Sound of vertigo


Music can teleport you to far-off lands and spark nostalgia for distant times. It might elicit lost memories or even summon illusions. You may have never visited Istanbul or São Paulo or lived in the 1960s, but music infects the imagination with a visceral experience of the unknown. The effect is uncanny, mesmerizing, beautiful, and even therapeutic.

But what happens when music pushes its ability to displace to an extreme? When music annihilates your familiar sense of space and warp holes your usual expectations of time? Can listening to music transform you? Los Angeles-based beatsmith and DJ the Gaslamp Killer certainly thinks so. "The music I’m looking for is the stuff that will cut through your brain and just make you feel … almost overwhelmed," Gaslamp slowly explains whether arranging cosmic abyss mixtapes like I Spit On Your Grave (Obey, 2008) or crafting his own twisted productions, including his just-released debut solo EP My Troubled Mind (Brainfeeder), Gaslamp displays a developing genius for charting hallucinatory odysseys into vertigo. His haunted, cinematic music unhinges the listener, approaching a surreal dissociation and restoration of the self.

William Benjamin Bensussen didn’t identify as the Gaslamp Killer until some time after moving to Los Angeles three years back. He grew up in another troubled Southern California paradise cloaked in its own rusted mythology: San Diego. There, a restless Bensussen was already broadening his musical horizons in the fifth grade, listening to Too Short, Jimmy Hendrix, and Dre. A few years later he attempted to satiate his curious, nearly frantic energy by freestyle dancing at raves and in b-boy circles — to electronic and hip-hop music respectively. But it was DJ Shadow who bridged those fractured worlds for Bensussen and ignited a desire to dig into jazz, funk, and psychedelic crates. "I started on this frenzy trying to find all the originals. And then I realized that Shadow had sampled half of his stuff, and he wasn’t as much of a genius as I thought he was," Gaslamp recalls, laughing. "That’s when I started looking for older records and thinking, well, maybe I could do this."

Bensussen’s dark nom de plume is a bittersweet tribute to his unlikely origins. As a 19-year-old college dropout, he flipped wax in San Diego’s glittery Gaslamp District to a sometimes hostile crowd. Bensussen remembers bitterly a particular confrontation with a vindictive listener. A strikingly beautiful woman — who intimidated the then-teenage DJ — queried him angrily why he wanted to ruin her time with his fucked up music. Why? Dumbfounded, wounded, and angry, Bensussen drew sadistic nourishment from the provocation. It helped inspire his first mixtape project, the circa-2000 Gaslamp Killers, a lo-fi guzzling of psychotic drums and horror sonic bits. Recently, Bensussen decided to rename himself in light of this original labor of love.

Gaslamp has yet to settle down. He helped found L.A.’s monolithic weekly showcase for uncut beat-driven tracks, the Low End Theory, in the fall of 2006. And he’s secured a close affiliation with Flying Lotus’ bubbling imprint, Brainfeeder. But Bensussen’s troubled mind still wanders, like his music and his words, in perpetual hunger for the rawness of life. "[My music] comes from more of a vicious area," Gaslamp explains, searching for the right words. "Not angry, just passion — but a passion that can’t be sugar-coated."

This unmediated passion takes Gaslamp into many dangerous and strangely ethereal caverns. It also jettisons him to the homes of foreign musicians marked by the same shattered pathos. My Troubled Mind gathers its influences from all over the globe — Turkey, India, Russia, Mexico, Germany, and Italy. But the way Gaslamp employs samples from these regions defies their idiosyncratic place of origin. He has a rare skill for extracting universal otherworldliness from regional sounds. And he implements their fiercely destructive yet uplifting spirituality into his mind-melting compositions. His music and DJ sets become performances, elusive experiences leaving you charred and fiending for more of their ineffable allure. "I’m glad people can’t describe it," Gaslamp says, nearly yelling into the speakerphone. "Once they are able to describe it, that’s when they chew it up, spit it out, and leave it behind. The more indescribable and amazing it is, the more you’ll hold on to your people, your listeners."

Time travelers


"I thought it would be funny to do a total stereo split, as if the past and the present were trying to have a conversation with each other," says Scott Ryser, describing "East West," a track on the compilation History of the Units: The Early Years, 1977-1983 (Community Library). "I like the idea that these radically different sounds can share a ‘present’ time together."

That idea is the motivation behind this article’s collection of short profiles. Recently singled out for a rave by Pitchfork, Ryser’s synth-punk group the Units is one of four innovative or fierce Bay Area musical forces currently experiencing a contemporary renaissance. Sugar Pie DeSanto’s soul, the Pyramids’ free jazz, and San Francisco Express’s fusion have also inspired reissues or archival compilations. The message is loud and clear: old is new and radical in this era of free-floating sound. (Johnny Ray Huston)

SUGAR PIE DESANTO It’s no surprise that New Yorkers called Sugar Pie DeSanto the female James Brown. Like a woman possessed, she pantomimed her petite frame across the stage almost comedically, gyrating to the doo-wop, soul, and R&B that dominated Chicago’s famed Chess record label. In fact, De Santo sang with Soul Brother No. 1 in the early 1960s, and her presence made a competitive impression upon the hardest-working man in showbiz. "James was cool with Sugar," De Santo says over the phone, her voice husky and distinctive. "He was a fanatic about his music."

Now in her 70s, the San Francisco-born Oakland resident has seen much during her 57 years in the music industry. DeSanto’s list of contemporaries includes Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, and Etta James. She may not perform live quite as often as she once did, but she’s as risqué now as ever. The new compilation Go Go Power: The Complete Chess Singles 1961-1966 (Ace/Kent) is a great starting point if you aren’t familiar with her work. The package includes a dynamic photo of her scissor-locking an unassuming Londoner with her thighs during a performance. Lyrically, "Use What You Got" deals with notions of natural beauty, superficiality and what it was like to grow up African American and Filipino in SF’s Fillmore District. "There was a lot of jealousy," DeSanto remembers. "I had long Filipino hair. It [being multi-racial] wasn’t as common or as easy as it is today. Girls would talk crap in the neighborhood."

With 100 original songs under her belt, DeSanto still receives residuals for compositions penned for Fontella Bass and Minnie Ripperton. A producer at Chess heard a similarity between DeSanto and James, and a few of their subsequent duets are included on Go Go Power. "We recorded in the studio together [in Chicago]," says DeSanto. "We didn’t go on the road together." Today, the Queen of the West Coast Blues likes to ride her bike. She’s looking forward to performing at Oakland’s Jack London Square on September 12th. (Andre Torrez)

THE PYRAMIDS Bad seeds can accidentally generate something good — you can thank an exploitative imposter for contributing to a new surge of interest in the free jazz of the Pyramids. According to the group’s Idris Ackamoor, "someone masquerading as a Pyramid" gave the blessing for the respected Japanese label EM to reissue the group’s 1976 album Birth Speed Merging on CD. Shortly after Ackamoor discovered this ruse, EM embarked on a more expansive — and legit — collection of his music, Music of Idris Ackamoor, 1971-2004. Now, Birth Speed Merging and two earlier Pyramids albums — 1973’s Lalibela and 1974’s King of Kings — are alive again on vinyl, thanks in part to Dawson Prater’s Ikef label.

"I’ve lost a lot of things in my life, but for all these years, I’ve managed to hold on to all of the masters of the Pyramids," says Ackamoor, who is busier than ever today due to Cultural Odyssey, his multi-faceted collaboration with Rhodessa Jones. (Before a new set of Bay Area performances next year, a trip to Russia is on the horizon.) Ackamoor was right to hold on to his barely-tapped treasure trove of Pyramids material, because the group’s music is built to last. Birth Speed Merging scorches ears with proto-noise. Accompanied by Ted Joans’ written ideas about Afro-Surrealism, King of Kings astounds (the bass runs of "Nsorama") and hypnotizes ("Queen of the Spirits"), in turn.

Such sounds will be a revelation to young listeners, even — or perhaps especially — those whose sensibilities have been shaped by the journeying spirit of the late Alice Coltrane. To paraphrase a credo, the Pyramids played music to make fire and make souls burst out from bodies. "They’ve tried to snuff out that avant-garde energy," Ackamoor notes, when discussing then and now. "This music wasn’t meant to sell drinks. When I listen to it, it even inspires me. I listen to how I sounded, and the freedom with which I played when I was so young — 19, 20, 21. The intensity is so refreshing. I didn’t realize I could play so long." (Huston)

SAN FRANCISCO EXPRESS In the 1970s, San Francisco churned out quality music like nobody’s business. But many of those recordings — despite their innovation or solidity — never saw the light of the day. And so today preservationists abound, seeking to revive the lost treasures discarded in the wake of this music renaissance. Recently, the one and only effort of jazz-funk outfit San Francisco Express, Getting It Together (Reynolds/ Family Groove, 1979), hit the shelves for a new generation. The album embodies the lush cosmic spirit of free form jazz grounded seamlessly in deep pocket funk.

Little is known about Getting It Together. Daniel Borine, Family Groove label owner and source of the reissue, says that the set was recorded circa 1975 at Dr. Patrick Gleeson’s infamous Different Fur studios in SF’s Mission District. Gleeson, who played Moog synthesizer for the arrangement, doesn’t remember the album by name. But oddly enough, Getting It Together recalls Gleeson’s monumental direction for Herbie Hancock on the visionary, electrified jazz of Crossings (Warner, 1971) and Sextant (Sony, 1972) as well as Charles Earland’s epic odyssey, Leaving This Planet (Prestige, 1973). Even though Getting It Together was recorded just after these groundbreaking works, the small independent label Reynolds postponed its release until ’79, possibly due to in-house quarrels. The original pressing provided no substantive information on the recording. And, seemingly outdated amid the burgeoning new sounds of modern soul and disco, it quickly faded into dusty record bins across the country.

Despite Getting It Together‘s unfortunate reception, few jazz-funk records of the mid-1970s sound as cohesive. The sonic landscape shifts effortlessly between conventional melodies and spacey grooves without losing a consistent magnetism. Virtuoso trumpeter Woody Shaw carries the powerhouse horn section, bursting with psychedelic warmth over heavy hitting drum breaks courtesy of Afro-inspired drummer E.W. Wainwright. Gleeson’s keys evoke a sensual intelligence and informed taste for adventure. A remarkable synthesis of the lively experimental jazz era, Getting It Together still feels as inspired and fresh as ever. (Michael Krimper)

THE UNITS Fate and a bond with the musician Bill Nelson once led them to share three squares a day with Robert Plant, but the Units were a punk or post-punk band. And like any great punk or post-punk band, they lived for confrontation. They played in JC Penney storefront windows and even performed the national anthem at a boxing match.

Still, when the Units invoked the smashing of guitars, they did so as a gesture of contempt towards that six-string signifier of readymade rebellion as much as a protest against traditional authority. Whether singing about burritos and how "the Mission is bitchin’" or adapting Gregory Corso’s poetry to song, the Units, you see, wielded keyboards as sonic weapons.

The group’s Scott Ryser has some primarily fond and often very specific memories of the keyboards in question. The Arps, the Octigans, the Roland Junos, and various Korgs and Casios. The Sequential Circuits 800 Sequencer, "without question the most promising and at the same time most belligerent" of the group’s many "unruly kids." And his "sweetheart," the Minimoog, an invention "better than the automobile and the electric dildo combined." For Ryser, "the Minimoog sounds like god and the devil singing in harmony."

God and the devil sing in harmony throughout History of the Units: The Early Years, 1977-1983 (Community Library) — that is, when they aren’t breaking down gloriously. Or colliding against the live drumming that distinguishes the Units from just about any other synth group. ("I just don’t see how a synth band can kick ass without real drums," opines Ryser.) Nervy narratives like "Bugboy" and "High Pressure Days" reflect Ryser’s background writing stories and novels, while the sprawling, gorgeous instrumental "Zombo," inspired by Walter/Wendy Carlos, sounds contemporary today. Unlike many retrospective collections, History of the Units avoids nostalgia — in fact, Ryser adds a blitz of contemporary images to the sleeve art. "To me, the best thing about our band was just the idea of it," he says. Maybe so, but the reality of the Units will trigger more fine ideas. (Huston)

The ring



COVER STORY Going to the DNA Lounge during the middle of the day is a strange proposition. But on a Saturday afternoon in late June, the San Francisco bar is filled with a hundred or so people, including, strangely enough, Kris Kristofferson, whose son Jody is trying out a different kind of public career. There’s a smattering of people hanging out on the balcony level, but most of us are pressed against metal guard rails that surround a ring set up in the center of the dance floor. Professional wrestling has, ahem, put a stranglehold on venue, and it’s the middle of the show.

A newcomer with a spiny bi-hawk and spiked shoulder pad named Nate Graves — a muscle-bound cross between a Mad Max 2: Road Warrior extra and the guy from Prodigy — is set to fight "the Mexican Werewolf," El Chupacabra, a local favorite who wrestles in multicolored face paint and prosthetic fangs. Even when entering the ring, both wrestlers’ movements tell a story; the newcomer is stiff and deliberate, a menacing behemoth, while the significantly smaller El Chupacabra darts around in unpredictable bursts.

The bell rings, and the two exchange some preliminary holds and throws before drubbing one another with loud, theatrical strikes. I’m sandwiched between a stylish young woman in her early 20s, noticeably buzzed, and an average looking dude in a Giants shirt. They spend most of the fight leaning over me to hassle each other. The young woman really has it out for Chupy. As the newcomer hoists our protagonist into the air, she screams for the larger man to "drop him on his fucking head."

Wrestling’s harshest critics tend to view it as a theater of violent, regressive, antisocial posturing. But a decidedly gleeful atmosphere permeates the venue. El Chupacabra wriggles out of the precarious position, and the two adversaries call for an impromptu toast in the spirit of the nameless unifying energy that takes hold during a wrestling event.


Fog City Wrestling is a year-old promotion based out of San Francisco. Relatively unknown in the grand scheme of indie wrestling — most of the larger promotions are based on the East Coast — FCW has nevertheless carved out a comfortable niche in the Bay Area, already home to several smaller federations. The promotion may be relatively new, but professional wrestling in San Francisco has a lengthy — if often ignored — history. Fans who grew up in the era of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) CEO Vince McMahon Jr.’s homogenized "sports entertainment" empire may be surprised to learn that Northern California as a whole was once home to one of the hottest wrestling promotions in the country.

Throughout the pre-WWE (then the World Wide Wrestling Federation) 1960s and 1970s, promoter Roy Shire’s Big Time Wrestling, a Bay Area extension of the once powerful National Wrestling Alliance, regularly showcased some of wrestling’s big-name stars and future legends, such as local hero Pat Patterson, Superstar Billy Graham, and Rocky Johnson, whose son Dwayne briefly dabbled in the sport of kings as The Rock. Though Shire’s mini-empire extended all the way to Sacramento, the Bay Area was the promotion’s home base. Selling out the Cow Palace on a regular basis, Big Time Wrestling exemplified a halcyon period when pro wrestling was vibrant, gritty, and regional.

Big Time Wrestling owed part of its success to the territorial wrestling industry it existed in, a system where local feds dominated the markets of their particular region. In contrast to the major performers of today, most wrestlers weren’t beholden to a specific promoter, leaving them free to travel the country. But Shire’s own ingenuity was key to his fed’s notoriety.

According to long-time wrestling photographer, columnist, and all-around avid fan Mike Lano, the promoter — a former wrestler — was regarded by his wrestling business contemporaries as a promotional genius. For Shire, personality and a dynamic, athletic wrestling style were paramount. "[He] demanded excellence from his wrestlers," Lano says. "Matches had to be excellent or he would yell and chew the guys out." This democratic booking philosophy, which favored talent and originality over marketability, is closer to the indie wrestling scene of today than to the monolithic WWE.

The Bay Area’s diversity played a major role in Shire’s booking strategy. He promoted wrestlers of color as some of Big Time Wrestling’s top stars, a savvy move that allowed the multifaceted Bay Area to see itself represented heroically in the ring. Afa Anoa’i Sr., better known to wrestling fans as Afa the Wild Samoan, followed in the footsteps of his legendary uncle, "High Chief" Peter Maivia (Rocky Johnson’s father-In-law), who commanded a massive Pacific Islander fan base. Though he was a journeyman by nature, returning to the Bay to wrestle for Shire’s promotion was always a special experience for the Wild Samoan. "Because we [had] a lot of my Samoan population there, sometime[s] [the] fans [would] get out of control and a riot [would] break out in the crowd," he remembers via e-mail. "But it was all good."

This story demonstrates a common truth in wrestling: when the drama in the ring speaks to one’s own experiences and sensibilities, the event as a whole is that much more fun and engaging.


Fog City Wrestling promoter/cofounder Dominick Jerry started out as a Humboldt County concert promoter before relocating to San Francisco with his wife in 2003. Booking FCW’s matches and storylines, he tells me, gives him the opportunity to play around with the politics of mainstream wrestling, a compelling provisional touch I suspect won’t be on WWE’s agenda any time soon.

Mainstream wrestling is often criticized for its socially conservative slant, a turn-off for many fans whose personal beliefs are less "kill the evil foreigner." But Jerry feels that in a town as singular as San Francisco, a promotion needs to cater to local sensibilities to survive. He cites, among other regional overtures, a handful of appearances by Differ’nt Strokes star Todd Bridges (no doubt drawing from his experiences battling the Gooch) as an appeal to ’80s nostalgia.

Jerry is also interested in the reinvention of character types that a small SF-based promotion would allow for, and quite possibly necessitate. "Wrestling is not a sport that’s very sensitive to race," he tells me over the phone. "But at the same time, it plays on race and it knows it. I see that I have a chance to change things and do things a little different."

He expresses pride in a recent storyline that saw a Middle Eastern wrestler named Sheik Khan Abadi become the promotion’s most popular wrestler, genie pants and all. (Abadi recently relocated to Florida. When I interviewed the East Bay-born wrestler, he fondly recalled his experience wrestling in SF: "They cheered me ’cause they thought I wrestled well and [because] I was wrestling for them. That was one of the greatest feelings ever — to be respected for what I do, and not just typecast for being Middle Eastern.")

The opening match on Fog City Wrestling’s Saturday afternoon card sees your standard square-jawed tough guy face up against longtime California indie star Angel the Hardcore Homo. On the one hand, the persona borders on minstrelsy — it’s a sort of hybrid between the implicit button-pushing of Gorgeous George and lucha libre’s rodeo clown-like "exotico" type. But the match itself tells a less straightforward story. Angel is clearly the hero in the contest, reconfiguring some of the mainstream’s predictable gay panic tropes into a slapstick offensive that plays off his opponent’s increasingly comical discomfort. Toward the end of the match, two teenage-looking guys standing across from me start an "Angel" chant.

On the surface, San Francisco doesn’t seem like the kind of community that goes in for (nonironic) professional wrestling. But scanning the crowd, I notice a sizeable number of bohemian types — an Unknown Pleasures shirt even made an appearance a few shows back. Outside the venue, would they readily admit to their fandom, or at least to their interest in wrestling? Perhaps this insecurity is on its way out.

For a true believer, self-consciousness isn’t a problem. Fog City Wrestling’s Jerry doesn’t see indie wrestling strictly as a subculture. "Everybody knows pro wrestling," he gushes. "Everybody might not admit they like pro wrestling, but everybody does. If it’s on TV, as opposed to Regis and Kelly, you’ll probably put on pro wrestling."


When I ask wrestleophile Mike Lano what the Bay Area has to offer that is missing from mainstream wrestling today, he responds with a common sentiment. "They [pro wrestling territories] were all unique. The television was unique, the talent was unique. Guys were not reading promos off a teleprompter or being told what to say by script writers." Fans today may not be getting an entirely comparable experience to the glory days — the DNA Lounge is a long way from the Cow Palace, for one thing. But the spirit of originality Lano remembers from the Shire days has carried over, bringing with it the simple pleasure of watching two colorful characters go at it on a Saturday afternoon.

The main event of Fog City Wrestling’s Saturday bill is a slice of unadulterated pro wrestling traditionalism. Dylan Drake is one of FCW’s marquee stars. He’s a dapper-looking guy with floppy brown hair of a non-threatening length. His name is an alliteration, like Clark Kent. His hirsute opponent has the biblically sinister moniker Malachai, and sports an enormous beard — wrestling shorthand for pure evil.

During a main event bout, there’s a feeling of conclusiveness to everything, like the ghost of Howard Cosell is narrating the action in the crowd’s collective mind. Each punch or hold becomes an ultimate moment that all preceding punches and holds of the show have foreshadowed. This is one of the last vestiges of Big Fight atmosphere, the Ali-and-Frazier effect, or, in keeping with the wrestling aesthetic, Rocky Balboa and Thunderlips. Sure enough, ironic detachment and snarky asides die an undistinguished death amidst the consecrated buzz.

Whether or not the majority of the audience are wrestling diehards, prodigal childhood fans, or just looking for an excuse to drink during the middle of the day, some dormant instinct takes hold as the fight commences. In true wrestling fashion, the match ends in a massive donnybrook of interference and conveniently bad refereeing, postponing the inevitable denouement for another month or two. This is pro wrestling, after all. We head home to a Sunday morning coming down.

Music listings


Music listings are compiled by Paula Connelly and Cheryl Eddy. Since club life is unpredictable, it’s a good idea to call ahead to confirm bookings and hours. Prices are listed when provided to us. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.



Barcelona, Meese, Seabird, Last Ambassadors Slim’s. 8pm, $13.

Better Than Ezra, 16 Frames Independent. 8pm, $25.

Honey Knockout. 9pm.

Illness, My Revolver, Dammit! El Rio. 8pm, $5.

Kegels, Party Fouls, Jokes For Feelings Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $8.

Lions, Black Robot, Flexx Bronco Thee Parkside. 8pm, $7.

OG Rhythm and Blues Band Rasselas Jazz. 8pm, free.

Kevin Russell Biscuits and Blues. 8pm, $15.

Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players Red Devil Lounge. 8pm, $10.


Depeche Mode, Peter, Bjorn and John Shoreline Amphitheater, One Amphitheater Pkwy, Mtn View; 7:30pm, $35.50-99.


"B3 Wednesdays feat. Amendola vs. Blades" Coda. 9pm, $7.

Diana Krall Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF; 8pm, $79.50-125.

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

"Marcus Shelby Jazz Jam" Revolution Café, 3248 22nd St, SF; (415) 642-0474. 8:30pm, free.

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


*"All-Star Tribute to the King of Bakersfield: Buck Owens Birthday Bash" Elbo Room. 8pm, $10. With members of Red Meat, 77 El Deora, B Stars plus Mississipi Mike Wolf, Doug Blumer, and more.

Gaucho, Michael Abraham Jazz Session Amnesia. 8pm, free.

Dan Reed, Manda Mosher Café du Nord. 9:30pm, $15.

Carlos Reyes Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; 1-866-468-3399. 8pm, $30.

Unwed Fathers Plough and Stars. 9pm, free.


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

Fame Bar on Church. 9pm. With rotating DJs.

Fringe Madrone Lounge. 9pm, free. With DJs subOctave and Blondie K spinning indie rock and new wave music videos.

Jam Wednesday Infusion Lounge. 10pm, free. DJ Slick Dee.

Open Mic Night 330 Ritch. 9pm, $7.

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

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

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

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



Buttercream Gang, Raised By Robots, M. Bison Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

Commisure, Room for a Ghost, An Isotope Annie’s Social Club. 8pm, $6.

Dramarama Red Devil Lounge. 8pm, $20.

Tinsley Ellis Biscuits and Blues. 8pm, $18.

Glenn Labs, Greening, Johnny Walnut Grant and Green. 9pm, free.

Photons, X-Ray Press, Huff This!, Chasing Shapes Kimo’s. 9pm.

Skin Like Iron, Young Offenders, Never Healed, Airfix Kits, Dirty Cupcakes Knockout. 9:30pm, $5.

Slowfinger, Orchid, Nylon Heart Attack Slim’s. 9pm, $13.

Society of Rockets, Dominique Leone, Reptiel Café du Nord. 9pm, $10.

Solillaquists of Sound, 40Love, Zutra Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $10.

Trainwreck Riders, Fucking Buckaroos, Pretty Boy Thorson and Fallen Angels Thee Parkside. 9pm, $5.


Kenny Brooks Coda. 9pm, $7.

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

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

"New Frequencies @ YBCA: Musicians Respond to Wallworks" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; 6pm, free with gallery admission ($5-7). With Lisa Mezzacappa and Nightshade/Shimomitsu.

Karen Segal Socha Café, 3235 Mission, SF; (415) 643-6848. 8:30pm, free.

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


Brazil Vox Revolution Café, 3248 22nd St, SF; (415) 642-0474. 8:30pm, free.

Jesse DeNatale, Indiana Hale, Petracovich Amnesia. 9pm, $8.

Flamenco Thursday Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 8pm, 9:30; $12. With Carola Zertuche and Company.

High Country Atlas Café. 8pm, free.

Gregory Isaacs, Native Elements Independent. 9pm, $28.

Shannon Céilí Band Plough and Stars. 9pm, free.

Summer in the City: Meet MoAD Museum of African Diaspora, 685 Mission, SF; (415) 358-7200. 6pm, $10. Featuring live Cuban music and dancing.


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

CakeMIX SF Wish, 1539 Folsom, SF. 10pm, free. DJ Carey Kopp spinning funk, soul, and hip hop.

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

DJ John Lynch Infusion Lounge. 9pm, free.

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

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

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

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

Kissing Booth Make Out Room. 9pm, free. DJs Jory, Commodore 69, and more spinning indie dance, disco, 80’s, and electro.

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

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

Motion Sickness Vertigo, 1160 Polk; (415) 674-1278. 10pm, free. Genre-bending dance party with DJs Sneaky P, Public Frenemy, and D_Ro Cyclist.

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

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



Bad Friends, Complaints, Keeners Annie’s Social Club. 5pm, $5.

"Bowie Ball: Celebrating All Things Bowie!" Great American Music Hall. 8:30pm, $20. With Barry Syska’s Fantasy Orchestra, 5 Cent Coffee, and DJs MzSamantha and Skip.

Burnt, Simpkin Project Grant and Green. 9pm, free.

Conquest for Death, N.N., Acephalix, Ruidos Thee Parkside. 9pm, $5.

*Down, Melvins, Danava, Weedeater Regency Ballroom. 8pm, $30.

Fling, Moller, Nightgowns, Facts on File Knockout. 9pm, $7.

Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Khi Darag!, Brian Kenney Fresno, DJ K-Tel Bottom of the Hill. 10pm, $10. With Last Night’s Fling All-Star Burlesque.

Inspired Flight Otis Lounge, 25 Maiden Lane, SF; (415) 298-4826. 9pm, free.

Larry McCray Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $20.

*New Thrill Parade, Al Qaeda, Dalmacio Von Diamond and the Enochian Keys, Droughter Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $8.

Quantic and His Combo Barbaro Slim’s. 9pm, $20.

Jonahs Reinhardt, Tussle, Windsurf Amnesia. 9pm, $7-10. With Okay-Hole on the records.


Vienna Teng TheatreWorks at Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield, Palo Alto; 8pm, $35.

Wendy Darling, Pinstripe Rebellion, Refunds, Loudmouth Yank Fox Theater. 7pm, $10.


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

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

Larry Carlton Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; 8pm, $47.50.

8 Legged Monster Coda. 10pm, $10.

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

Jack Jones Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $35.

Tin Cup Serenade Revolution Café, 3248 22nd St, SF; (415) 642-0474. 8:45pm, free.


Cuban Nights Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 8:30pm, $15. Latin dancing Buena Vista style with Fito Reinoso, and Eddy and Gabriel Navia.

Georges Lammam Ensemble Peña Pachamama, 1630 Powell, SF; (415) 646-0018. 10:30pm, $15.

JimBo Trout and the Fishpeople, Misisipi Rider Plough and Stars. 9pm.

Sekouba Bambino Diabate Independent. 9pm, $25.

Sila and the Afro Funk Experience Fillmore Center, Fillmore at O’Farrell, SF; (415) 921-1969. 6pm, free.

Spring Creek Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez, SF; (415) 545-5238. 8pm, $15-17.

Zej Socha Café, 3235 Mission, SF; (415) 643-6848. 8:30pm, free.


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

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

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

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

Fo’ Sho! Fridays Madrone. 10pm, $5. DJs Kung Fu Chris, Makossa, and Quickie Mart spin rare grooves, soul, funk, and hip-hop classics.

Free Funk Friday Elbo Room. 10pm, free. With DJs Vinnie Esparza, B-Cause, and guest Asti Spumanti.

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

Go Bang! Deco SF, 510 Larkin St; (415) 346-2025. 10pm, $5. Recreating the diversity and freedom of the 70’s/ 80’s disco nightlife with DJs Eddy Bauer, Flight, Nicky B., Sergio and more.

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

Lovebuzz Annie’s Social Club. 9pm, $5. Rock, classic punk, and 90s with DJs Jawa and Melanie Nelson.

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

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

VSL Friday Vessel, 85 Campton Place, SF; (415) 433-8585. 9pm. With DJ Eve Salvail.



Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers Great American Music Hall. 9pm, $16.

Elin Jr, Minks, Claire El Rio. 4pm, $10-15.

50 Million, Shellshag, Screaming Females, Kreamy Lectric Santa, Reaction Thee Parkside. 9pm, $5.

Fighting Supaks, Paleface, Ledbetter and His Best Bet, Justin Gordon and the Wrecking Ball Café du Nord. 8:30pm, $12.

Git Some, Secret Wars, Olehole Bender’s Bar, 800 S. Van Ness, SF; 10pm, $5.

Havespecialpower, Midnight Strangers, Girl With the Violent Arts Li Po Lounge. 8:30pm, $7.

Iron Maidens, Oreo, Sticks and Stones Annie’s Social Club. 8pm, $15.

Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Eric Krasno and Chapter 2 Fillmore. 9pm, $25.

Leopold and His Fiction, Spyrals, Candy Apple Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

N.A.S.A. Independent. 9pm, $18.

Octopus Project, Birds and Batteries, Don’ts Bottom of the Hill. 10pm, $12.

Earl Thomas Biscuits and Blues. 8 and 10pm, $22.

Wild Child Slim’s. 9pm, $20.


Alphabet Soup Coda. 10pm, $10.

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

Larry Carlton Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; 7 and 9:30pm, $47.50.

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

Jack Jones Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $35.

"New Frequencies @ YBCA: Next Wave of Global Landscape" Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; 8pm, $25. With Tanya Tagaq/KIHNOUA.

Mary Redente Socha Café, 3235 Mission, SF; (415) 643-6848. 8:30pm, free.

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


Ember Plough and Stars. 9pm.

Evening with Accordions Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; (415) 441-4099. 8pm, free. Featuring Rob Reich and Marie Abe.

Here Comes a Big Black Cloud, Fast Love Amnesia. 9pm, $7.

Lucas Revolution Amnesia. 7pm, free.

Matt Morris Revolution Café, 3248 22nd St, SF; (415) 642-0474. 8:45pm, free.

Orquesta Rumba Café The Ramp, 855 Terry Francois, SF; (415) 621-2378. 5pm, free.

Tanya Tagaq with Kihnoua Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; (415) 978-2787. 8pm, $25.


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

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

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

Fred Everything and Olivier Desmet Vessel, 85 Campton Place, SF; (415) 433-8585. 10pm, $10.

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

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

Industry Mighty. 10pm, $25. With DJs Jamie J Sanchez, James Torres, Russ Rich, and more.

Saturday Night Live Fat City, 314 11th St; 10:30pm.

Saturday Night Soul Party Elbo Room. 10pm, $10. With DJs Lucky, Phengren Oswald, and Paul Paul.



Half Handed Cloud, Red Pony Clock, Boat Hemlock Tavern. 9pm, $6.

Loop! Station, Jill Tracy, Nicki Jaine Café du Nord. 8pm, $10.

Love is Chemicals, Aim Low Kid, Solar Powered People Bottom of the Hill. 8pm, $8.


Larry Carlton Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason, SF; 7pm, $47.50.

Lucid Lovers Harris’ Restaurant, 2100 Van Ness, SF; (415) 673-1888. 6:30pm.

Stanley Coda. 9pm, $7.


Emily Anne, Devine;s Jug Band, East River String Band Amnesia. 9pm, $7-10.

Mindia Devi Klein St. John Coltrane Church, 1286 Fillmore, SF; (415) 673-7144. 7pm, $10-25.

Marla Fibish, Erin Shrader, Richard Mandel and friends Plough and Stars. 9pm, free.

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

Grooming the Crow, Lariats of Fire Thee Parkside. 4pm, free.

Rolando Morales Quintet The Ramp, 855 Terry Francois, SF; (415) 621-2378. 5pm, free.

Salsa Sundays El Rio. 4:15pm, $8. With Julio Bravo.


Toby Keith, Trace Adkins Shoreline Amphitheater, One Amphitheater Pkwy, Mtn View; 7:30pm, $20-74.


August T-Dance Ruby Skye. 5pm, $25. With the Perry Twins.

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

Dub Mission Elbo Room. 9pm, $6. Dub, roots, and classic dancehall with DJ Sep, Ludachris, and guest Ross Hogg.

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

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

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

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

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



Can’t Find a Villain, King Robot, Construct Existence Crew, Paulie Rhyme, Beta Central, Monica Ramos Elbo Room. 9pm, $5.

Dicky Betts and Great Southern Slim’s. 8pm, $30.

Stereo Freakout, Drunken Hu?, Serenity Now! Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $8.


Third Eye Blind Fox Theater. 8pm, $29.50.


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

Yellowjackets with Mike Stern Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $20-26.


Free Bluegrass Monday Amnesia. 6:30pm, free.


Arcade Lookout SF, 2600 16th St., SF; 8pm, free. With DJs Jory and Johnny B spinning alt. 80’s and new wave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Antioquia, Sex With No Hands Elbo Room. 9pm, $7.

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

Pissed Jeans, Mi Ami, How to Make Swords Bottom of the Hill. 9pm, $12.

Scrabbel, Pregnant, Imra Hemlock Tavern. 8pm, $6.

Emiliana Torrini, Anya Marina Great American Music Hall. 8pm, $20.

Max Tundra Café du Nord. 8:30pm, $12.


Dave Parker Quintet Rasselas Jazz. 8pm.

Euliptian Quartet Socha Café, 3235 Mission, SF; (415) 643-6848. 8:30pm, free.

"Jazz Mafia Tuesdays" Coda. 9pm, $7. With Shotgun Wedding Quintet.

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

Yellowjackets with Mike Stern Yoshi’s San Francisco. 8 and 10pm, $20-26.


Misterioso Revolution Café, 3248 22nd St, SF; (415) 642-0474. 8:30pm, free.

Slow Session with Vince Keehan and friends Plough and Stars. 9pm, free.


Drunken Monkey Annie’s Social Club. 9pm, free. With DJ Blackstone.

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

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

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


Psychic Dream Astrology



March 21-April 19

You have some secret desire you may not even be admitting to yourself, and it’s motivating you to be a tad shady with folks. When you’re not being true to yourself, you can only be so real with others. Look at what you are feeling — even if you don’t like it — so you can get those feet of yours back on the ground.


April 20-May 20

Hoarding never makes people happy. There’s no room for the new if you don’t let go of the old. As shitty as it may be to get rid of things, attitudes, or relationships, that’s just what you have to do, Taurus. There is all of this amazing potential in front of you, but you’ve got to let go of all those strings you have attaching you to your past.


May 21-June 21

We are all just animals: messy, instinct-based beasts. This week, channel your inner beastliness into all you do with the wisdom and foresight of your human potential. Frig whatever role you’ve been playing and find what’s most true for you. Don’t hide behind habit. Get up your courage and be a smarty-pants wild thing instead.


June 22-July 22

When you get emotionally blocked, life stagnates quickly. Fears about love are coming up for you: there’s no way around it. If you’re not getting your needs met, ask yourself why. Do folks know what you need but don’t want to put out? Do you need to be clearer? Figure it out so you can move on.


July 23-Aug. 22

You’re such a creative person — why is it so hard for you to bust through your relationship patterns and be real? Try to be more loving as you assert your limits with others. The more direct you are about your needs, the more flexible you can be about others’ needs. Integrate your internal opposites for a more authentic you.


Aug. 23-Sept. 22

Admit it: you are putting all that careful energy into being painstaking with things so that you can build up to the Earth’s biggest worrygasm. You get a little thrill of accomplishment from having a really good problem to stress over. Now your secret is out! Outgrow this broken love and develop a new relationship to getting things dealt with.


Sept. 23-Oct. 22

Everybody’s changing, and if you don’t start change too, your same-old, same-old will be out of step, when once it was just right. In your efforts to hold your own, you run the risk of being inflexible, and that shit’ll backfire on you. Never forget to be receptive when you stand tall, lest you alienate others.


Oct. 23-Nov. 21

You can’t build a time machine. No matter how much you lament what ails you in the present, it won’t change things. This is a real cut-your-losses kind of moment, where you can make the best of your situation by accepting it and working with what you’ve got in this reality.


Nov. 22-Dec. 21

Your home life needs care and attention, Sag. You deserve a spot that you are happy to be in, a place that serves as a sanctuary from the rushing and buzzing of your life. Carve yourself a piece of peace in your dwelling, even if it means leaving your over-crowded apartment and finding a café where you can sit and regroup.


Dec. 22-Jan. 19

Pick your battles wisely. You are so worried about so many things you are missing out on the opportunities in front of you. Avoid the deadly lure of FOMOs (fear of missing out), and make some damn decisions. Consider your own well-being and what you know of your self so you can improve your life, not just react to it.


Jan. 20-Feb. 18

Not knowing the answers is really hard on a Know-It-All, and can induce panic where once there was a smooth operator. You are not supposed to have the answers right now; it’s just time to watch things unfold around you. Rushing and pushing will backfire.


Feb. 19-March 20

It looks like you are caught up in some serious stress. It may feel like the mountain in front of you is so high, you’d rather turn back than climb it. Look at your own conflicts about what you want, because your ambiguities are adding to the mess you’re in. Be open to letting something new enter your life. *

Jessica Lanyadoo has been a psychic dreamer for 15 years. Check out her Web site at or contact her for an astrology or intuitive reading at (415) 336-8354 or

YACHT rocks



SONIC REDUCER The path of true love — even the healing, heartfelt, pathologically curious, perpetually vision-seeking path of Newest Age, dance-punk, pop-mantra true love — is never smooth. Nor bruise-free, when reality — and task of where exactly to place those four feet — meets calamity.

"There were kinks to work out when Claire joined the band," says YACHT’s Jona Bechtolt on the inclusion of kindred spirit and soul mate (and writer, artist, and musician) Claire L. Evans in his once one-man project. "We didn’t know how to work in each other’s space."

"We still don’t," Evans cheerfully interjects.

"I stepped on Claire the other night!" exclaims Bechtolt, 28. But like so many other things in the curiouser-and-curiouser whirl of YACHT (Young Americans Challenging High Technology), what might seem like an issue — or grounds for a major band or couple’s squabble — is actually a point of modest, optimistic pride.

"We are incredibly paranoid," he continues. The couple first met four years ago while playing the same basement noise show in Los Angeles. "We don’t want to play the same show twice. I’ve played in countless rock bands before, so I know what it’s like to play the same memorized parts again and again. That sort of thing doesn’t work for me as a human being, though I’m not putting those bands down at all. We want to provide an alternative to rock performance, using PowerPoint, video screens …"

"We want to make it a two-way performance where the audience is a part of it," adds Evans, 24.

"We want to break the rules of honoring personal space," Bechtolt says, laughing. "We want to enter people’s personal space physically and emotionally and visually!"

To that end, YACHT wants to take its performance to the audience floor, through the crowd itself, into caves and high schools, or onto a barge boasting a sustainable geodesic dome and drifting down the Hudson River — just as they did the other night under the aegis of WFMU. Space and all the physical and psychic mysteries, conspiracy theories, and belief systems, within and without, are a preoccupation for the pair, who, over the phone from NYC, come across like wonderfully wise, fresh-headed, and all-American enthusiasts — wild-child music ‘n’ art makers in a persistent state of evangelical high energy.

Marfa, Texas’ mystery lights made their way, for sure, onto YACHT’s new album, See Mystery Lights (DFA): the otherwise-Portland, Ore.-based couple relocated to the town for an unofficial residency to study the phenomenon and expand on the seeds of the LP: eight minute-long mantras. "We gave the first version of the record to DFA and asked them for notes, and they were like, ‘Whoa, this is really weird.’ It was eight minutes long," says Bechtolt. "They were freaked out and said, ‘It’s really good, but how do we put it out?’ They gave us the challenge to turn those mantras in pop songs."

(Though never fear, those mantras aren’t lost to the ages: the pair plans to release them on 100 lathe-cut copper discs, as well as a slew of companion works including a "bible" of sorts and software that will allow followers to keep tabs on YACHT. "We’re really into objects right now," confesses Bechtolt.)

And what pop. Lights twinkles then zigzags with all the frenetic future-boogie ("Summer Song," "It’s Boring /You Can Live Anywhere You Want") and raw pop hooks ("I’m in Love with a Ripper") of a so-called DFA combo, as well as nuggets of life-and-death wisdom ("Ring the Bell," "The Afterlife"). YACHT appears to be making music that harks to less than widely referenced sources like Art of Noise, Malcolm McLaren, and other awkward yet insinuating, conceptually-minded pop experimentalists of the ’80s — and those final seconds when the pop charts seemed to skeptically embrace the musical musings of so many art school refugees.

"There’s a repetitive nature built into pop and dance music, so for these atonal mantras we were working on, it turned out to be a better way to disseminate our message," Evans explains. "We’re excited that you can hide a lot in pop music. You can appreciate it on two levels." Two true. *


Fri/7, 8:30 p.m., $15

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF



The crafty psych magicians are dormant no more. With Spindrift and Ty Segall. Fri/7, 9 p.m., $16. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF.


Party with us, punkers, for la causa. With Bar Feeders and Fucking Buckeroos. Sat/8, 4 p.m., $8–$20 sliding scale donation for the SF Tenants Union. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF.


Sunn O))) worshipers might appreciate the Portland, Ore., foursome’s black atmospherics, anarchic electronics, and love o’ the heavy. With Barn Owl, Squim, and Oaxacan. Sun/9, 9 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.

The algae solution


The San Francisco Bay may soon host a dramatic new environmental project that backers say could solve three problems at once: clean wastewater, remove carbon from the atmosphere, and produce biodiesel fuel. Yet it’s gotten remarkably little attention.

"For the most part, people are just ignoring me," says Jonathan Trent, a researcher at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, who is one of the driving forces behind the project.

The new technology Trent and his colleagues have created is called OMEGA (Off-shore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae). The idea is to grow large colonies of freshwater algae in what amounts to large plastic bags floating in the bay.

Wastewater from local sewage plants and carbon sequestered from power plants would provide food for the algae, which then produce oxygen and freshwater along with an oil that can be refined into fuel.

The OMEGAs are giant semi-permeable membranes; the design allows freshwater in but keeps saltwater out.

Using algae for biofuel isn’t new — there are a number of algae farms on land. But they require large amounts of real estate and fresh water and enough electricity to keep the water moving.

In this case, light from the sun provides the energy, and the motion of the waves stirs the algae around.

Trent is looking at ways to collect the freshwater that gets released by the OMEGAs — potentially another major breakthrough for a state desperately short of water.

Trent has shopped his project all over the world and many countries have showed interest, but he believes San Francisco is the perfect fit. "The people of San Francisco really have an enlightened attitude and are aware that something needs to be done to fix the problems we’ve created," he told us. "It’s a great place to demonstrate to the world that this is a feasible technology."

The OMEGA project still faces political hurdles. Trent recently survived an internal audit. And U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) has been critical of federal spending for biofuel projects.

But the scientist isn’t discouraged. "Actually I’m glad we have been audited," he said. "I’ve been able to get attention and show that not only does our system not use water, it actually produces clean water."

On July 29 the project received approval for an $800,000 grant from the California Energy Commission. According to Trent, the approval for the grant was ready for approval months earlier, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to put it on hold because of the budget crisis.

The CEC grant is coming just in time. A previous grant, from Google, was due to run out at the end of September. "We’re optimistic that if people see that the CEC has invested, maybe others will want to invest," Trent said. "But we need more than just financial resources — we need brain power as well. The next step is to find engineers to really make this a workable option."

Trent would like to get a working model up and running within the next 18 months and hopes to see a full-scale operation in place in five years.

San Francisco may be the first city to host OMEGA. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission staffers have met with Trent and are cautiously optimistic. "Although it is just at the preliminary stages of discussion, it doesn’t dampen our excitement about the project," said Tyrone Jue, spokesperson for the SFPUC. "We have to know what good we will get out of it and if it is feasible in this area."

Environmentalists caution that it’s far from a perfect solution to the planet’s problems. Sierra Club staffer John Rizzo notes that "biofuels themselves are not a good solution. It’s a good bridge, but they are still burned and create carbons that are bad for the planet." In the short term, however, it sure beats drilling for oil off the California coast.

The blackout factor


This chart shows how customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. face far more power outages than customers of any of the public power agencies in the Bay Area

Noel Birbeck makes signs. In a low, nondescript building tucked into a south of Market side street, a printing machine spits out personal greetings and corporate messages in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Until the power goes out.

"We print things that are up to 50 feet long," said Birbeck, the business manager of Budget Signs. "If the power goes out at foot 35, we have to start the printing process all over and throw out all that time and money that went into the initial printing."

And that, unfortunately, has been happening far too often. In fact, a Guardian review of available data shows that customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. lose power much more frequently than customers of municipally-owned and operated utilities.

That costs money and harms the local business climate.

"[Any disruption] is a huge deal," Birbeck said. "If we’re in the middle of a deadline and a customer expects something at a certain time, that can cost Budget Signs a huge amount of money. No one is going to pay you for something that is only kinda done."

The last major outage cost Budget Signs more than $300 in employee and company time as Birbeck and her workers waited for the power to return. It’s a manageable amount, but she insists she can’t put a price on the inconvenience, the uncertainty, and the potential loss of business.

Reliable power is a basic requirement of most businesses. Restaurants and markets need refrigeration, factories need to power production lines, office buildings run large computing systems, retailers need to run cash registers, lights, and credit card machines. An unexpected power outage can cost San Francisco businesses thousands of dollars.

A 2001 study by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates the cost of power disruptions to California businesses is between $11.5 million and $17.8 million annually.

No utility can guarantee year-round power without disruptions, surges, brownouts, or severe weather-related outages. But reliability varies widely among California utilities.

PG&E breaks its service area into districts, and, according to reports it submits annually to the California Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco customers experienced an average of two hours of non-weather-related outages per year over the last six years. (Weather-related incidents are not reported at the district level.)

That’s better than the three-hour average across PG&E’s entire California service area. Still, PG&E customers in San Francisco lose power, on average, 2.5 times as often as customers of other Bay Area utilities.

The Palo Alto Utilities Department, Silicon Valley Power in Santa Clara, Alameda Municipal Power, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District have dramatically better records, ranging from 82 minutes a year of outage time in Sacramento to only 16 minutes in Santa Clara — and these numbers include all weather-related events.

In other words, the municipal utilities deliver power more consistently and at considerably lower rates — even before factoring in PG&E’s impending rate hike of 3.3 percent to 5.4 percent.

"We consider any widespread blackout a major event," said Larry Owens, division manager at Silicon Valley Power. "Systems can be managed to minimize storm related events — we do [that]."


There are a number of reasons why these public power sources are more reliable than PG&E: size of the service area, age of the infrastructure, administration of the organization.

"The general concept is that the more complex the topography is and the older the urban areas are … the more unreliable the system is going to be," said Mark Loy, a ratepayer advocate at the CPUC.

"For PG&E there are negative powers of scale," he continued. "They are so large and spread out that being bigger actually makes things more difficult for them to fix. In San Francisco, the circuitry PG&E uses hasn’t even been mapped out in some places, so it is all haphazard and harder to keep on top of."

Public power agencies also have more incentive to invest in maintaining their infrastructure.

Patrick Valath, manager of electric engineering at the Palo Alto Utilities Department, attributes his city’s annual average of only 65 minutes of power disruption to an "aggressive and sustained infrastructure replacement program that is spread over many years."

Alameda Municipal Power’s Alan Hangar said the annual average of only 25 minutes of outage in that city is due to years of building stability and redundancy into the system.

Santa Clara is by far the most reliable utility company in the area, Owens said, and is often ranked second in the nation. "Our current operating philosophy is to load the system with only half of what it is capable of carrying," he said. "That allows us to switch a customer to another circuit quickly, so we restore their power and make repairs on our time, not their time."

He also noted that the vast majority of Santa Clara’s power lines are underground, making them far less susceptible to damage from storms, accidents, and other interference.

Municipal utilities have more freedom than investor-owned companies like PG&E to shift the focus away from profits, revenue, and shareholder returns toward quality and customer satisfaction.

"We are customer-driven," Owens said. "They repeatedly tell us that reliability is the No. 1 priority. The cost of power is second. We have some customers who say they lose $1 million a minute in an outage, and that by far trumps the cost they pay for energy."


Business owners don’t need studies to tell them they are losing money because of PG&E.

Arienne Landry, owner of Just for You Café in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, faced a blackout during lunch service at her café several months ago.

"The power was out for four or five hours," she said. "During that time I’m paying people to work, but I can’t serve customers without power. I probably lost a couple of grand in sales. It’s not a severe loss, but it takes a little while to catch up."

Birbeck of Budget Signs remembers a power disruption that occurred when she was in the middle of two large printing jobs. She and an employee returned to the shop at 10:30 p.m. after a neighbor alerted her that the power had returned. She said they worked through the night to complete the jobs on deadline.

"They were our two largest jobs for our two largest companies at the time," she said. "Both jobs were over $10,000. Potential loss of either or both of these companies would have been disastrous to a small company. I really couldn’t even put a price on it."

And the cost of an outage doesn’t stop at that initial business. If the power goes out at Birbeck’s sign shop and a sign doesn’t get finished and a deadline isn’t met, Birbeck might lose money or even a client. But that client might have needed that sign for a business event, and that business event may have needed that client … and the losses can go on and on.

Those ripples are larger and go farther in many high tech industries. Larry Owens of Silicon Valley Power said that consistent, reliable power is especially important for the high tech firms located in Santa Clara, including Applied Technologies, Inc., McAfee, Inc., and Intel Corp.

"There are some processes that require a 21-day burn in," he said. "If there is a power outage, they have to start all over again. An outage can cause a company to lose market share or dominance or preferred vendor status. It ripples out a long way."

Some companies have such sensitive systems that a drop in voltage for a mere fraction of a second can shut them down and require rebooting.

"Our customers have become power-quality sensitive," Larry Owens said. "It doesn’t take an outage to harm a business. A fault on a transmission line causes the whole system to dip, a voltage dip. If you have a heavy load, it knocks the voltage down for milliseconds. If it drops enough, companies’ systems drop out."

State Sen. Mark Leno is intimately familiar with the problem — he owns Budget Signs. And he has called on the California Public Utilities Commission to investigate the problem.

"As a San Francisco small business owner, I am personally aware of the lost business I experience as a result of PG&E’s performance failures," Leno said in a press release. A June 18 letter Leno sent to the CPUC noted: "As the commission considers PG&E’s request to upgrade its grid, I would ask you to include both an investigation of these problems and PG&E’s proposed solutions to them."

Almost a month later Michael R. Peevey, president of the CPUC, responded, arguing that PG&E’s reliability rate in 2008 was better in the previous few years. He also pointed out that the utility has a formal process for filing claims and that the commission has no authority over system reliability.

That, Leno said, is unacceptable. "From reading that letter, one would never know that the mission of the California PUC is to be the protector of the ratepayer," he told us. "The ratepayers are being badly served by PG&E and the CPUC."


In theory, state law requires PG&E to reimburse businesses for losses caused by blackouts. A business owner or manager can find the claim form on PG&E’s Web site or can call the claims office. Each case is assigned to one of the 21 claims investigators who cover the utility’s service area. With the help of supporting documents, investigators look into the occurrence, determine PG&E’s liability and the degree of monetary loss, and compensate the business accordingly. All, according the Web site, within an average of 30 days.

Emily Mitra, owner of Dosa, which operates Indian restaurants in the Mission District and the Fillmore District followed this process — and it wasn’t that simple.

On Dec. 18, 2008, a PG&E transformer blew and both locations of Dosa lost power. Mitra had to contend with food spoilage, staff costs, down equipment, lost business, all of which added up to about $12,000.

"We filed claims, but it was a long process," she said. "A check came for the Valencia Street location immediately but for the Fillmore location, PG&E didn’t even have record of an outage."

After three months of badgering PG&E to no avail, Mitra said she contacted Sup. Ross Mirkarimi’s office and the Small Business Commission.

"I was ready to sue them," she said. "I had dozens of witnesses, but that didn’t seem to faze them. It could have been a coincidence that they found the data right after we talked to the Small Business Commission. But it was a pretty quick turnaround after that."

A check arrived for the full amount of the claim. But Mitra couldn’t claim compensation for the time, energy, and frustration the claims process cost her over its three-month duration.

Birbeck told us PG&E never informed her that there was a formal claims process. "No one ever mentioned a claim to me — that has never been offered at all," she said. That’s a common complaint — although the forms are on PG&E’s Web site, the utility doesn’t widely promote or advertise that fact.

PG&E also asks business owners to provide a slew of paperwork ranging from tax records and bank statements to payroll records, revenue and expense statements, and sales receipts.

"We had to give them a lot of data," Mitra said. Because Dosa’s records are mostly digital and automated, supplying them to PG&E was the least of her problems. But, she conceded, "if you don’t run your business in a way that keeps all that data, it would be a pain in the ass."

Of course, the claims process does nothing to address issues of reliability. Neither does it guarantee that Mitra’s refrigerators won’t fail without notice, leaving her without food to serve.

It is, however, another reminder that San Francisco is not being well-served by its private utility monopoly.

Fixing PG&E’s blackout problem


EDITORIAL The electricity that San Franciscans buy from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. isn’t just expensive — it’s unreliable. That’s what figures from the California Public Utilities Commission show (see "The blackout factor, page 8). In fact, PG&E has more blackouts than any of the public power agencies in the Bay Area.

That has a significant impact on local businesses — but neither City Hall nor the small business community is paying much attention to a multimillion dollar problem.

During the worst days of the California energy crisis, rolling blackouts were a regular event, and the press and public talked constantly about the impact of power outages on businesses and the economy. Now that the worst of that crisis is over, many blackouts get no news media attention at all. But the problem is still serious: reliable power is critical to most business in the Bay Area, and even short-term outages can hit the bottom line.

That’s why public power agencies like Silicon Valley Power in Santa Clara and Palo Alto’s municipal utility put substantial resources into infrastructure upgrades and repairs. PG&E, which as a private company seeks to keep costs down to fatten profits and reward highly paid executives, has fallen far behind on its system upgrades. That’s why, for example, underground explosions keep happening in San Francisco, shorting out power systems and plunging neighborhoods like the Tenderloin into blackouts.

State law requires PG&E to pay claims for economic damage caused by system failures. Restaurants that lose frozen food, for example, can fill out a form, go through a cumbersome process of proving the extent of the losses, and get reimbursed. But PG&E rarely advertises or promotes that program, and lots of small businesses know nothing about it or never manage to file claims.

And even the claim process doesn’t cover lost business, lost customers, and the loss of reputation.

State Sen. Mark Leno, who owns a small sign shop (and has suffered from blackouts) has asked the California Public Utilities Commission to investigate PG&E’s reliability and mandate that the company meet basic standards for keeping the lights on. But so far, that agency is ducking. Leno has promised legislation if he gets no results from the CPUC, and he should proceed with a bill that would set minimum reliability standards for private utilities and provide significant penalties for failing to meet those targets.

San Francisco needs to take action on the local level, too. The supervisors should hold hearings on electricity reliability and demand that PG&E executives explain the reason system failures are so much higher here than in other Bay Area communities with public power systems. The Small Business Commission should set up (and publicize) a process for filing complaints about PG&E and include information about filing claims in its outreach material.

And as the city continues to wallow in budgetary disaster, city officials (and small business groups) should take note of the lesson here. Public power is not only cheaper — it’s more reliable. And that means it’s good for business and the San Francisco economy. *

Editorial: Fixing PG&E’s blackout problem


State law requires PG&E to pay claims for economic damage caused by system failures.

EDITORIAL The electricity that San Franciscans buy from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. isn’t just expensive — it’s unreliable. That’s what figures from the California Public Utilities Commission show (see “The blackout factor, page 8). In fact, PG&E has more blackouts than any of the public power agencies in the Bay Area.

That has a significant impact on local businesses — but neither City Hall nor the small business community is paying much attention to a multimillion dollar problem.

During the worst days of the California energy crisis, rolling blackouts were a regular event, and the press and public talked constantly about the impact of power outages on businesses and the economy. Now that the worst of that crisis is over, many blackouts get no news media attention at all. But the problem is still serious: reliable power is critical to most business in the Bay Area, and even short-term outages can hit the bottom line.

Enclosed 49ers stadium in Santa Clara?


Text by Sarah Phelan

The draft EIR for the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara states that the proposed construction will result “in significant cumulative transportation, air quality and global climate change impacts.”

According to the study, the significant unavoidable impacts of the proposal include a substantial increase in ambient noise levels during large stadium events, temporary noise impacts from construction, regional air pollutants in excess of established thresholds, significant impacts on 17 intersections on 8 weekday evenings a year, and on two local intersections on 42 weekend days.

It could also result in the abandonment of active raptor nests or the destruction of other migratory birds’ nests.

And expose construction workers and future site users to contaminated soil, airborne asbestos particles, and lead-based paint.

The proposed site is located within the worst-case release impact zone for two toxic gas facilities and thus, “could expose event attendees to toxic chemicals.”

Then there is the fact that it could impact “unknown buried prehistoric and/or historic resources.”

And numerous BBQ activities within 700 feet of neighboring residences “could result in odor complaints”

What impact this draft EIR will have on Santa Clara voters when they go to the ballot next March remains unclear.

But a quick skim through this 336-page report finds it concluding that other alternatives, including Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed site at Hunters Point Shipyard, are mostly deemed inconsistent with the 49ers objectives.

“The costs and time required for hazardous materials clean up, infrastructure and roadway/transit improvements, and permitting make the Hunters Point site inconsistent with the following objectives: locate the stadium on a site that can be readily assembled and that enables the development of the stadium within budget and on schedule; locate the stadium on a site that is served by existing streets and highway infrastructure adequate to reasonably accommodate local and regional game-day automobile circulation.”

The existing Candlestick Point site, as well as Pier 70, Pier 80, Pier 90-94 backlands, Baylands, San Francisco Airport, Moffett Airfield, Zanker Road, San Jose State, Santa Clara Fairgrounds, a reduced stadium size alternative and an enclosed stadium alternative are also evaluated.

Ultimately the report concludes that “the enclosed stadium alternative would meet all of the project proponent’s objectives.”

“In addition, this alternative would reduce impacts from crowd noise in the stadium…and would eliminate the visible light increases,” the draft EIR continues. ” Energy use would increase to some extent with the enclosed stadium because it would require more of the stadium area to be climate controlled. An enclosed stadium would, however, allow for a variety of design features that would at least partially offset energy consumption. This alternative is environmentally superior to the proposed project.”

Best of the Bay 2009: Shopping






Sure, you can buy anything you want on the Internet, but there’s still a certain charm in entering a store whose items have been carefully chosen to delight the eye in three dimensions. That’s the idea behind Perch, Zoel Fages’s homage to all things charming and cheeky, from gifts to home décor. Do you need a set of bird feet salt-and-pepper shakers? A rhinoceros-head shot glass? A ceramic skull-shaped candleholder that grows "hair" as the wax drips? Of course not. But do you want them? The minute you enter the sunny, sweet Glen Park shop, the obvious answer will be yes. And for those gifty items you do need — scented candles and soaps, letterpress greeting cards, handprinted wrapping paper — Perch is perfect too. We’d recommend you stop by just to window-shop, but who are we kidding? You can’t visit here without taking something home.

654 Chenery, SF. (415) 586-9000,


How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb? None: LED light bulbs last longer than environmentalists. If you think that joke’s funny — or at least get why it’s supposed to be — you might just be the target market for Green Zebra. Based on the idea that environmentally aware consumers like to save money as much as their Costco-loving neighbors, this book melds the concept of a coupon book with the creed of environmental responsibility. It’s a virtual directory of deals at local businesses trying to work outside the world of pesticidal veggies and gas-guzzling SUVs. Anne Vollen and Sheryl Cohen’s vision now comes in two volumes — one for San Francisco, and one for the Peninsula and Silicon Valley — featuring more than 275 exclusive offers from indie bookstores, art museums, coffee houses, organic restaurants, pet food stores, and just about anywhere else you probably already spend your money (and wouldn’t mind spending less).

(415) 346-2361,


So you need a salad spinner, some kitty litter, a birthday card for your sister, and a skein of yarn, but you don’t feel like going to four different stores to check everything off the list? Face it, you’re lazy. But, you’re also in luck. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Standard 5 and 10, a one-stop wonderland in Laurel Village that caters to just about every imaginable whim, need, and desire of serious shoppers and procrastinators alike. Don’t be fooled by the large red Ace sign on the storefront — this is not merely a hardware store (although it can fulfill your hardware needs, of course). It’s an everything store. Walking the aisles here is a journey through consumerism at its most diverse. Greeting cards and tabletop tchotchkes fade into rice cookers then shower curtains, iron-on patches, Webkinz, motor oil…. It’s a dizzying array of stuff you need and stuff you simply want.

3545 California, SF. (415) 751-5767,


Maybe we don’t have flying cars yet, but with video chatting, iPhones, and automated vacuum cleaners, we’re pretty close to living in the imaginary future The Jetsons made magical. Is it any wonder that, while loving our new technologies (hello, Kindle), we’ve also developed a culturewide nostalgia for simpler times? A perfect example is the emergence of steampunk — perhaps familiar to the mainstream as jewelry made of watch parts and cars crafted to look like locomotives. There also seems to be a less expensive, less industrial trend for the pastimes of yore: Croquet. Talk radio. And board games. The last of which is the basis of Just Awesome, the Diamond Heights shop opened by Portland escapee Erik Macsh as a temple to old-fashioned charms. Here you can pick up a myriad of boxes full of dice, cards, and plastic pieces. Head home with Clue, one of the Monopoly iterations (was Chocolate-opoly really necessary?), or a new game that came out while you were distracted by Nintendo Wii. You can even open the box and try a round or two in the shop. How’s that for old-world service?

816 Diamond, SF. (415) 970-1484,


The nice thing about having a sister, a roommate, or a tolerable neighbor who’s exactly your size is that there’s always someone else’s closet to raid when your own is looking dismal. But what to do when you live alone, your neighbor’s not answering your calls, and you desperately need an attention-getting outfit right now? Make a new best friend: Shaye McKenney of La Library. The friendly fashionista will let you borrow a pair of leather hot pants for a Beauty Bar boogie or a German knit couture gown for that gold-digging date to the opera, all for a small pay-by-the-day price. You can even bring your makeup and get ready for the evening in front of the antique mirrors in her socialist street shop. It’s all the fun of sharing, without having to lend out any of your stuff.

380 Guerrero, SF. (415) 558-9481,


Need clothes a rockstar would wear but a starving musician can afford? Look no further than Shotwell, whose blend of designer duds and vintage finds are worthy of the limelight and (relatively) easy on your budget. Think jeans with pockets the size of guitar picks, sculptural black dresses, handpicked grandpa sweaters, and reconstructed ’80s rompers that can be paired with lizard skin belts or dollar sign boots, all for less than the cutting-edge designer labels would suggest they should cost. And it’s not just for the ladies. Michael and Holly Weaver stock their adorable boutique with clothing and accessories for all chromosomal combinations. The concept’s become such a success that Shotwell’s moving from its old locale to a bigger, better space. All we can say is, rock on.
320 Grant, SF. (415) 399-9898,


The best stores are like mini-museums, displaying interesting wares in such a way that they’re almost as fun to peruse as they are to take home. Park Life takes this concept one step further by being a store (wares in the front are for sale) and a gallery (featuring a rotating selection of local contemporary artists’ work). No need to feel guilty for window-shopping: you’re simply checking out the Rubik’s Cube alarm clock, USB flash drive shaped like a fist, and set of "heroin" and "cocaine" salt-and-pepper shakers on your way to appreciating the paintings in the back, right? And if you happen to leave with an arty coffee-table book, an ironic silk-screen T-shirt, or a Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, that’s just a bonus.

220 Clement, SF. (415) 386-7275,


In a world replete with crates, barrels, Williams, and Sonomas, it’s easy to forget there’s such a thing as an independent cooking store. But Cooks Boulevard is just that: an adorable, one-stop shop for reasonably priced cooking paraphernalia, from a pastry scale or Le Creuset to a candy mold or stash of wooden spoons. And if the shop doesn’t have what you need, the friendly staff will order it for you. In fact, this Noe Valley gem has everything the big stores have, including online ordering, nationwide shipping, and a well-kept blog of missives about the foodie universe. It even offers cooking classes, on-site knife sharpening, community events such as food drives and book clubs, and CSA boxes of local organic produce delivered to neighborhood clientele. With knowledgeable service and well-stocked shelves, the Boulevard makes it easy for home cooks and professional chefs to shop local.

1309 Castro, SF. (415) 647-2665,


No sleep ’til Brooklyn? Fine. But no style ’til you reach the Big Apple? We just can’t give you license for that kind of ill, especially since the Brooklyn Circus came to town last July. With its East Coast–style awning, living room vibe, and indie hip-hop style, this boutique might just be the thing to keep those homesick for NYC from buying that JetBlue ticket for one … more … week. Want to save your cash just in case? You’re welcome to chill out on the leather sofas and listen to Mos Def mixtapes. At the store you can soak in the charm of the Fillmore’s colorful energy and history, while checking out the trends that blend Frank Sinatra and Kanye West almost seamlessly. Sure, you could visit the Chicago outpost before going to the original in the store’s namesake city, but why bother? Next year’s selection will include an expanded line of locally produced goodies — all available without having to brave a sweltering Big City summer.

1525 Fillmore, SF. (415) 359-1999,


I know. It’s July. The last thing you want to do is think about that stupid holiday shopping season that’ll dominate the entire universe in about three months. But the gift baskets at La Cocina are worth talking about year-round, not only because purchasing one supports a fantastic organization (dedicated to helping low-income entrepreneurs develop, grow, and establish their businesses) but because the delightful packages really are great gifts for any occasion. Whether it’s your boss’s birthday, your friend’s dinner party, or simply time to remind your grandmother in the nursing home that you’re thinking of her, these baskets full of San Francisco goodness are a thoughtful alternative to flower bouquets and fruit collections ordered through corporations. Orders might include dark chocolate-<\d>covered graham crackers from Kika’s Treats, spicy yucca sticks, toffee cookies from Sinful Sweets, roasted pumpkin seeds, or shortbread from Clairesquare, starting at $23. Everything will come with a handwritten note and a whole lot of love.


Aqua Forest Aquarium has reinvented the concept of fish in a bowl. The only store in the nation dedicated to a style of decorating aquariums like natural environments, Aqua Forest boasts an amazing display of live aquatic landscapes that seem directly transplanted from more idyllic waters. With good prices, knowledgeable staff, a focus on freshwater life, and a unique selection of tropical fish, the shop is not only proof that aquarium stores need not be weird and dingy, but that your home fish tank can be a thriving ecosystem rather than a plastic environment with a bubbling castle (OK, a thriving ecosystem with a bubbling castle). Part pet store, part live art gallery, Aqua Forest is worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a sailfin leopard pleco.

1718 Fillmore, SF. (415) 929-8883,


Remember when we all joked that Whole Foods should be called Whole Paycheck? Little did we realize the joke would be on us when the only paper in our purses would be a Whole Pink Slip. In the new economy, some of us can’t afford the luxury of deciding between organic bananas or regular ones — we’re trying to figure out which flavor of ramen keeps us full the longest. Luckily, Duc Loi Supermarket opened in the Mission just in time. This neighborhood shop is big, bright, clean, well stocked, cheap, and diverse, with a focus on Asian and Latino foods. Here you can get your pork chops and pig snouts, salmon and daikon, tofu and tortilla chips — and still have bus fare for the ride home. In fact, young coconut milk is only 99 cents a can, a whole dollar less than at Whole Foods.

2200 Mission, SF. (415) 551-1772


Some people go their entire lives buying replacement 20-packs of tube socks from Costco, socks whose suspicious blend of elastic, petroleum products, and God-knows-what signals to wearers and viewers alike: Warm, shwarm! Fit, shmit! Style, shmyle! Other people, even if they keep their socks encased in boots or shoes, want to know that their foot coverings are just one more indicator of their fashion — and common — sense. Those people go to Rabat in Noe Valley, where the sock racks look like a conjuring of the chorus of "Hair": "curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered, and confettied; bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied." Furthermore, the socks are mostly made from recognizable materials like wool, cotton, or fleece. As for you sensible-shoe and wingtip types, not to worry. Rabat also stocks black and white anklets and nude-colored peds.

4001 24th St., SF (415) 282-7861.


Don’t let the small storefront at Alexander Book Company deter you — this three-story, independent bookstore is packed with stuff that you won’t find at Wal-Mart or the book malls. We’re particularly impressed with the children’s collection — and with the friendly, knowledgeable staff. If you’re looking for a birthday present for your kid’s classmate, or one for an out-of-town niece or nephew — or you just generally want to know what 10-year-old boys who like science fiction are reading these days — ask for Bonnie. She’s the children’s books buyer, and not only does she have an uncanny knack for figuring out what makes an appropriate gift, chances are whatever the book is, she’s already read it.

50 Second St., SF. (415) 495-2992,


If you think Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads are the only places to trade your Diors for dollars, you’re missing out. Urbanity, Angela Cadogan’s North Berkeley boutique, is hands down the best place to consign in the Bay. The spot is classy but not uppity, your commission is 30 percent of what your item pulls in, and, best of all, you’d actually want to shop there. Cadogan has a careful eye for fashion, choosing pieces that deserve a spot in your closet for prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Want an even better deal on those Miu Miu pumps or that YSL dress? Return every 30 days, when items that haven’t sold yet are reduced by 40 percent. But good luck playing the waiting game against Urbanity’s savvy regulars — they’ve been eyeing those Pradas longer than you have.

1887 Solano, Berk. (510) 524-7467,


Ever wish you could be a character in a period piece, writing love letters on a typewriter to your distant paramour while perched upon a baroque upholstered chair? We can’t get you a role in a movie, but we can send you to the Perish Trust, where you’ll find everything you need to create a funky antique film set of your very own. Proprietor-curator team Rod Hipskind and Kelly Ishikawa have dedicated themselves to making their wares as fun to browse through as to buy, carefully selecting original artwork, vintage folding rulers, taxidermied fowl, out-of-print books, and myriad other antique odds-and-ends from across the nation. As if that weren’t enough, this Divisadero shop also carries Hooker’s Sweet Treats old world-<\d>style gourmet chocolate caramels — and that’s definitely something to write home about.

728 Divisadero, SF.


If Hayes Valley’s indie-retailer RAG (Residents Apparel Gallery) bedded the Lower Haight’s design co-op Trunk, their love child might look (and act) a lot like Mission Statement. With a focus on local designers and a philosophy of getting artists involved with the store, the 18th Street shop has all the eclectic style of RAG and all the collaborative spirit of Trunk — all with a distinctly Mission District vibe. Much like its namesake neighborhood, this shop has a little of everything: mineral makeup, fedoras adorned with spray-painted designs, multiwrap dresses, graphic tees, and more. Between the wares of the eight designers who work and play at the co-op, you might find everything you need for a head-to-toe makeover — including accessorizing advice, custom designing, and tailoring by co-owner Estrella Tadeo. You may never need to leave the Valencia corridor again.

3458-A 18th St., SF. (415) 255-7457,


Beer-shopping at Healthy Spirits might ruin you. Never again will you be able to stroll into a regular suds shop, eye the refrigerated walk-in, and feign glee: "Oh, wow, they have Wolaver’s and Fat Tire." The selection at Healthy Spirits makes the inventory at almost all other beer shops in San Francisco — nay, the fermented universe — look pedestrian. First-time customers sometimes experience sticker shock, but most quickly understand that while hops and yeast and grain are cheap, hops and yeast and grain and genius are not. Should you require assistance in navigating the intriguing and eclectic wall of beer, owner Rami Barqawi and his staff will guide you and your palate to the perfect brew. Once you’ve got the right tipple, you can choose from the standard corner-store sundries, including coffee, wine, ice cream, and snacks. Chief among them is the housemade hummus (strong on the lemon juice, just the way we like it). Being ruined never tasted so good.

2299 15th St., SF. (415) 255-0610,


When is a junkyard not just a junkyard? When you wander through its labyrinth of plywood, bicycle tires, and window panes only to stumble upon an intricately carved and perfectly preserved fireplace mantle which, according to a handwritten note taped to it, is "circa 1900." This is the kind of thing that happens at Building Resources, an open air, DIY-er’s dream on the outskirts of Dogpatch, which just happens to be the city’s only source for recycled building and landscape materials. Maybe you’ll come here looking for something simple: a light fixture, a doorknob, a few pieces of tile. You’ll find all that. You’ll also find things you never knew you coveted, like a beautiful (and dirt cheap) claw-foot bathtub that makes you long to redo your own bathroom, even though you don’t own tools and know nothing about plumbing. No worries. That’s what HGTV is for.

701 Amador, SF. (415) 285-7814,


It’s impossible not to be impressed with the selection at Collage, the tiny jewel-box of a shop perched atop Potrero Hill. The home décor store and gallery specializes in typography and signage, refurbished clocks and cameras, clothing, unique furniture, and all kinds of objects reinvented and repurposed to fit in a hip, happy home. But what we like best is owner Delisa Sage’s commitment to supporting the local community and economy. Not only does she host workshops on the art of fine-art collage, she carries a gorgeous selection of jewelry made exclusively by local woman artists. Whether you’re looking for knit necklaces, Scrabble pieces, typewriter keys, or an antiqued kitchen island, you’ll find ’em here. And every dollar you spend supports San Francisco, going toward a sandwich at Hazel’s, or a cup of joe at Farley’s, or an artist’s SoMa warehouse rent. Maybe capitalism can work.

1345 18th St., SF. (415) 282-4401,


There’s something grandmothers seem to understand that the Forever 21, H&M, Gap generation (not to mention the hippies in between) often miss: the value of elegant, tailored, designer classics that last a lifetime. Plus, thanks to living through the Great Depression, they know a good bargain. Luckily, White Rose got grandma’s memo. This tiny, jam-packed West Portal shop is dedicated to classy, timeless, well-made style, from boiled wool-<\d>embroidered black coats to Dolce handbags. Though the shelves (stacked with sweaters) and racks (overhung with black pants) may resemble those in a consignment or thrift store, White Rose is stocked full of new fashions collected from international travels, catalog sales, or American fabricators. In fact, it’s all part of the plan of the owner — who is reputed to have been a fashion model in the ’50s — to bring elegant chemises, tailored blouses, and dresses for all sizes and ages to the masses. The real price? You must have the patience to sort through the remarkable inventory.

242 W. Portal, SF. (415) 681-5411


It seems you can get yoga pants or Lycra leotards just about anywhere these days (hello, American Apparel). But elastic waists and spaghetti straps alone do not make for good sportswear. SF Dancewear knows that having clothes and footwear designed specifically for your craft — whether ballroom dance, gymnastics, theater, contact improv, or one of the good old standards like tap, jazz, or ballet — makes all the difference. This is why they’ve been selling everything from Capezio tap shoes to performance bras since 1975. The shop is lovely. There are clear boxes of pointe shoes nestled together like clean, shiny baby pigs; glittering displays of ballroom dance pumps; racks of colorful tulle, ruched nylon, patterned Lycra; and a rope draped with the cutest, tiniest tutus you ever did see. The store is staffed by professional dancers who’re not only trained to find the perfect fit but have tested most products on a major stage. And though your salesclerk may dance with Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet or have a regular gig at the S.F. Opera, they won’t scoff at middle-aged novice salsa dancers or plus-size burlesqueteers looking for fishnets and character shoes. Unlike the competitive world of dance studios, this retail shop is friendly and open to anyone who likes to move.

659 Mission, SF. (415) 882-7087; 5900 College, Oakl. (510) 655-3608,


We weren’t sure it could get any better — or weirder — than Paxton Gate, that Mission District palace of science, nature, and dead things. But then the owner, whose first trade was landscape architecture, opened up Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids down the street, and lo and behold, ever more awesomeness was achieved. Keeping the original store’s naturalist vibe but leaving behind some of its adults-only potential creepiness, this shop focuses on educational toys, vintage games, art supplies, and an eclectic selection of books sure to delight the twisted child in all of us. From handblown marbles to wooden puzzles, agate keychains to stop-motion booklets, and Lucite insects to Charlie Chaplin paper doll kits, everything here seems to be made for shorties from another time — an arguably better one, when kids rooted around in the dirt and made up rules for imaginary games and didn’t wear G-string underwear.

766 Valencia, SF. (415) 252-9990,


San Francisco sure does love its trunk shows: all those funky people hawking their one-of-a-kind wares at one-of-a-kind prices. The only problem? Shows happen intermittently (though with increasing frequency in the pre-<\d>Burning Man frenzy). Lucky for us, Miranda Caroligne — the goddess who makes magic with fabric scraps and a surger — co-founded Trunk, an eclectic indie designer showcase with a permanent address. The Lower Haight shop not only features creative dresses, hoodies, jewelry, and menswear by a number of artists, but also functions as an official California Cooperative Corporation, managed and run by all its 23 members. That means when you purchase your Kayo Anime one-piece, Ghetto Goldilocks vest, or Lucid Dawn corset, you’re supporting an independent business and the independent local artists who call it home.

544 Haight, SF. (415) 861-5310,


Skate culture has come a long way since its early surfer punk days. Now what used to be its own subculture encompasses a whole spectrum of subs, including dreadheaded, jah-lovin’, reggae pumpin’ riders. And Culture Skate is just the store for those who lean more toward Bob Marley than Jello Biafra. The Rasta-colored Mission shop features bamboo skate boards, hemp clothing, glass pipes, a whole slew of products by companies such as Creation and Satori, and vinyl records spanning genres like ska, reggaeton, dub, and, of course, good old reggae. Stop by to catch a glimpse of local pros — such as Ron Allen, Matt Pailes, and Karl Watson. But don’t think you have to be a skater to shop here: plenty of people stop by simply for the environmentally-friendly duds made with irie style.

214 Valencia, SF. (415) 437-4758,



Best of the Bay 2009: Classics




Editors Picks: Classics


Hey, are you gonna eat that? If the answer is "no," and you have a commercial kitchen of any kind, call Food Runners, the nonprofit associated with Tante Marie’s Cooking School and its matriarch at the helm, Mary Risley. The volunteer-powered organization picks up leftovers from caterers, delis, festival vendors, hotels, farmers markets, cafeterias, restaurants, and elsewhere, and delivers still-fresh edibles to about 300 soup kitchens and homeless shelters. For more than 30 years, everything from fresh and frozen foods such as produce, meat, and dairy, to uneaten boxed lunches and trays of salads and hot food, to pantry staples ordered overzealously and nearing expiration has been saved from the compost heap and delivered to those who could use a free meal or some gratis groceries. The result has yielded untold thousands of meals and a complete cycle that reduces food waste, feeds the hungry, and preserves resources all around.

(415) 929-1866,


Remember those freaky goth kids your church leaders warned you against in high school? The ones who wore black lipstick, shaved off all their eyebrows, and worshipped Darkness? Well, they grew up, moved to San Francisco, and got really effin’ hot. If you don’t believe it, head to the comfortingly named Death Guild party at DNA Lounge. Every Monday night, San Francisco’s sexiest goths (and baby goths — this party is 18+) climb out of their coffins and don their snazziest black vinyl bondage pants for this beastly bacchanal, which has decorated our nightlife with leather corsets and studded belts since 1992. And even if you dress more like Humbert Humbert than Gothic Lolita, the Guild’s resident DJs will have you industrial-grinding to Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, Bauhaus, Throbbing Gristle, and Ministry. Death Guild’s Web site advises: "Bring a dead stiff squirrel and get in free." Free for you, maybe, but not for the squirrel.

Mondays, 9:30 p.m., $5. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. (415) 626-1409.


A completely adorable acting troupe made up of schoolteachers and schoolteacher look-alikes, the Children’s Theatre Association of San Francisco — a cooperative project of the Junior League of San Francisco, the San Francisco Board of Education, and the San Francisco Opera and Ballet companies — has been stomping the boards for 75 years. What the players may lack in Broadway-caliber showmanship, they widely make up for with enthusiasm, handcrafted costumes and sets, and heart. For decades, the troupe has entertained thousands of public school students during its seasonal run every January and February at the Florence Gould Theater in the Palace of Legion of Honor. This year’s production was a zany take on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which included a wisecracking mirror and rousing original songs. We applaud the CTASF’s bravery for taking on some of the toughest critics in the business — those who will squirm and squawk if the show can’t hold their eye.


We’re not sure if you can get a lube job at Kahn and Keville Tire and Auto Service, located on the moderately sketchy corner of Turk and Larkin. And if you can, we can’t vouch for the overall quality, or relative price point of the procedure. But the main reason we can’t say is also why we love the place so much. Instead of sensibly using the giant Kahn and Keville marquee to advertise its sales and services, the 97-year-old business has been using it since 1959 to educate the community with an array of quotations culled from authors as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gore Vidal — plus occasional shout-outs to groups it admires, such as the Quakers during their peace vigils a block away. Originally collected by founder Hugh Keville, the quotes range in tone from the political to the inspirational and tongue-in-cheek, and the eye-catching marquee was once described by Herb Caen as the city’s "biggest fortune cookie."

500 Turk, SF. (415) 673-0200,


The cozy Molinari Delicatessen in North Beach has been in business since 1896, just enough time to figure out that the secret to a really kick-ass sandwich is keeping it simple — but not too simple. The little piece of heaven known as the Molinari Special starts with tasty scraps, all the odds and ends of salamis, hams, and mortadella left over from the less adventurous sandwiches ordered by the customers who came before you. The cheese of your choice comes next, topped generously with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, roasted red peppers, and even pepperoncini, if you ask nicely. As for bread: we’re partial to Dutch crunch, but rosemary, soft white, and seeded rolls are available. Ecco panino: you get a sandwich approximately as big as a baby’s head — for only $6.25. It’s never quite the same item twice, but always sublime.

Molinari Delicatessan, 373 Columbus, SF. (415) 421-2337


Most clothes turn to garbage over time — but there are a few notable exceptions, timeless garments that actually gain value after being used up, tossed aside, and then rediscovered. Leather jackets are like that, so are cowgirl dresses and butt rock T-shirts. But none of that stuff maintains its integrity, or becomes more appealing when salvaged, like a great pair of jeans. And there’s no place more in tune with this concept than the Bay Area. Why? Well, it’s easy to say that we lead the thrifting pack simply because denim apparel was born here, but the truth is that we wouldn’t be anywhere without Berkeley’s denim guru, Carla Bell, who’s been reselling Levi’s and other denim products for 30 years. What began as a side project in Bell’s garage has grown into a palace of fine thrifting: Slash Denim the first and last stop when it comes to pre-worn pants and other new and used articles of awesome.

2840 College, Berk. (510) 841-7803,


When you think about baseball and food, hot dogs inevitably come to mind, but that’s just because marketers have been pumping them at stadiums for decades. Real baseball fans can see through the bull. Sure, they might shove a wiener in their mouth every now and again out of respect for tradition. But when a true fan gets hungry, she or he wants real food, not mystery meat. Baseball-themed restaurant and bar Double Play — which sits across from the former site of Seals Stadium and is celebrating its 100th birthday this year — makes a point of thinking outside the bun. D.P.’s menu features everything from pancakes and burritos to seafood fettuccine and steak, with nary a dog in sight. Otherwise, the place is as hardcore balling as it gets. Ancient memorabilia decks the walls, television sets hang from the ceiling, and the backroom contains a huge mural depicting a Seals versus Oakland Oaks game — you can eat lunch on home plate.

2401 16th St., SF. (415) 621-9859


Most small businesses fail within the first year of operation, so you know if a spot’s been around a while it must be doing something right. For Schubert’s Bakery that something is cakes and they’ve been doing them for almost 100 years. To say they’re the best, then, is a bit of an understatement. When you purchase a cake from the sweet staff at Schubert’s, what you’re really getting is 98 years’ worth of cake-making wisdom brought to life with eggs, sugar, flour, and some good old S.F. magic. Schubert’s doesn’t stop with cakes — no way. There are cherry and apple tarts, pies, coffee cakes, Danish pastries, croissants, puff pastries, scones, muffins, and more. If it’s sinfully delicious, Schubert’s has your back. Just be careful not to peruse their menu in the aftermath of a breakup or following the loss of a job. Schubert’s may seem nice and sugary on the outside, but it gets a sick thrill out of sticking you where it hurts: your gut.

521 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1580,


If you compete in a category where you’re the only contestant, does it still matter if you win? In the case of the Xanadu Gallery building, yes, it does. The building that houses the gallery is Frank Lloyd Wright’s only work in San Francisco and provides a fascinating glimpse of him evolving into a legendary architect. The structure’s most prominent feature is the spiral ramp connecting its two floors, a surprisingly organic structure that reminds viewers of the cochlear rotunda of a seashell and presages Wright’s famous design for New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Visitors are delighted and surprised upon entering the Maiden Lane building, as a rather small and cramped walkway into the gallery expands into an airy, sun-filled dome: the effect is like walking out from a dark tunnel into a puff of light. The Xanadu Gallery itself features an extensive collection of international antiquities, which perfectly complements this ambitious yet classic gem.

140 Maiden Lane, SF. (415) 392-9999,


As the poor departed King of Pop would say, "Just beat it" — to ultimate Beat hangout Caffe Trieste in North beach, that is. And while Pepsi was the caffeinated beverage that set Michael Jackson aflame, we’re hot for Trieste’s lovingly created coffee drinks. Founded in 1956 by Giovanni "Papa Gianni" Giotta, who had recently moved here from Italy, Trieste was the first place in our then low-energy burg to offer espresso, fueling many a late night poetry session, snaps and bongos included. Still a favored haunt of artists and writers, Trieste — which claims to be the oldest coffeehouse in San Francisco — augments the strident personal dramas of its Beat ghosts with generous helpings of live opera, jazz, and Italian folk music. You may even catch a member of the lively Giotta family crooning at the mic, or pumping a flashy accordion as part of Trieste’s long-running Thursday night or Saturday afternoon concert series. Trieste just opened a satellite café in the mid-Market Street area, which could use a tasty artistic renaissance of its own.

601 Vallejo, SF. (415) 392-6739; 1667 Market, SF. (415) 551-1000,


We’re fans of the entire range of incredible dance offerings in the Bay, from new and struggling companies to the older, more established ones (which are also perpetually struggling.) But we’ve got to give tutu thumbs up to the San Francisco Ballet for making it for 76 years and still inspiring the city to get up on its toes and applaud. Those who think the SF Ballet is hopelessly encrusted in fustiness have overlooked its contemporary choreography programs as well as its outreach to the young and queer via its Nite Out! events. For those who complain about the price of tickets, check out the ballet’s free performance at Stern Grove Aug. 16. This year the company brought down the house when it performed Balanchine’s "Jewels" (a repertory mainstay) in New York. We also have to give it up for one of the most important (yet taken for granted) element of the ballet’s productions: the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, which provides the entrancing accompaniment to the oldest ballet company in America.


If the Spinsters of San Francisco have anything to say about it, spinsterhood isn’t the realm of old women who cultivate cat tribes and emit billows of dust when they sneeze. Instead it’s all about stylish young girls who throw sparkling galas, plan happy hours, organize potlucks, and do everything in their power to have a grand ol’ time in the name of charitable good. Founded alongside the Bachelors of San Francisco, the Spinsters first meeting was held in 1929. In the eight decades that followed, the Spinsters evolved into a philanthropic nonprofit that supports aid organizations and channels funds back to the community. Specifications for prospective spinsters are quite rigorous: applicants must be college-educated, unmarried, and somewhere in the prized age bracket of 21 to 35. At the end of the year, members decide by ballot vote to heap their wealth and plenty into the coffers of a single chosen charity. Past recipients include City of Dreams, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and the Center for the Education of the Infant Deaf.


Situated on the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Scottish Rite Center boasts hand-carved ceilings, grand staircases, and opulent furnishings — hardly the typical ambiance of your average convention center. But if the ornate woodwork isn’t enough to distract you from whatever you came to the center to learn about, its history should: following San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, the East Bay saw a population explosion that quickly outgrew Oakland’s first Masonic temple and led to cornerstone laying ceremonies at this shoreline site in 1927. Today the center’s ballroom, catering facilities, and full-service kitchens — along with an upstairs main auditorium and one of the deepest stages in the East Bay — make it a favorite setting for weddings and seminars. It’s also the perfect place to wonder how many ghosts crawl out of the woodwork at night, and trace the carved wooden petals that decorate the hallways with the tip of a chilly finger.

1547 Lakeside Dr., Oakl. (510) 451-1903,


For more than seven decades, the name Manis has meant that a jewel of a jewelry store was in the neighborhood. Lou Manis opened Manis Jewelers in l937 at l856 Mission St. Three months after the Kennedy assassination in l963, he moved the store to 258 West Portal Ave. Manis Jewelers is still at this location, still a classic family-owned store with an excellent line of watches and jewelry, and still offers expert watch and clock repair, custom design, and reliable service. Best of all, that service is always provided by a Manis. Lou, now 89, retired six years ago, but his son Steve operates the store and provides service so friendly that people drop by regularly just to chat. Steve’s daughter, Nicole, works in the store on Saturdays, changing batteries in watches and waiting on customers. She was preceded in the store by her two older sisters, Anna and Kathleen, and Steve’s niece and nephew.

258 West Portal Ave., SF. (415) 681-6434

Since 1984, the Holocaust Memorial at the Palace of the Legion of Honor has been a contemplative and sad reminder of one of the biggest genocides in human history. The grouping of sculptures — heart-wrenching painted bronze figures trapped and collapsed behind a barbed-wire fence — sits alongside one of the city’s most breathtaking views and greatest example of European-style architecture. Yet it has never, in our opinion, fully received its due as an important art piece and historical marker. The memorial was designed by George Segal, a highly decorated artist awarded numerous honorary degrees and a National Medal of Honor in 1999. Chances are that many Legion of Honor patrons — plus the myriad brides posed in front of the palace’s pillars for their photo shoot — overlook this stark homage to the six million people exterminated by the Nazis during World War II. But it’s always there as a reminder that as we look to the future, we must remember the past.
100 34th Ave., SF.



PG&E watch: The rate hike, the LNG pipeline and the $82 million corporate giveaway


By Rebecca Bowe

Image courtesy of TURN

Pacfic Gas & Electric Co. collected $82 million from the state last year as a reward for running energy-efficiency programs, even though an independent verification report conducted by the California Public Utilities Commission showed that the utility failed to reach target goals for curbing power usage.

In addition to the $82 million bonus, PG&E and other utilities received millions in ratepayer dollars to administer the energy-saving programs. But under utility management, large portions of these energy efficiency funds go to administrative costs, leaving less for actual energy-reducing measures. The funds are derived from fees on ratepayers’ utility bills. And despite its past failure to meet the goals, PG&E is asking for even more money on the next round.

Groups like The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and Women’s Energy Mattters (WEM) have long advocated for independent administration of energy-efficiency programs, citing evidence that nonprofits have had better performance at the helm, with lower administrative costs and greater success at curbing electricity consumption.

On Tuesday, members of the public — who foot the bill for these programs — will get a rare opportunity to weigh in on how their money is spent.

A “Public Participation Hearing” (PPH) will be held at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in San Francisco to discuss energy efficiency spending. The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on July 28th at the California Public Utilities Commission, located at 505 Van Ness Ave. in the Auditorium.

Writers’ Block: Precita Eyes’ Urban Youth Arts Festival


By Michael Krimper

Precita Eyes — the community-based non-profit responsible for beautifying Mission street walls and educating San Francisco on mural art for over 30 years — has quite a celebration planned for their upcoming 13th annual Urban Youth Arts Festival. Live music performances, from local headliners to up and coming performers under the age of 20, will rock the park. Young heads will craft colorful aerosol art on open canvases, or you can throw down some paint yourself if you can an available board. I got a chance to catch up with the head organizer of the event, Precita Eyes’ youth arts coordinator Eli Lippert, just before he got too busy preparing last minute touches for Saturday’s festivities.


SFBG How did you get into Precita Eyes?
Eli Lippert I started coming to Precita Eyes as a student in the youth arts program that I’m now running. I started when I was about 14 going to classes here and then stuck with it. I got involved with painting murals and doing more projects. I got a little older, and now I’m actually teaching the class and running the program that I was a part of. You could say I’m kinda’ a product of my environment.

SFBG What is the makeup of the youth arts program?
EL It’s still pretty much the same setup. There’s two weekly ongoing classes that are year-round. One is called the urban youth arts program and the other is the youth mural workshop. They’re for teenagers mostly ages 11 to 19. A lot of the kids that come through are interested in graffiti and more urban styles of art. So in the urban youth arts class we center on that kind of stuff and then in the youth mural workshop we focus more on the various processes of painting.

SFBG Do a lot of the students have an interest in doing illegal graffiti art?
EL Well, some of them do. Some of them have done it in the past or in their own time before coming to Precita Eyes. It’s not something that we promote for the kids to do. But most of them have come from a graffiti background, even myself, I started out doing graffiti — as entree into the art world, I guess I would say. But what we try to do is to get them to channel the energy that they have for [graffiti] and put it into something positive for the community. So the students can show the community what they can do with all this energy and talent that they have.


SFBG Does Precita Eyes teach students how to get legal art out there in public space?
ELThat’s also part of my job — to find things like that and organize the group. But the students are always involved in some part of it. For example in the magazine class we got a grant, but the grant is a student-based grant. It was written entirely by our students. So they were involved in the whole process, and they got more of an idea of the different artistic avenues from the ground up.

Bitter medicine


The Democratic Party has been promising a major overhaul of the health care system for a generation or more. Now, with President Barack Obama and his party’s congressional leaders in a strong position to finally reach that elusive goal by next month, this should be a momentous time for the reform movement.

So why are so many health reform advocacy groups unhappy?

The answer involves policy and process. Rather than pushing for the single-payer system that many progressive groups demand and say is needed, Democratic leaders immediately opted for a compromise plan they hoped would be acceptable to economic conservatives and the insurance industry.

But Republicans are still calling them socialists for doing it, while the insurance industry — which loves the portion of the legislation that requires everyone to buy coverage — is still spending $1.4 million a day to either kill the complicated bills or turn them to its advantage.

When congressional Democrats unveiled America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (HR 3200) on July 14, many reformists thought a long-awaited, dramatic overhaul to a broken system was close at hand. The insurance companies would finally be made to adhere to ethical practices, and the Democrats would defend their plan to establish a government-run health insurance option that could compete with private insurers and keep them in check.

“American families cannot afford for Washington to say no once again to comprehensive health care reform,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), who chairs the crucial House Education and Labor Committee.

The Democrats’ bill does address some critical flaws in the health care system. It would greatly expand Medicare to ensure coverage for low-income individuals, and would subsidize coverage for those earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, defined as $43,320 for an individual and $88,200 for a family of four. The bill would forbid insurance companies from denying coverage to patients based on a preexisting condition, age, race, or gender. It would eliminate co-pays for preventative care and establish a cap on annual out-of-pocket expenses. To pay for it, the proposal would create a graduated tax on households earning more than $350,000 a year, with the top bracket being a 5.4 percent levy on incomes of more than $1 million.

Progressive members of Congress threw their support behind the bill because — and only because — it included the public option. “The public option is central to our support of health care reform,” read a statement from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), who chairs the CPC, was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “We have already compromised. More than 90 percent of the progressive caucus would vote today for a single-payer system. And so for us to compromise and get behind a really good strong public plan, I mean that’s as far as we’re going.”

While that statement indicates the precarious nature of the current legislation — which will likely be weakened further as it works its way through the process and merges with legislation from the more conservative U.S. Senate — many progressive groups aren’t even willing to go that far.



Many single-payer supporters say some reform is better than none, and that the passage of HR 3200 would represent a major win. “We can advance many of the principles that we support with the House bill,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California and an organizer for the national reform advocacy group Health Care for America Now. The nation, he believes, needs to endorse principles such as universally covering Americans and making sure patients aren’t left alone “at the mercy of the private insurance industry.”

Yet other groups fear this cure would be worse than the disease, sending millions of new customers into a private insurance system that simply doesn’t work, and compounding existing problems.

“We’re still pushing for a national single-payer bill,” Dr. James Floyd, a health reform researcher with the nonprofit group Public Citizen, told the Guardian. “While we’re open to other options, we haven’t seen anything [in proposals by Democratic congressional leaders] yet that is acceptable.”

That position has plenty of support among the general public and reform-minded organizations, for whom single-payer continues to be the holy grail.

The current proposal “doesn’t change the system one bit,” said Leonard Rodberg, a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, who works in health policy. “These bills are requiring that people buy insurance, but there are no numbers about how much the insurance would cost. And if the cost of the insurance is still too high, you can remain uninsured.”

And as negotiations center on the government-run insurance option, the concept of scratching the status quo and offering free Medicare-like health care to every American instead has fallen to the wayside.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) got 84 co-sponsors for his single-payer bill, HR 676, and hearings were held in June to explore the option. But congressional leaders then took it off the table. The reasons why seem to be as much about political will as they are about campaign contributions from the insurance industry. As one high-level congressional staffer told us, many lawmakers won’t back a single-payer system in part because they “don’t want to have to respond to being accused of being a socialist by the right wing.”

Then there’s the insurance lobby. “They spend hundreds of millions,” the staffer said. “They lobby Congress, and they provide millions to campaigns. They have Fox News. But the single-payer movement is growing leaps and bounds.”

Rodberg said the insurance industry would love to see a mandate to buy insurance approved at a time when insurers are losing customers because the economy is shedding thousands of jobs each month. “This is a bailout for the insurance companies,” Rodberg told us. “But there’s absolutely nothing in this legislation that will control costs, because it just leaves it to the insurance companies and the market.”

Dr. Jim G. Kahn, president of the California Physicians’ Alliance and a professor at UCSF with expertise in health policy, told us he believes the proposed bill falls short of the goal of comprehensive, universal coverage. “‘Universal’ was recently redefined by [Montana Sen. Max] Baucus as 95 percent — i.e., 15 million uninsured,” Kahn told us via e-mail. “Reaching even that level will be hard, due to the complexity of enforcing an ‘individual mandate’ on families with only modest income (and hence no subsidies). And in eagerness to reach that level, more and more people will become underinsured, with inadequate coverage and a further boost in already high medical bankruptcy.”

Medical debt contributed to nearly two-thirds of all bankruptcies in 2007, according to a study in the American Journal of Medicine. The majority of those afflicted were solidly middle-class homeowners at the start of their illness, and most had private health insurance.

Health Care Now, a hub for single-payer grassroots groups, is planning a large rally in Washington, D.C., for July 30, the anniversary of the founding of Medicare, on which many single-payer plans would be based. “Single-payer is the only plan that would truly be universal and contain costs,” said Katie Robbins of Health Care Now, arguing that the current plan pushed by congressional leaders “doesn’t protect us from the ills of the insurance-based system as we know it.”

Other progressive groups are withholding judgment for now, hoping the good aspects will ultimately outweigh the bad. “We’re digging through them now. We support a bill that has a true public option, and the House bill has that,” said Consumer Watchdog’s Jerry Flanagan. “But we really dislike the individual mandate [to purchase health insurance]. The insurance companies really don’t want the public option, but they really want the mandate.”



Even if single-payer isn’t going to be the national model yet, advocates say it’s crucial that states such as California be allowed to experiment with the option anyway. Single-payer advocates in Congress have insisted the health care legislation be amended to explicitly allow states to do single-payer (otherwise, federal preemption laws and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act might prevent states from doing so).

On July 17, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) successfully inserted such an amendment into the bill that cleared the House Committee on Education and Labor with a 25-19 vote, which included significant Republican support. The amendment was opposed by Miller, indicating Democratic Party leaders oppose the change and may ultimately succeed in stripping it from the bill.

“George Miller is a longtime supporter of a national single-payer plan and health care reform. The truth is, however, there are not enough votes in the House or the Senate to pass a final bill that contains single-payer language. That is unfortunate but it is also the truth,” Miller spokesperson Rachel Racusen told the Guardian.

California is a hotbed of single-payer activism. Even a leading candidate for state insurance commissioner, Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) — who appeared on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on July 15 to receive the endorsements of a long list of local elected officials — has made single-payer advocacy a central plank in his campaign.

The movement is so strong in California that it actually had legislators vying for who would get to carry its banner. San Francisco’s own state senator Mark Leno, a longtime single-payer supporter, was selected this year to take over the landmark single-payer legislation previously sponsored by termed-out legislator Sheila Kuehl, which has passed twice, only to be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“The more I dive into this issue, the more convinced I am that the answer has to be single-payer,” Leno told us. “The only reform that truly contains costs is single-payer.”

Leno doesn’t fault Obama for taking a more cautious stance — but he does believe the federal government shouldn’t block states like California from creating single-payer systems. “States should be incubators of trying different proposals. We have a great history with that,” Leno said.

But even with a Democratic governor, there’s no guarantee that single-payer would be approved. Mayor Gavin Newsom is running for governor, featuring health care reform in his platform. He chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors National Health Care Reform Task Force, which is pushing for approval of the Obama plan. But even Newsom won’t promise to back the Leno plan.

“He doesn’t think single-payer is the best option now,” Newsom’s campaign manager Eric Jaye told us when asked whether Newsom would sign the legislation as governor. “He hopes and believes that as governor he will be supporting a national public option.”

But in the end, the governor may not matter. Leno said the political reality in California is that voters, rather than legislators, will need to approve the single-payer system. The funding mechanism for any ambitious health care plan would require a two-thirds vote in the legislature, a political impossibility.

“The difference in California is the voters will have the final say. And I’m excited about that. The voters of California will be able to say to the insurance companies, ‘We’ve had enough, now go away,'” Leno told us. He said he expects a ballot campaign in 2012.

Of course, it won’t be that simple. Leno knows that the insurance industry will spend untold millions of dollars to defend itself and a “status quo that is only working for them, not for anyone else. This is an enormously powerful industry and they control the debates.”

“Our effort here in California is an educational one. We have from now until the election in 2012 to make the arguments,” Leno said.



Testifying at a hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee in June, Geri Jenkins, a registered nurse and the co-president of the California Nurses Association, related the story of Nataline Sarkisyan. The 17-year-old girl needed a life-saving liver transplant, Jenkins explained to Congress members. “But CIGNA would not approve it,” she told them, “until I, and hundreds of others, protested. During one of the protests, I was with Hilda, Nataline’s mother, when she got the call of approval.”

Hilda’s relief didn’t last long. By the time the hurdle had been cleared, Jenkins testified, “it was too late. Nataline died an hour later.”

Nataline’s story sparked national outrage, and it has since become a flagship tale highlighting all that is wrong with this country’s health care system. But as the debate about health care reform continues inside House and Senate committee chambers, discussion about “universal health care” — a phrase with a simple ring to it — has grown murkier.

“We have a universal health care system now,” Flanagan said, referring to how all Americans with serious medical conditions have a right to treatment — even if that treatment comes with great expense in an overcrowded public hospital emergency room. “It’s just the most inefficient system imaginable.”

With the August congressional recess coming up fast and Obama leaning on Capitol Hill to shift into high gear on an issue that was a hallmark of his campaign, the pressure is on to vote on the historic health care reform legislation within weeks.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed a health care reform bill July 16 that is similar to the House bill, with the vote split along party lines. Now, national attention has turned to the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Baucus, which continued its efforts last week to achieve a bipartisan bill.

Many of progressive reform advocates simply don’t trust the players in Washington, D.C., to get this right, particularly Baucus. “He’s the voice of the insurance companies in the Senate,” Flanagan said.

A recent article in the Washington Post estimated that the insurance industry is spending an estimated $1.4 million per day to influence the outcome of the health care legislation, and pointed out that many of the lobbyists were Washington insiders who had previously worked for key legislators, such as Baucus.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and operates the Web site, launched an intensive study of health care sector lobbyist spending, including cataloguing industry contributions to individual candidates from 1989 to the present. Baucus received more industry campaign contributions in that time than any other Democrat, the CRP study reveals, with a total of $3.8 million. Henry Waxman (D-<\d>Los Angeles), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, received a total of $1.4 million in that same time, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) received $1.2 million.

Starting in the 2008 election cycle, the health sector gave more to Democrats than to Republicans, according to the CRP’s analysis.

To overcome that kind of money and influence, advocates say it was crucial to wield a credible single-payer option — a sort of death penalty for the insurance industry — for as long as possible.

“Having single-payer discussions on the table really informs the debate over the public option,” Flanagan said. “But by removing single-payer, it made the public option the left flank.”

Flanagan, like many, is worried about how a 900-page bill will turn out. “There are a thousands ways to get it wrong,” he said. “An easy way to get it right would be to just do a single-payer system.” ————


Uninsured Americans: 47 million

Uninsured Californians: More than 6.7 million (about one in six)

African Americans without health insurance in California: 19 percent

Latinos without health insurance in California: 31 percent

Whites without health insurance in California: 12 percent

San Franciscans without health insurance: 15.3 percent

Rise in health-insurance premiums from 2000 to 2007 in California: 96 percent

Projected rise in health care costs per family without reform: $1,800 per year

Percentage of bankruptcies attributed to an individual’s inability to pay medical bills: 62 percent

Percentage of Americans who skip doctor visits because of the cost: 25 percent

U.S. rank of 19 industrialized nations on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions: 19

Jobs that would be created by extending Medicare to all Americans: 2.6 million

Annual U.S. spending on billing and insurance-related administrative costs for health care: $400 billion

Sources: Health Care for America Now, American Journal of Medicine, Physicians for a National Health Program

More free stuff: Great street art


By Michael Krimper

Some of the most innovative street art and inspired graffiti in the world calls San Francisco home. For those adventurous city dwellers whose definition of art is not circumscribed by its state of legality, there are thousands of voices that grace the city’s public spaces. I compiled a five-point list of some of my favorites as a crash course in street art exploration.

Defenestration Building – A massive fire burned out the Hugo Hotel — a four-story tenement on the corner of 6th and Howard streets — in the mid 1980s. The building quietly rotted for nearly a decade until artist Brian Goggin decided to transform the mini-behemoth SRO into a jarring public art installation. We now know the Hugo Hotel as the “defenestration” building. The name derives from a surreal picture of street-ravaged furniture desperately leaping in suspension from the skinny windows and roof. But it also means a gesture of throwing out, a spiritual act of release and possible renewal. The Defenestration building still is one of the city’s most dynamic public artworks, due in large part to its diligent curators, the legendary graffiti crew Inner City Phame (ICP). Over the years ICP has demonstrated an incredible talent for beautifying the Defenestration walls with layer after layer of spell-bounding murals. This past winter, Santa Claus and scantily clad elvish ladies bookended intricate Christmas ornamented names. Last year the crew painted a compelling memorial to the late Barbara Bode Falcon, muse and former wife of the eccentric comic book artist and inspirational source for graffiti styled illustration Vaughn Bode. And they’re probably painting something completely new right now as you’re reading this article.

Bluxome Alley — The art corridor lining the capillaries of Bluxome Alley (located between 5th and 6th off Townsend) just entered a new evolutionary stage during its formal grand opening last Saturday. Now officially baptized “Kommunitas”, the allery (alley gallery) strives towards “spreading the revolution one word at a time,” at least according to the domain site. Besides its activist mission statement, what makes Kommunitas different from your typical allery is a curious metal sign posted on the entrances outlining the guidelines to gain permission to paint. Kommunitas’ property manager, Tardon Feathered tells me in simple terms his reasons for opening the walls to artists. “[I] decided that good art looked better than bad tags, in an alley which we could not shut down the tagging.” In turn, the dusty walls, thick windows, pipelines, poles, air ducts, staircase banisters, and all other industrial furniture suddenly lose their grayness and become canvases for mesmerizing street art.

Mac Dre Memorial — Many a surprising mural abounds in SoMa’s seemingly desolate alley ways. One of the most spectacular is an enormous ICP production on the corner of Langton and Harrison in dedication to the life and work of the late Andre Hicks, better known as Mac Dre. The artists painted a monolithic memorial to pay tribute to the Vallejo-born rapper widely credited with founding the hyphy movement. On the Langton side of the warehouse, grandiose “rest in peace” block letters burst forth in all caps, floating just above a double headed thizz facing Dre. The two heads exhibit the antagonistic elements of fire and water, expressing Hicks’ versatile flow and style, combining fiery braggadocio with outlandishly cool comedy.

Oak Parking Lot — In the current social climate where rapid gentrification sterilizes neighborhoods while corporate minded policy limits artistic innovation, very few downtown spaces still allow graffiti to blossom. Nonetheless, a secluded parking lot on Oak St. just north of Market boasts some of the most vibrant, intricately woven murals in the heart of the city’s daily grind. Illegal productions elegantly grace the walls, blending seamlessly with commissioned pieces (maybe). But even if you can’t appreciate the subtle sophistication of spontaneously erupting tags, the heavily caked over walls still tote some finely crafted murals. Visit the endangered species before its imminent distinction.

Lilac Mural Project — The Lilac Mural Project, a two-block stretch between 24th and 26th Streets, is a fresh addition to staple Mission district alleries (and tourist favorites) Balmy and Clarion. But unlike its moderately bloated neighbors, Lilac possesses a youthful energy in anticipation of its open ended future. The murals gracing the walls oscillate between carefully thought out productions, whimsical tags, hastily spayed throw-ups, and the great possibility of empty space. Most recently, a old school styled memorial of New York graffiti luminary, Iz The Whiz (whose untimely death was caused by a medical condition related to breathing in an excess of aerosol spray), blessed the corridor.

Why Sarah Palin resigned



Text by Sarah Phelan

As is pointing out, Palin’s op-ed in today’s Washington Post is a pretty strong indication of why she resigned: Sarah wants to become the pit bull for Big Coal and Big Oil, and scare folks from supporting a stronger clean energy bill with her misinformation about “energy taxes.”

Palin’s op-ed-is also further evidence that Sarah is not throwing in the towel on politics, didn’t resign because of a mystery lover in her caribou closet, and is instead getting ready to seriously focus on her 2012 presidential bid.

Guess she’ll be finding support from those who don’t believe climate change is connected to human activity, want to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and would like to otherwise accelerate the destruction of the planet, so they can extract natural resources as fast as possible and make lots of money in the process.

Unfortunately, there is plenty of big money happy to accommodate someone like Sarah Palin.

So, give up on the dream that Palin is leaving the scene–and find the best strategy to counter her kind of campaign. And start doing it now.

Silent Film Fest gets Lupe


By Dennis Harvey

Ms. Lupe Valez

According to (disputed) legend, the 1944 death of 36-year-old Lupe Velez was far from glamorous, yet had classic Hollywood form: face-down in the toilet, choked on the pills she was regurgitating in a suicide attempt that succeeded, albeit not as planned. That sad end — she was despondent over a married lover and their unborn child — provided high contrast with her live-wire persona on and off-screen. The latter included high-drama involvements with legendary hunks Gary Cooper and Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller. In movies, she both defined and transcended a "Mexican Spitfire" stereotype (the actual name of her popular B-flick comedy series) with manic comic energy reminiscent of a Latina Clara Bow on one hand and a blueprint for Charo on the other.

Two features in this year’s Silent Film Festival find her minus speaking voice, but hardly muzzled. She was just 18 (and a convent school dropout) when picked to star opposite superstar Douglas Fairbanks in 1927’s The Gaucho. As his highly temperamental, jealous sweetheart, she gave as good as she got, frequently engaging his rakish hero in knock-down fights — a rehearsal for notorious later public spats with short-term husband Weissmuller, perhaps? Two years later she’d assumed a title role herself in Lady of the Pavements, a very late silent (its added "part-talkie" sequences have been lost) and one of D.W. Griffith’s last films. She plays a 19th-century Parisian cafe dancer who gets the Pygmalion treatment by a duplicitous countess seeking to humiliate her ex-fiancée. Material better suited to Lubitsch or Von Stroheim, this sophisticated seriocomic fluff wasn’t ideal for stuffy Griffith; and he couldn’t (or didn’t want to) tap Velez’s natural rambunctiousness as Fairbanks had. But this rare antique is still worth a look.

Other festival program highlights include Josef von Sternberg’s Oscar-winning gangster tale Underworld (1927), Victor Sjostrom’s poetic melodrama The Wind (1928), Gustav Machaty’s scandalous Czech Erotikon (1929), early W.C. Fields vehicle So’s Your Old Man (1926), and delirious Russian sci-fi exercise Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924). Live music will accompany each program.

SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL July 10–12, free–$20. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF.

(415) 621-6120,

Nip it in the bud


GREEN CITY Imagine if San Franciscans had the choice of sending the check for their monthly electricity fees to one of two places. Option A is a massive private utility company, serving up fossil fuel-fired and nuclear-powered energy, presided over by a CEO who got paid nearly $9 million last year. Option B is a publicly-owned program run by local government that offers a substantial percentage of green electricity from sources such as wind, solar, and tidal power. In San Francisco, which one would people be more likely to pick?

The intent behind community choice aggregation (CCA) programs, which in San Francisco is known as Clean Power SF, is to make Option B a reality. If successful, the program would signify not just a major advance on the green front, but a dent in Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s longstanding monopoly in the Bay Area.

The program development is inching along under the direction of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who chairs LAFCo, has poured a tremendous amount of time and energy into the city’s fledgling CCA program.

So when a proposed state ballot initiative surfaced that threatens to thwart statewide CCA programs before they launch, Mirkarimi came out swinging hard.

Titled the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act," the proposed initiative would require that any effort to create or fund a CCA program be ratified by two-thirds of the voters. The measure would erect an almost impossibly high barrier to CCA development around the state, effectively snuffing out PG&E’s would-be competition and sullying local governments’ plans to embrace publicly-owned, cleaner energy alternatives.

Mirkarimi wasted no time in drafting a resolution against the measure and submitting it to the Board of Supervisors, telling his colleagues that the utility’s proposal undermines years of effort "to allow municipalities to go ahead and chart their own energy destiny so they don’t have to be on the syringe of fossil fuel-driven corporations like PG&E."

He also took issue with the name of the proposal, calling it deceptive and misleading. "The point is that we should not be manipulated by measures such as this, where voters would be required to have a two-thirds vote on something the state Legislature has already allowed us to pursue," Mirkarimi said. "It’s our own right, and corporate special interests shouldn’t dictate otherwise." The state law that grants local governments the right to pursue community choice aggregation, which was sponsored by then-Sen. Carole Migden, specifically prohibits actions that impede the progress of a CCA.

PG&E’s name does not appear anywhere on the ballot-initiative proposal, but a spokesperson for the initiative confirmed that the utility had paid the submission fee. The law firm listed as a contact for the proposal, meanwhile, has been enlisted by PG&E before. And Robert Lee Pence, who is named as the proponent of the initiative, has teamed up with PG&E ally Townsend, Raimundo, Besler and Usher on campaign measures in the past. That Sacramento-based political consulting firm describes its strategic consulting services online with this brazen slogan: "Moving opinions is what we do best."

PG&E did not return calls for comment.

At the June 30 Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors approved Mirkarimi’s resolution on a 10 to 1 vote, with Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier voting no. And while a resolution does little more than create a formal record of the board’s position on a matter, Mirkarimi seemed to suggest that it was only the start of a battle mounting against this proposal. "Don’t be surprised [if] a number of municipalities align themselves in potential litigation against this," he said.

Sup. David Campos, an attorney who also sits on LAFCo, hinted that the city could enter into litigation on the issue. "I hope the city is carefully looking at legal issues that might be raised by the actions of PG&E," he noted at the June 30 Board meeting. "I think that there are legal protections we need to avail ourselves of, and I hope the City Attorney’s Office, working with the Board of Supervisors, can make sure that the city takes all steps that it needs to take to protect its legal rights."

Campos later told the Guardian that he had not yet spoken with the City Attorney’s Office about it.

When asked about pursuing legal action, the City Attorney’s Office would only say that "we’re aware of it, and we’re evaluating what we will be doing," according to spokesperson Jack Song.

Barbara Hale, general manager for power at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, told the Guardian, "We have certainly been talking with other cities about the initiative." But Hale added that the agency hadn’t taken a formal position yet because it is so early in the process. "It hasn’t actually been placed on any ballots yet."

Since the initiative was submitted, public power activists across the state have taken notice. Jeff Shields, general manager of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, has gone toe-to-toe with PG&E on public power issues before. One of the most memorable battles occurred when a political consulting firm hired by PG&E hacked into SSJID’s computers in the midst of a tug-of-war over control of the area’s electricity infrastructure — only to get caught by the FBI and publicly denounced by PG&E. "Obfuscation is PG&E’s middle name," Shields says. "I know there are lots of people looking at this initiative, but I don’t know that there’s a specific organizational effort against it at this time."

Jerry Jordan, executive director of the Sacramento-based California Municipal Utilities Association — a statewide organization representing 70 public utilities — told the Guardian that CMUA would oppose the initiative. However, "we may wait until it qualifies," Jordan said. The initiative is still in its earliest stages, and the attorney general has yet to certify it as legal to the secretary of state.

Meanwhile, efforts to move forward with the CCA model in other regions are floundering in these tough fiscal times. The San Joaquin Valley Power Authority voted June 25 to temporarily suspend its CCA, an effort in the works for years that had a goal of offering electricity to customers at lower and more stable rates.

Spokeswoman Cristel Tufenkjian said the greatest obstacle was a contract with CitiGroup’s energy branch that was marred by tight credit markets. "When things started to go south with the markets, CitiGroup said it could not execute that contract," Tufenkjian explained. She also added, "We are opposed to the initiative."

The SJVPA bid to create a CCA was also hindered by opposition from PG&E. "For the last few years, PG&E has continually placed roadblocks in front of our program in an attempt to stop us from implementing community choice and ultimately not providing residents and businesses the opportunity to have a choice about who will provide them electrical energy," said Ron Manfredi, city manager of Kerman and chair of the San Joaquin Valley Power Authority.

The Board of Supervisors’ resolution against the ballot initiative condemns such roadblocks and vows to push through this one. "PG&E has a history of acting to maintain its monopoly in its service region, including opposing public power initiatives at the ballot and lobbying officials of California cities [and] counties against community choice aggregation in apparent violation of the provisions [of state law]," the text of the resolution reads.

As this ballot initiative moves through the approval process, it’s clear that a battle is going to heat up very quickly. "I think we have to fight this as hard as we can," Campos told us. "PG&E has been unsuccessful in killing [CCA] here in San Francisco, but they have certainly delayed it. Now they’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen anywhere else."

San Francisco Silent Film Festival


PREVIEW According to (disputed) legend, the 1944 death of 36-year-old Lupe Velez was far from glamorous, yet had classic Hollywood form: face-down in the toilet, choked on the pills she was regurgitating in a suicide attempt that succeeded, albeit not as planned. That sad end — she was despondent over a married lover and their unborn child — provided high contrast with her live-wire persona on and off-screen. The latter included high-drama involvements with legendary hunks Gary Cooper and Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller. In movies, she both defined and transcended a "Mexican Spitfire" stereotype (the actual name of her popular B-flick comedy series) with manic comic energy reminiscent of a Latina Clara Bow on one hand and a blueprint for Charo on the other.

Two features in this year’s Silent Film Festival find her minus speaking voice, but hardly muzzled. She was just 18 (and a convent school dropout) when picked to star opposite superstar Douglas Fairbanks in 1927’s The Gaucho. As his highly temperamental, jealous sweetheart, she gave as good as she got, frequently engaging his rakish hero in knock-down fights — a rehearsal for notorious later public spats with short-term husband Weissmuller, perhaps? Two years later she’d assumed a title role herself in Lady of the Pavements, a very late silent (its added "part-talkie" sequences have been lost) and one of D.W. Griffith’s last films. She plays a 19th-century Parisian cafe dancer who gets the Pygmalion treatment by a duplicitous countess seeking to humiliate her ex-fiancée. Material better suited to Lubitsch or Von Stroheim, this sophisticated seriocomic fluff wasn’t ideal for stuffy Griffith; and he couldn’t (or didn’t want to) tap Velez’s natural rambunctiousness as Fairbanks had. But this rare antique is still worth a look.

Other festival program highlights include Josef von Sternberg’s Oscar-winning gangster tale Underworld (1927), Victor Sjostrom’s poetic melodrama The Wind (1928), Gustav Machaty’s scandalous Czech Erotikon (1929), early W.C. Fields vehicle So’s Your Old Man (1926), and delirious Russian sci-fi exercise Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924). Live music will accompany each program.

SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL July 10–12, free–$20. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF.

(415) 621-6120,

Daydream city



In the Bay Area’s labyrinth of low-lit warehouses, cramped house parties, and grimed-out dive bars, it’s a cacophonous tug-of-war for the three-chord crown.

This latter-day resurrection of traits from the late 1960s — the Sears Roebuck guitars; the off-key, offbeat attack; the onstage fearlessness — has brought many unpretentious all-for-one-and-one-for-all shows to the scene. Poised to snag a bit of the shiny rock ‘n’ roll royal headdress is Oakland’s Snakeflower 2, a trio whose blistering, bare-bones repertoire seems to spring newly alive from a dusty, attic-dwelling bin of decades-old abandoned vinyl.

Vocalist and bassist Matthew Melton’s lo-fi roots stretch — like the world’s longest amp cord — all the way back to his hometown in Memphis. There, he grew up playing in garage bands and jamming with prolific punk hero Jay Reatard.

Discontented with the Memphis scene’s lack of fire, Melton eventually put together a ramshackle, road-ready outfit that became Snakeflower’s first incarnation. The group played what Melton, a lover of subgenres, describes as "art punk non-songs." Moving his musical dreams and new band to California instigated a gift-and-curse scenario. "We decided almost overnight to go on tour," he says. "It was really ill-conceived. We did a full U.S. tour literally calling venues from the road, jumping on these bills and having pretty crazy shows along the way."

Snakeflower mark one had wilted by the time the group made it to San Francisco, and Melton’s bandmates stranded him in the city and left for Los Angeles. Nonetheless, he decided to stick things out and reform the band with two new members, drummer Billy Badlands and guitarist Tim Tinderholt.

"Where I grew up in Memphis, you can be guaranteed that no one’s gonna pay any attention to you," Melton says. "Here, there’s much more energy in the scene. Plus, being surrounded by so many great bands is a motivation to keep making great music."

It’s easy to hear what the California scene has done for Snakeflower 2’s live shows and recordings — the group’s aggression is undeniable. The late 2008 release Renegade Daydream (Tic Tac Totally) is steeped in the dire urgency of a fragile heart under pressure. It grooves hard, thanks to dagger-sharp hooks and vicious chord progressions, all registering at shit-hot speed to keep up with Melton’s nervy vocal swagger. "Memory Castle," the album’s single, pairs psychedelic tunnel-vision reverb with a rumination on lost dreams and the courage it takes to get them back.

Melton’s already looking in a new direction for the group’s next album. When his other brainchild, the smooth-punk outfit Bare Wires, gained popularity, Snakeflower 2’s gigs took a hiatus. But during that time, he devoted himself to writing fresh, epic material.

"I’ve actually been working in secret to write and record a 14-minute long cantata called ‘Forbidden Melody,’" he explains. "I had to set time aside to isolate myself [and] work with really pure ideas. [The new music] is something totally different, almost like a rock opera. I’m trying to go a little bit further, really trying to come up with something new."

While much of the local garage scene sticks to the ordinary and familiar. leave it to Melton and his mates to shoot the moon and score an album in the process.


With the Vows, In the Dust

July 13, 9 p.m., $5 (day of show only)

Elbo Room

642 Valencia, SF

(415) 552-7788

Forever our kings



The simplified, VH1 history of rock music tells us that Black Sabbath’s landmark first two albums Black Sabbath (Warner Bros., 1970) and Paranoid (Warner Bros., 1971) buried the 1960s rock aesthetic with the strength of a thousand Sha-Na-Nas at Woodstock. But Sabbath wasn’t quite the peerless anomaly that popular mythology makes out. Under the group’s massive transatlantic shadow toiled an eclectic assortment of rock bands just as disillusioned with the pop music of the past decade, and just as compelled to forcibly harsh some vibes.

Pentagram has remained the most vital of these groups. The OG southern Hessians have maintained a cult fan base throughout a 38-year career, but the 2002 compilation First Daze Here (Relapse) helped a new generation of metalheads embrace their lo-fi proto-metal. Classic tracks like "Livin’ in a Ram’s Head" and the power chord masterpiece "Forever My Queen" justify Pentagram’s doom legend status, while softer numbers like the garage rock ballad "Last Days Here" and a relatively faithful cover of "Under My Thumb" serve as reminders of the band’s musical roots.

Pentagram is coming to town, and whether or not the various kick-ass opening acts on the bill were influenced by them, there’s a distinctive retro vibe at play. Since 2007’s Instinct: Decay (Southern Lord), Nachtmystium has been experimenting with old school electronic effects, lacing its basement black metal sound with Pink Floyd-like Moog and theremin drones. Last year’s Assassins: Black Meddle Part One (Century Media) finds Blake Judd and company taking their experiments in blackened space rock even further — the headbanging energy of the songs’ traditional verse-chorus structures is complimented by Sanford Parker’s haunting electronic textures. Since Nachtmystium’s current approach is tailor-made for live drone-jams, it’ll be interesting to see how the Chicago black metallers’ set plays out.

Some enterprising dork could probably spend a lifetime documenting all the leftover Summer of Love tidbits that have informed the San Francisco music scene over the years, but trying to fit a band as innovative as Hammers of Misfortune into a greater rock canon is a total cop-out. Peter, Paul, and Mary they ain’t; clean, folky vocal harmonies take on a warped life of their own in the context of Hammers’ elegantly doomy guitar work, making what in lesser hands would be an obnoxious gimmick into an integral part of the group’s sound. They’re also way too fucking metal for their own good.

Be forewarned, indeed.


With Hammers of Misfortune, Nachtmystium, Orchid, DJ Rob Metal

Thurs/2, 8:30 p.m. (doors 8 p.m.), $20–$25

DNA Lounge

375 11th St., SF

(415) 626-1409

The Tallest Man on Earth


PREVIEW In strictly literal terms, the Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Mattson is not the tallest man on the globe. He is probably the Best Bob Dylanesque Tall Dude on Earth, and also perhaps the Tallest New Swedish Musical Talent on Earth, but I suppose those monikers wouldn’t have quite the same ring. Along with no-nonsense yet playful songwriting chops, one of the things I find most fetching about his debut album Shallow Grave (Gravitation, 2008) is its direct zest. Mattson fingerpicks melodies with sprinter’s speed but never loses a nimble grace. The Tallest Man on Earth toured the U.S. with the equally austere Bon Iver recently, but I have to say I prefer Mattsson’s energetic acoustic spirit to the comparative mope of Bon Iver leader Justin Vernon. Shallow Grave‘s gloomy title is a bit misleading — on one of its signature tunes, "I Won’t Be Found," the underground dwelling is a quite lively mole hole.

The keening nasality of Mattson’s vocals are his most overt link to the Dylan tradition. His songs traverse comparatively narrow territory though, bypassing societal commentary for explorations of emotion and more intimate human relationships. In lesser hands, such intent yields forgettable schmaltz — or worse yet, the kind of music you want to forget and can’t. But Mattson avoids sentimentality and vagary through earthy imagery and a vital energy that avoids easy softness. The sonic equivalent of a splash of ice-cold water on one’s face in the morning, his songs are a bracing alternative to the melancholy brooding of his countryman José Gonzalez. The Tallest Man on Earth is also a contender for the Handsomest Tall Man with a Ceiling-Scraping Pompadour on Earth, a factor that can’t possibly hurt him as a live draw.

THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH With Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel. Thurs/2, 8 p.m., $12–$24. The Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1421.