening throughout the Bay Area this summer — at the Guardian, our inboxes have been filling up with press releases and show announcements since February; check out the roundup below for a mere smattering of what’s going on. And, ticket price hand-wringing aside, you don’t need to be rich to rock out: Stern Grove’s free Sunday lineups, with heavy hitters like Smokey Robinson, Andrew Bird, Rufus Wainwright, and the Zombies, are among the best we’ve seen. In the East Bay, the Art+Soul Festival is always a source of up-and-comers in hip-hop, funk, and more — this year for the whopping price of $15.

So, yeah, we never got that Janis and Sly and Jefferson Airplane show. So be it. As a music fan in the Bay Area, there’s no better time than summer to smack yourself, remember that you’re super lucky to live here, grab a sweater (because layers), and get out to hear some music. Call it your own damn three-month-long Wild West Festival. We’ll see you in the bathroom line.

 

May

SF Popfest, May 22-25, locations vary throughout SF, www.sfpopfest.com

Audio on the Bay, Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, May 23-25, www.insomniac.com

BottleRock Napa Valley, Napa, May 30-June 1, www.bottlerocknapavalley.com

 

June

LIVE 105’s BFD, June 1, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, www.live105.cbslocal.com

Not Dead Yet Fest, June 7, Thee Parkside, SF, www.notdeadyetfest.com

OMINODAY Music Festival, June 7, McLaren Park, SF, www.ominoday.weebly.com

The San Francisco Jazz Festival, June 11-22, locations vary. www.sfjazz.org

Reggae in the Hills, Calaveras County Fairgrounds, June 13-15, www.reggaeinthehills.com

Hickey Fest, June 20-22, Leggett, www.hickeyfest.wordpress.com

San Francisco Free Folk Festival, June 21-22, Presidio Middle School, SF, www.sffolkfest.org

Berkeley World Music Festival, June 22, People’s Park, Berk., www.berkeleyworldmusic.org

 

July

High Sierra Music Festival, July 3-6, Quincy, www.highsierramusic.com

Burger Boogaloo, July 5-6, Mosswood Park, Oak., www.burgerboogaloo.com

Phono del Sol, July 12, Potrero del Sol Park, SF, www.phonodelsol.com

Northern Nights, July 18-20, Mendocino/Humboldt, www.northernnights.org

 

August

Art + Soul Oakland, Aug. 2-3, City Center, Oak., www.artandsouloakland.com

Outside Lands, Aug. 8-10, Golden Gate Park, SF, www.sfoutsidelands.com

First City Festival, Aug. 23-24, Monterey, www.firstcityfestival.com

 

Throughout the summer: Stern Grove Festival, Sundays, www.sterngrove.org; People in Plazas, dates vary, throughout downtown SF, www.peopleinplazas.org.

It’s all reel

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM As far as Hollywood is concerned, it’s already been summer for weeks, with superheroes (Captain America and Spider-Man have had their turns; X-Men: Days of Future Past opens Fri/23) and monsters (Godzilla) looking mighty comfortable atop the box office. But the season is just getting started, screen fiends, and there’s plenty more — maybe too many more, if you’re operating on a limited popcorn budget — ahead. Read on for a highly opinionated, by-no-means-comprehensive guide; as always, dates are subject to change. (And keep reading for a list of local film festivals, too, since the healthiest diet is always a balanced one.)

The first post-Memorial Day weekend unveils Angelina Jolie (dem cheekbones!) as Sleeping Beauty’s worst nightmare in Maleficent, probably the biggest Disney casting coup since Johnny Depp sailed to the Caribbean. First-time helmer Robert Stromberg has a pair of Oscars for his art-direction work on Avatar (2009) and Alice in Wonderland (2010); if this dark fantasy clicks with audiences, expect a raft of live-action films starring Disney’s ever-growing stable of villains (fingers crossed for Ursula the Sea Witch next).

If fairy tales aren’t your thing, add thriller Cold in July to your calendar (like Maleficent, it’s out May 30). It’s the latest from genre man Jim Mickle (2013’s We Are What We Are), with his highest-profile cast to date. Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, rocking a mullet, plays a small-town Texan whose unremarkable life goes into pulpy overdrive after he kills a burglar, angering the man’s ex-con father (Sam Shepard). But nothing is what it seems in this twisty tale, which also features Don Johnson and a synth score — both stellar enhancements to the film’s late-1980s aesthetic.

Moving into June, sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow  has Tom Cruise saving the world — just another day on the job for the suspiciously ageless star, though he apparently lives the same day over and over here. Look for director Doug Liman (multiple Bourne movies) and co-stars like Emily Blunt and Game of Thrones‘ Noah Taylor to add some depth — though, OK, this’ll probably still be a one-man show. Never change, Tom. Elsewhere June 6, erstwhile Divergent ass-kicker Shailene Woodley aims to prove she’s not just the poor man’s Jennifer Lawrence with young-adult weepie The Fault in Our Stars.

June 13, undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko — played by the likable team of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum — return for more jokes (and winks, because they’re in on the joke too, you guys!) in 22 Jump Street. Far less comedic, and far more brain-melting, is sci-fi drama The Signal, which starts off like a typical road-trip movie, then switches gears a few times before slam-banging into weirdness so out-there it’s almost (almost) a spoiler to note that Laurence “Morpheus” Fishburne plays a key role.

The following week (June 20), Aussie filmmaker David Michôd — whose gritty 2010 Animal Kingdom became an insta-classic of the crime genre, and launched the stateside careers of Jackie Weaver and Joel Edgerton — reunites with Kingdom star Guy Pearce for The Rover, the outback-set tale of a man seeking revenge on a gang of car thieves. In an intriguing casting choice, former vampire Robert Pattinson co-stars as a wounded baddie forced along for the ride.

Next up, June 27 unleashes Transformers: Age of Extinction. Memo to the world: Until we all agree to stop seeing these movies, Michael Bay and company will keep grinding ’em out. At least this one is LaBeouf-less.

Ahead of the long Fourth of July weekend, July 2 unleashes saucy comedy Tammy, which stars Melissa McCarthy (she also co-wrote the script) and Susan Sarandon as a road-tripping granddaughter and grandmother. Or, you could check out Eric Bana as an NYPD detective who teams up with a priest (Edgar “Carlos the Jackal” Ramírez, recently cast in the Swayze role in the highly unnecessary Point Break remake) in Deliver Us From Evil; despite sharing a title with Amy Berg’s harrowing 2006 doc about pedophiles in the Catholic Church, it’s about demonic possession — but is still probably less frightening than the Berg film, to be honest.

July 11, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has a gimmicky premise — filmed over 12 years, it charts the coming-of-age of a child, and his relationship with his parents (played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) — but also glowing reviews from its film festival stints. And, just when you thought it was safe to go back to the banana aisle, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arrives, laying further waste to a San Francisco that already took a beating in the first film, not to mention losing most of its downtown to Godzilla and friends just a week ago. Andy Serkis returns as chimp king Caesar. Also: Roman Polanski’s latest, Venus in Fur — based on the David Ives play, and starring Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner — arrives on our shores after picking up a César award for the director in France.

Andy and Lana Wachowski’s latest eye candy-laden epic action fantasy, Jupiter Ascending, is about an ordinary human (Mila Kunis) who turns out to be Neo the One, er, royalty from another planet. Based on production stills, this film also features Channing Tatum flying through the air shooting guns and stuff. July 18 also brings The Purge: Anarchy, sequel to last year’s sleeper hit about a near-future America that allows a crime spree free-for-all one night per year. The follow-up lacks Lena Heady — but it does have Michael K. “Omar” Williams, and the characters actually leave the house this time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w0KAHhKECg

Then, on July 25, choose your hero: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sporting a hat made out of a lion’s head (and, apparently, beard made out of yak hair) in Hercules, or those dancin’ kids of Las Vegas-set Step Up All In. (For those keeping score, this is the fifth Step Up film.) Plus, there’s Woody Allen’s 1920s-set Magic in the Moonlight, starring Emma Stone as a psychic and Colin Firth as the skeptic who falls for her. Sounds kinda twee, and Allen’s private life remains controversial, but that cast, which also includes Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver, is all kinds of dynamite.

August begins with a bang — Marvel’s hotly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy, which just about broke the Internet when its first trailer rolled out in February, is out on the first — before meandering a bit. Taking a break from her own Marvel duties, Scarlett Johansson (so great in Under the Skin) plays a different kind of superhuman in Luc Besson’s Lucy, while the live action-CG mash-up I’m not sure anyone was really begging for, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, also takes a bow (both Aug. 8).

As the summer winds down, Phillip Noyce (2002’s The Quiet American) strays onto YA turf with an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, with Jeff “The Dude” Bridges playing the title role, and Brenton Thwaits (who also stars in The Signal, above) as his protégé. Also out Aug. 15, The Expendables 3 adds Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, and Wesley Snipes (!!) to its cast o’ aging action hunks. Don’t you worry, Nic Cage — there’s still room for you in the inevitable part four. And don’t miss The Trip to Italy, which re-teams British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for a foodie road trip that will make you guffaw (at the impressions) and drool (over the plates of pasta).

Labor Day looms as Robert Rodriguez brings Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which looks to be as visually stunning as its 2005 predecessor, if not much friendlier to the female perspective; a sports drama inspired by Concord’s own De La Salle High School football team, When the Game Stands Tall; and yet another YA adaptation, If I Stay, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, who is one of the more dynamic teen actors of late, and may make this girlfriend-in-a-coma tale livelier than it sounds. *

ESCAPE THE MULTIPLEX: SUMMER FESTIVALS

San Francisco Green Film Festival (May 29-June 4; www.sfgreenfilmfest.org) Doc-heavy fest of films from 21 countries that explore environmental issues and themes.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival (May 29-June 1; www.silentfilm.org) Exquisitely curated and rock-concert-popular showcase of films from cinema’s earliest days, plus live accompaniment and special guests.

SF DocFest (June 5-19; www.sfindie.com) The San Francisco Independent Film Festival’s doc-tastic offshoot consistently offers a strong slate of true-life tales.

New Filipino Cinema (June 11-15; www.ybca.org) Documentaries, narratives, shorts, and experimental films direct from the Philippines’ burgeoning film scene.

Queer Women of Color Film Festival (June 14-16; www.qwocmap.org) Five shorts programs highlight 55 works, with a focus this year on queer culture in Southeast Asian, North African, Middle Eastern, and other Muslim communities.

Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema (June 14-Aug 23, bampfa.berkeley.edu) Rare and important works by Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Wojciech Has, and others — and since Uncle Marty’s in charge, expect glorious digital restorations across the board.

Frameline (June 19-29; www.frameline.org) The oldest and largest fest of its kind, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival has been programming the best in queer cinema for 38 years.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (July 24-Aug 10; www.sfjff.org) Also the oldest and largest fest of its kind, the SFJFF presents year-round programming, though this fest, now in its 34th year, is its centerpiece event.

On the town

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arts@sfbg.com

DANCE

Now in his fourth year guiding the newly constituted Oakland Ballet Company, Artistic Director Graham Lustig seems to have found his stride in creating a troupe that respects its past but is no longer tied down by it. If, for the time being, the “ballet” part of the company’s name has to take a back seat to the place where it is at home, so be it.

“Oakland-esque,” four world premieres for OBC’s spring season at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, offered an affable afternoon of spiffily danced, and at the very least conceptually intriguing, choreography.

Kudos to the program’s ability to throw a spotlight on the city’s tradition in the arts. Choreographers Sonya Delwaide and Molissa Fenley teach at Mills College. Jazz piano great Earl “Fatha” Hines spent his last years in Oakland, while Larry Graham (of Sly and the Family and Graham Central Station) grew up there and created what became known as “East Bay Funk.” Guests Sonsheree Giles and Joel Brown perform with AXIS Dance Company; Garion “Noh-Justice” Morgan and Rayshawn “Looney” Thompson do so with street dancers Turffeinz.

Delwaide’s Rocky Road, named after the ice cream invented in Oakland in 1929, takes a light-hearted but intricately shaped approach to Hines’ joyously embracing pianisms within a big band context. With a quartet of four (Jori Jahn, Megan Terry, Marte Madera, and Matthew Roberts) and two soloist couples, Delwaide’s tongue-in-cheek approach to both jazz and ballet brought out a commonality between these very different arts: Both shine with a surface of ease while demanding great technical facility; their soloists also often perform against backup groups, known in ballet as the corps.

Rocky‘s loose-limbed dancers kicked, slinked, and stepped with, against, and behind the beat. With the women on point, they inhabited a universe in which stylistic differences didn’t matter, but dancing full out did.

The soloist couple from inside OBC — the liquidly expressive and ever so versatile Sharon Wehner partnered by a refined Evan Flood — was paired with AXIS’s fierce Giles and Brown on wheels. In its individual duets and sharing the same stage, this quartet confirmed, one more time, that lyricism, grace, and power communicate no matter what shape they take. It helped that Delwaide has an embracing, refined choreographic voice.

Robert Moses’s choreography for TIP pitted furiously fast, shifting ensembles of various sizes against Graham’s bass-heavy, beat-heavier music. In part because of the dated-looking teenage outfits of white tops and checkered skirts and pants (by Christopher Dunn), I thought of Moses perhaps having looked at TIP as a memory of some 1970s club scene.

TIP began with a clump of people who just happened to come upon each other, and turned into a sweaty night in which they hooked up with each other and switched partners with ease. Some interactions stood out, such as the three sitting upstage who companionably slid along on their butts. Or the male dancer who tried out three women in a row. In a hetero duet, a woman lent much-needed support to her back-falling companion. TIP‘s surfeit of material developed a somewhat messy structure, yet it allowed the eye to wander over a sea of intense dancing, out of which limbs arose like curling smoke.

Mills College’s majestic grove of redwood trees has inspired both poets and painters. It also provided Fenley with ideas for the verticality, restraint, and elegance for Redwood Park. She set it on a quintet to a score by Joan Jeanrenaud, here excellently performed by percussionists Nava Dunkelman and Ann Wray. At first the music’s sharp attacks and tonal variations seemed at odds with the tranquil dancing’s soft strides and pliant turns spinning off into extended patterns — but as Redwood evolved, you realized that both arose from a calmly spacious sense of time. The piece was designed for five men, but Emily Kerr successfully pinch-hit for an injured one. While it was good to see dancers as different as Vincent Chavez, Flood, Madera, and Roberts attempt this spare choreography, not everyone was equally up to the task.

Turf dancing (taking up room on the floor) developed as way of claiming urban territory, and as a tribute to lives lost on Oakland’s streets. Lustig’s Turfland was a well-intentioned but unconvincing attempt to bring two of its practitioners to the concert stage, and have his ballet dancers in turn follow them out into the street.

Much of the piece looked improvised and none of the dancers — with the exception of Chavez, who fluidly straddled both worlds — seemed at ease. It takes more than performing on the tip of your toes, whether in blocked shoes or sneakers, to find a common language. These dancers were about as far apart as the washed-out visuals of the stage and the graffiti-inspired, scintillatingly beautiful backdrops by Samuel Renaissance. *

 

Wear no evil

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arts@sfbg.com

CULTURE

Do you know where your clothes come from: Bangladesh? China? Possibly. Clothes are a commodity whose origins are often taken for granted. Fashion followers glamorize garments as collectible items, while others value comfort above all. In most cases, customers will size up a garment’s price or style first, rather than considering where or how it was manufactured.

But consider this: The production end of the apparel industry impacts the world significantly. The fashion industry employs one-sixth of the world’s population. An estimated 250 million children work in sweatshops. The lack of regulation results in unfair labor and pollution around the world. It is the second most polluting industry, second only to oil. Due to the toxic waste discharge in China, you can tell what colors are in season by looking at the rivers. The deadliest garment-factory accident in history, the Bangladesh factory collapse last year, killed 1,129 workers and injured twice as many.

The fact of the matter is, if you care about where your craft beer came from, whether your apple is organic, or if your latte contains fair-trade coffee, you need to be applying that same consciousness to your clothes. Read on for ways to whip your fashion karma into shape.

sustainableshop

Click the image above to see our flowchart, “So you want to shop sustainably…”

 

SHOP SOCIAL

Global warming isn’t going anywhere. Why not help save the world (as summers grow hotter) one T-shirt at a time? Many independent (and several mainstream) brands have partnered with nonprofits to support the environment. Eco-friendly SF-based brand Amour Vert (www.amourvert.com) developed the Plant A T(r)EE program, in which a tree is planted in the US with each T-shirt purchase. According to the company, 15,000 have taken root so far, with plans to reach 100,000 by 2015. Other eco-conscious brands, including Alternative Apparel (www.alternativeapparel.com), support the workers behind the products. Though the company sources its materials in Peru, it works to ensure fair labor practices. Both of these brands design fashionable apparel with organic cotton and other natural, sustainable fabrics — which can result in higher prices. But if your clothing budget allows, it pays to focus on quality, not quantity.

 

SHOP SECONDHAND

Thrift shopping is probably the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your carbon footprint. The average American throws out 68 pounds of textiles every year. By buying secondhand, you’re saving water and energy that would otherwise be used to manufacture new products, not to mention keeping textile waste out of landfills — and curating your own unique style in the process.

When you clean out your closet, donate your duds to a local thrift store instead of discarding them. Somewhere, there’s a vintage shopper who will treasure that sparkly mini-dress you wore one long-ago New Year’s Eve.

 

SHOP LOCAL

Why haunt the mall when San Francisco has a plethora of homegrown makers? Eco-friendly apparel defies stereotypes (it’s not just hemp dresses anymore) thanks to independent, multi-brand shops like the Mission District’s Gravel & Gold (www.gravelandgold.com) and new Hayes Valley spot Gather (www.gathersf.com), both of which thoughtfully select products to create a connection with the craftspeople behind the designs. Progressive street style brands like San Franpsycho (www.sanfranpsycho.com) and Oaklandish (www.oaklandish.com) celebrate local love while keeping their manufacturing nearby. You can also find city blocks packed with locally made goods at craft and street fairs like the roving Urban Air Market (www.urbanairmarket.com).

But be wary. A label reading “Made in the US” does not guarantee the garment was produced under fair labor conditions. Despite labor laws, sweatshops still exist on our shores. Be an informed, aware shopper, and make sure your dollars are supporting an ethical company before you make a purchase. *

 

Missing Indie Mart

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THE WEEKNIGHTER  Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That’s why each week Broke-Ass Stuart (www.brokeassstuart.com) will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, bringing you stories about the places and people who make San Francisco one of the most phenomenal cities in the world. Who wants a drink?

I’ve fallen in love many times at Thee Parkside. Okay, that’s a gross exaggeration. I’ve fallen into moderate, short-term infatuation many times at Thee Parkside.

For years it was home to Indie Mart, the DIY, rock-n-roll, block party Kelly Malone and Co. used to throw. Scores of local artist and designers would set up booths along Wisconsin Street, selling all the strange and beautiful things they created, while grimy-looking bands played ear-splitting music inside.

The parade of manic pixie dream girls was unnerving. They had no real place in society and only belonged as unblemished ideals in my mind. Some would float into town for the weekend and set up shop, only to disappear as soon as Indie Mart shut down. Others would flit from booth to booth, trying on each other’s wares and complimenting each other’s outfits. All of them pretty much sold the exact same shit, not that it mattered to me, they were all so lovely to look at and really only brought things to sell to each other anyway.

Thee Parkside is way more than just for day-long block parties full of whimsically dressed Amelies though. It’s a semi-legendary dive bar famed for it’s out-of-the-way location and its kick-ass live shows. Any night of the week you can see a variety of punk, metal, or country bands playing their hearts out on that tiny stage in that perfectly dingy barroom.

It’s also known for an awesome kitchen that manages to turn well-executed dishes like bahn mi and Cuban sandwiches into perfect bar food. If you haven’t been before, the Original Famous Twang Sundays are a great introduction to Thee Parkside life. Where else in The City can you hear country and bluegrass at an all-ages venue with a back patio for free? I think that’s what Sundays were invented for.

Despite these great things that happen at Thee Parkside, it’s still all those Indie Mart afternoons that most poignantly stick out in my mind. Maybe that’s just because, for many San Francisco’s doers and makers, Indie Mart was a place where we found a community of like-minded bad-asses. Dozens of people who were tinkering with wonderful things all throughout the Bay Area suddenly had a place to coalesce, sharing and selling what they made.

Sculptors, screen printers, and jewelry designers, set up shop next to each other while vintage clothes were hawked down the way and carpenters displayed their crafts. People who may never have encountered each other otherwise, were now meeting and forging relationships that would lead to marriages, babies, collaborations, and successful businesses. A diaspora of creative people now had a base and a community and a way to show the world what they were up to. It was honestly and truly, with all earnestness, magical. And Thee Parkside allowed that to happen.

Like all great scenes, Indie Mart came and left just like a goddamn fireball. One day it jumped from being a small thing in Kelly Malone’s backyard to a block party at Thee Parkside. It burned hot and heavy for a few years, and then suddenly it was done. But what it left in its wake was a slew of creators who now had the confidence and contacts to make a business out of what was previously just a hobby. And of course Thee Parkside is still around too.

Every time I pass by, I think, maybe I should get some people together and throw one more big block party for old times sake. And then I say nah, and stop in for a Cuban sandwich and a cheap drink instead.

Stuart Schuffman aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. You can find his online shenanigans at www.brokeassstuart.com

Desegregate our schools

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By Matt Haney

OPINION

Sixty years after the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, we face the shocking reality that our nation’s schools are more racially and economically segregated today than they have been in more than four decades.

The vast majority of public school students attend schools where students look like them and share their socioeconomic background. Even areas where significant progress has been made are experiencing resegregation, including here in San Francisco.

For over 20 years, 1983-2005, San Francisco schools were under a federal court-ordered consent decree to eliminate segregation and accelerate racial equity, including a controversial assignment policy that limited enrollment of any ethnic group to no more than 45 percent in any school.

This policy ended after it was found unconstitutional in 2001. Since then, San Francisco schools have experienced a steady resegregation. A quarter of our schools have more than 60 percent of a single ethnic group, even though the district is highly diverse and lacks a majority group.

After three years of a new student assignment system, despite holding the reduction of racial isolation as a central goal, there has been little change. In the face of neighborhood segregation and displacement, family request patterns, language pathways, and elimination of school buses, our current student assignment system, absent additional interventions, may be outmatched in addressing this challenge.

Thus, 60 years after Brown, we must ask ourselves the question: Is racial and economic integration still a priority? And what does this mean for our ability to provide educational opportunity for all students, regardless of race or socioeconomic status?

While Brown is best known for helping end legalized segregation and sparking the Civil Rights Movement, Brown’s foundational premise is that all students have a right to educational opportunity.

In San Francisco, as in other cities, racial isolation and concentration of underserved students in the same school are highly correlated with other school factors that define school quality, including average years of teacher service, teacher turnover, attendance, and suspension rates. San Francisco’s most racially isolated and underserved schools are, thus, also those that are the most persistently low achieving.

As daunting as it may seem, there are things we can do now to restore the promise of Brown.

First, we should acknowledge that establishing racially and economically diverse schools still matters, and draw on creative and intentional tools at our disposal to work towards them. Segregated schools should not be accepted as a foregone conclusion, particularly in light of the well-documented challenges of ensuring educational opportunity in these contexts. We should look to diverse school models here in San Francisco, especially those where parental involvement is central.

Second, we must be honest about the resources needed to ensure equal opportunity for every student, particularly those in racially and economically segregated schools. This will take much more than small reforms or even equalizing funding; in fact, San Francisco has long had a system where schools with higher needs are given additional funding.

Ensuring true opportunity for every student in racially isolated schools requires transformation of what schools look like in these contexts, including longer school days, much smaller classes, high quality early childhood education and after school programs, experienced and highly paid teachers, and full-service school health clinics.

Third, we should recognize the interconnectedness of education with other forces, particularly poverty. Students come to school with deep trauma and stress caused by violence, poor nutrition, and economic instability, which deepen segregation and educational inequities. Anyone who is an education advocate must also be an antipoverty advocate, a worker’s rights advocate, a housing advocate, and a health care advocate.

These days it seems our collective outrage around race is applied in short bursts, often to sound bites and celebrity comments. We need to channel that energy and dialogue instead to a sustained focus on what is truly most unacceptable — the persistent unequal and segregated education of our children. Sixty years after Brown, equal education in diverse contexts for all children may be past due, but not past solving.

Matt Haney is an elected member of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education.

Neighborhood papers tell the story of SF

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By Jessica Lipsky

news@sfbg.com

Before many San Francisco residents traded their newspaper subscriptions for Internet media, a dozen monthly papers covered the beat of the city’s distinct neighborhoods. Nine of these papers, whose heyday came with radical changes in the ’70s and ’80s, are being digitally archived by local historical organization Found SF.

“The papers all have their own personalities,” said Found SF organizer LisaRuth Elliott. “You get a sense of even how those change over time too, whether it’s a hard hitting article or it’s talking about the evolution of how the street businesses changed in Noe Valley. Archiving these papers opens up the gates for all the stuff we don’t know, and that you want to find out about, in San Francisco.”

Over the course of six months, Found SF volunteers will archive two decades’ worth of content from papers published throughout the city — the Noe Valley Voice, Tenderloin Times, Visitation Valley Grapevine, Richmond ReView, Potrero View, the New Fillmore, El Tecolote, North Mission News, and the Glen Park Perspective — in partnership with the Internet Archive and San Francisco Public Library. Since beginning the project in January, Found SF has scanned over 200 issues and tagged each with searchable keywords.

 

BILINGUAL VOICES

While several of the papers have come and gone, the publication that inspired the project is still going strong. Born from 1968 riots at San Francisco State for relevant ethnic education, the Mission’s El Tecolote was founded in 1970 as a bilingual paper dedicated to social activism. The paper made great inroads in the mid-’70s fighting for equitable health services, such as a bilingual emergency phone system, while covering Latino arts and civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“We started El Tecolote to fill the gap of the mainstream media, which wasn’t covering this neighborhood with any real consistency; if it did it was often times negative news,” founder Juan Gonzales said. “The mission was to really be a voice for the neighborhood and hopefully move the spirit of organizing ahead to make some social change.”

In addition to taking a hard line on local politics and immigrant issues, the archives document the evolution of San Francisco from various perspectives. Residents of lower-income neighborhoods were displaced, and many districts leveled, during urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s, while a 1973-75 recession caused further damages. The resulting plight set the stage for journalism driven by demand for hyper-local coverage of LGBT and feminist rights, gentrification, and third-world issues.

“In the mid-’70s there was consciousness around neighborhoods as social centers and places where community organizing was happening,” Elliott said. “People are facing eviction, they’re protesting, there are these vigils happening, and people talking about gaining rights for long-term things. We’re still working with the legacy of some of the housing decisions [San Francisco] made around that time due to the activism,” she added, citing the Tenderloin Times’ advocacy for SROs in the face of hotel development west of Union Square.

 

RESILIENCE IN HARD TIMES

The New Fillmore — established in 1986 as the city became inflicted with crack and AIDS epidemics, just as Reaganism swept in — was at the heart of socioeconomic changes that transformed parts of San Francisco from what felt like a blue-collar town to an increasingly white-collar city. Approximately 30 blocks in the Fillmore and Western Addition were leveled and left vacant until the ’80s, and the monthly paper played an important role in chronicling the return of businesses to the once thriving neighborhood.

“We ended up with the worst of both worlds in the Fillmore,” said Thomas Reynolds, who took over publishing the New Fillmore in 2006. Redevelopment efforts initially provoked no organized public protest, he said, but later “generated a lot of activism. The New Fillmore managed to capture a lot of the change that was coming to the neighborhood, and a lot of the flavor and history of the neighborhood that was being lost.” The paper encouraged civic engagement through a regular architecture column that featured local homes and helped owners register their historic buildings.

Several papers served neighborhoods with large refugee and immigrant populations, many of whom didn’t speak or read English. The Tenderloin Times promoted social services and encouraged activism through coverage of Southeast Asian and local politics, while publishing simultaneously in English, Lao, Cambodian, and Vietnamese over its two-decade run. Others chronicled changes in demographics, including an influx of Chinese residents into Visitation Valley and a population shift in the Mission from predominately Chicano to more Central Americans.

The Noe Valley Voice also took an international turn when escaped Irish prisoner Liam Carl toured the U.S. to expose harsh conditions in British jails. Carl entered the country illegally and was housed in a Noe Valley home in the fall of 1980, telling the Voice, “If [prisoners] thought that perhaps there was a chance that they could be heard through less drastic measures … and maybe bring about some change without so many people having to die, perhaps I can save lives.”

While the newspapers often differed in their coverage, each featured complementary stories chronicling the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Common features included how to check for damage, profiles on restaurants that fed the neighborhood or, as one Noe Valley Voice headline described the experience of meeting neighbors during a power outage: “We Could See the Stars.” Ahead of the 25th anniversary in October, Found SF has examples of quake coverage online.

“It makes me think that the city is comprised of all these little villages and it’s a little hard to say San Francisco has one direction, one value system,” Elliott said. “The papers show the wide variety of people who live in the city … but it’s all very much at a very personal level. They know each other. They’re telling stories about each other.”

For more information on the neighborhood newspaper archiving project, or to volunteer, visit foundsf.org.

 

Bernal blows up

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rebecca@sfbg.com

When Herb Felsenfeld and his wife, Gail Newman, look out the window of the Bernal Heights home they’ve lived in for more than 30 years, they see a vacant hilly lot grown in with tall grass, stretching up in the direction of nearby Bernal Heights Park.

The surrounding area has become quite popular. Earlier this year, real estate firm Redfin crowned Bernal Heights the nation’s No. 1 “hottest neighborhood,” its desirability ranked using “a combination of big-data analysis and real-life human experience,” according to the company blog.

There are plans to build two new single-family homes on the slope directly above them, causing a bit of a neighborhood stir. But one detail about this particular site — perched high atop Folsom Street on the eastern slope of Bernal Hill — has neighbors on edge.

Below the surface, extending up a 35 percent grade, is a natural gas pipeline owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Property records designate it as Line 109, and it traverses the Bernal Heights neighborhood from farther south, running up Folsom Street. Two orange-and-white striped markers stake out its trajectory uphill, with an orange sticker on the back proclaiming, “Warning: Gas Pipeline.”

It’s serviced the area for at least 30 years, perhaps much longer, qualifying it as an aging piece of infrastructure. Felsenfeld, Newman, and neighbor Deborah Gerson say they’re worried that performing excavation on the slope for a road and new home foundations poses a safety threat.

Newman said she was especially perplexed by the San Francisco Planning Department’s issuance of a waiver of an environmental impact review, which is routine for a project of this size, citing no unusual circumstances. “I’m like, wait a minute,” she said. “There’s a pipeline here.”

One would think that any sort of risk would be eliminated by routine safety protocols. But it gets complicated when one considers that PG&E is under federal indictment for criminal negligence for its alleged failure to keep up with pipeline maintenance, due in part to sloppy recordkeeping. There may indeed be little risk involved with the new construction at this site — but then again, the neighbors’ concerns raise questions about whether adequate measures are in place to guarantee safety in this and other situations.

The criminal charges facing PG&E that were filed March 31 stem from an investigation launched in the wake of a fatal 2010 explosion in San Bruno caused by a pipeline rupture, which killed eight people and destroyed an entire neighborhood. The utility is fighting the charges in court and has reportedly invested $2.7 billion in shareholder dollars toward safety improvements since.

But according to the results of a regulatory audit on PG&E’s assessment of its own pipeline records that was undertaken to set things straight after the tragic explosion, crucial pipeline information is still missing or flawed, as the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported.

“Given the San Bruno disaster and the recent media revelations about PG&E’s pipes, we are wondering what information you have gathered on this subject,” Felsenfeld wrote in a letter to one of the housing developers, Fabien Lannoye. “Where exactly is Pipeline No. 109? How deeply is No. 109 buried? What is Pipeline No. 109 composed of? How big in diameter is Pipeline 109? How/with what are the pipe seams welded?”

He sent the same set of questions to PG&E. So far, Felsenfeld hasn’t received any answers. PG&E has also been stonewalling the developer’s information requests.

Lannoye, who is building one of the two new houses, described the project as a two-story, single-family home where he hopes to live with his wife and two children. He said he understands the neighbors’ concerns about safety, but also believes they are organizing in an effort to prevent him from moving forward.

When it comes to his communications with the utility company, however, Lannoye is a bit more baffled. “It’s kind of a little bizarre that we’re not getting clear information,” he said. “I’ve contacted like 15 different people from PG&E, and every time, they send me to someone else. Either they don’t want to give me the information, or they don’t know what it is.”

PG&E did not respond to the Bay Guardian‘s request for comment.

In general, the only parties who seem to be directly involved when there is construction near natural gas pipelines are the utility company and the project developer. An association called the Common Ground Alliance maintains the 811 phone line — a service known as Call Before You Dig — to ensure the location of underground lines are marked prior to any excavation.

When the Guardian phoned San Francisco’s Department of Public Works to ask if the agency has a pipeline risk assessment procedure in place when new construction is planned, we were told that such a thing might fall under the scope of the Department of Building Inspection.

But in a voicemail, DBI spokesperson Bill Strawn responded that such a thing might be up to the Department of Public Works, adding, “There’s no restriction about somebody building a project or a house somewhere in the vicinity of a natural gas pipeline.”

All of which means it falls to PG&E to ensure that high-pressure underground lines are safe, with no chance of rupture when new foundations are being installed close by. But PG&E doesn’t always know what it’s got. According to charges in the federal indictment, the utility created a GIS database in the late 1990s based on pipeline survey sheets that contained erroneous or incomplete information. PG&E then relied on that database to make integrity management decisions.

The indictment noted that prior to the San Bruno disaster, PG&E had been intentionally elevating pressure levels on Line 132, the one that ruptured, as well as Line 109, to maintain peak pressure levels in accordance with federal regulations. But experts have noted that this spiking practice could erode the integrity of a line if there are vulnerable welds.

“Our plan,” Lannoye explained, “is not to dig where the gas line is.” Line 109 would run beneath a sidewalk, he added.

Marilyn Waterman, another neighbor, outlined the situation in an email to University of California Berkeley professor Robert Bea, a nationally renowned civil engineer. She asked Bea if concern is warranted.

“Given the background you provided in your email, yes — you should be concerned,” he responded. It’s an old line, Bea pointed out, in an area with highly variable topography, with no available records detailing its operation and maintenance.

“This list is identical to the list of concerns that summarized causation of the San Bruno Line 132 gas pipeline disaster,” Bea wrote. “The fundamental ‘challenge’ associated with your concern is tied to the word ‘safe.'”

His rule of thumb? “If the potential consequences associated with a failure are low, then the likelihood of the failure can be high. If the potential consequences are very high, then the probability of failure must be very low.”