This Week’s Picks: June 18 – 24, 2014


raucous as it is tender




Zara McFarlane

You’ve got to be plenty ballsy to venture a cover of “Police and Thieves,” the immortal 1976 reggae track by Junior Murvin (produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry, no less) and transformed into a rock classic by the Clash on their debut 1977 album. But this fascinating Jamaican-British singer’s version, a hypnotic cabaret-jazz version floated by a voice clear as a bell, earns the praise heaped upon it. Included on McFarlane’s new album, If You Knew Her, “a tribute to women, from the alpha female to the housewife,” puts a feminist spin on the spooky lyrics that decry “scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition, from Genesis to Revelation.” With her classic poise and lucid style (Roberta Flack springs to mind), it’s easy to see why global soul guru Gilles Peterson snagged McFarlane quick for his Brownswood label. (marke B.)

8pm, $18 advance

Yoshi’s SF

1330 Fillmore, SF

(415) 655-5600





Mugwumpin 10

Mugwumpin, San Francisco’s ensemble-driven experimental theater company, celebrates its 10th anniversary season this month with a host of performances by itself and others (including A Host of People, from Detroit) as well as a series of symposia, workshops, and “occurrences.” It’s a big deal for a small company devoted exclusively to devised work and should be full of good things, including two revivals and a work-in-progress production of the company’s latest, Blockbuster Season — a duet of disaster featuring co-founders Joe Estlack and Christopher W. White. Beginning this week, you can whet your appetites and explore them too, as Mugwumpin remounts its 2010 hit, This Is All I Need. (Robert Avila)

‘This Is All I Need’

8pm, $25, $40 Two-show pass

June 19-22, July 2-3, 5-6

ACT Costume Shop Theater

1117 Market, SF





Ten years ago Philadelphia’s experimental post-hardcore outfit mewithoutYou released their sophomore album, Catch For Us the Foxes. Now, a decade and three albums later, Foxes is still a beloved fan favorite and the defining album of mewithoutYou’s lyrically rich and musically unique career. The album, which borrows its name directly from the Song of Songs, tackles the band’s usual themes of spirituality, nature, and literature in their trademarked spoken (well, shouted)-word vocals over beautifully melancholy, churning instrumentals. In honor of the record’s 10th birthday, mewithoutYou will be playing the entire record start to finish, followed by a set taken from the rest of their catalog. (Haley Zaremba)

With The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Dark Rooms

8pm, $16


333 11th St, SF

(415) 255-0333





Fresh Meat Festival

There are probably other LGBT festivals in the county. But — call me a chauvinist if you must — there is none like the gay-friendly Fresh Meat Festival, which focuses on transgender-based performance, the way this homegrown three-day event does. Now in its 13th incarnation, it is as raucous as it is tender, and as political as it is personal. Above all, its artists are impressively professional, with the know-how to present one heck of a show, whether they perform ballroom, hip-hop, Taiko, voguing, disco, circus, or music. Whatever their chosen discipline, they make quality work about who they are — comfortably, honestly, joyously. For many of them, and their audiences, it is a gathering of the tribes. Sean Dorsey, the brain and heart behind the festival, is showing excerpts of his yet to-be-born next piece. (Rita Felciano)

Through Sat/21, 8pm, $15-25

Z Space

450 Florida, SF




Animate Your Night: Choose Your Own Adventureland

For more than 50 years now, a collection of fine, feathered friends have been greeting and entertaining visitors at Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room, singing up a storm of tropical-themed tunes in a show that was the very first to showcase audio-animatronics. Fans can pretend they’re at the theme park tonight at the Animate Your Night: Choose Your Own Adventureland party, and celebrate the arrival of a “barker bird” addition to the The Walt Disney Family Museum’s collection with a tiki-themed party to welcome it, complete with live music and dancing, cocktails from Smuggler’s Cove, presentations, and a host of other activities. (Sean McCourt)

7-10pm, $12-$30

The Walt Disney Family Museum

104 Montgomery, SF

(415) 345-6800





Dean Wareham

While his sharp tenor has gotten a bit lower and his hair is noticeably grayer than it was during his days fronting Galaxie 500, Dean Wareham has remained astonishingly consistent since his burst onto the burgeoning indie rock scene almost 30 years ago. His eclectic and minimalist guitar work and profoundly detached lyrics are on display once again on his eponymous first solo album, which came out in March. To celebrate the occasion, Wareham has embarked on a tour of intimate venues along with his stellar four-piece band. Wareham’s wife and frequent collaborator Britta Phillips, who was an instrumental creative force in Wareham’s post-Galaxie 500 group Luna and on several duet albums since, will also perform with the group. The Chapel, with a capacity of a few hundred, provides the perfect venue to examine Wareham’s instrumental and emotional subtlety, a set that he has promised will include tracks from throughout his career. (David Kurlander)

9pm, $20

The Chapel

777 Valencia, SF

(415) 551-5157






Nightmares on Wax

With a career that now spans two and a half decades, producer George Evelyn (aka DJ E.A.S.E., aka Nightmares on Wax) is credited with being among the first to merge early New York hip-hop

With the British B-boy and graffiti scenes of the ’80s, forming what would come to be known as trip-hop. Work with greats like De La Soul followed, but Evelyn has evolved with the times — he’s still considered a go-to inspiration and dream collaborator for today’s up-and-coming hip-hop, dub, and funk hopefuls. He also just released a two-disc “best of,” N.O.W. Is the Time, so this show should be a good time to time-travel a bit — while dancing your ass off, of course. (Emma Silvers)

With Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist

9pm, $22-$25

Regency Ballroom

1300 Van Ness, SF




Summer Solstice Celebration in the Redwoods

What better way to mark the longest day of the year than by savoring the fruits of summer while strolling among 100-year-old redwoods? And by fruit we mean wine, of course, which is complimentary at this annual celebration thrown by the SF Botanical Garden. Local cheeses will also be available for tasting as you stop to savor natural beauty, exploring the trails of lush wilderness that are at our fingertips right here in the city, in what’s likely to be the prettiest twilight you’ll see all year. No togas or complicated flower headdresses required. (Silvers)

6-8pm, $20-$30

San Francisco Botanical Garden

1199 Ninth Ave, SF







North Beach Bacchanalia

The local record label Name Drop Swamp Records is hosting an all-day music and poetry festival at the Emerald Tablet gallery, a self-described “creativity salon.” Bands include electric chamber folk-rock group Muralismo, the ambient and existential Devotionals, and several more groups with remarkably alluring names — Edwin Valero, named after the legendary Venezuelan boxer who killed his wife and himself in 2010, is sure to be compelling. Poets include Collaborate Arts Insurgency co-founder Charlie Getter and prolific writer and labor activist Paul Corman-Roberts. The Lagunitas Brewing Company sponsorship suggests that the ale will be flowing, while the Beat Museum support ensures snaps aplenty. (Kurlander)

12pm, free

Emerald Tablet

80 Fresno, SF

(415) 500-2323




Waka Flocka Flame

Born in Queens and raised in Atlanta in a musical family, Waka Flocka Flame has been surrounded by hip-hop his entire life. But he never wanted to be an MC. It wasn’t until he was 18 and his mother started managing rapper Gucci Mane (with whom he has been infamously feuding since 2013) that Waka Flocka began experimenting with the mic himself. Now, with three albums, 18 mix tapes, and 111 guest appearances under his belt, Waka Flocka is going hard in da motherfuckin paint and has made a huge mark on the southern trap scene. Aggressive, crisp, and catchy, Waka Flocka’s distinctive beats and rhymes will make for a high-energy show not to be missed. (Haley Zaremba)

With Chanel West Coast, DJ Sean G

9pm, $35


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880






Withered Hand

Jack Kirby aside, I wouldn’t expect to like anything titled New Gods, but the latest album by that name by Slumberland artist Dan Wilson, aka Withered Hand, seems to have a purely grounded worldview. Beauty on the album is of the here-in-the-moment variety; if an afterlife did exist, Wilson seems to wryly propose on the album opener “Horseshoe,” “we could kill our friends, we could sing a song that never ends.” And on “King of Hollywood” there’s a searing bit of self-righteous egotism in the lyric “Some of you guys should get with my God / He hates about everything / Well everything except me / I’m the anomaly.” Now that’s theology anyone can get behind. (Ryan Prendiville)

Opening for Owl John

9pm, $15

The Chapel

777 Valencia, SF

(415) 551-5157


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Tropical impressions



FILM We’re neck-deep in local film festival season right now — which, yeah, is kind of 12 months out of the year around here, but the SF Silent Film and Green Film festivals just ended, DocFest is underway, and Frameline starts June 19 — but there are plenty of reasons to carve out time for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ outstanding New Filipino Cinema mini-fest this weekend.

A big one is opening-night selection How to Disappear Completely; director Raya Martin, a bright light in the Philippines’ burgeoning indie film scene, will appear in person at the screening. This is a good thing, since Disappear is a bit of a head-scratcher, but in a commendable way — part coming-of-age drama, part dreamy puzzle, part old-school exploitation flick (I can’t be the only viewer who sees Martin’s shot of someone pawing through a pot full of intestines and immediately thinks of Herschell Gordon Lewis). Martin told the Philippine Star that Disappear was partially inspired by 1980s American horror filmmakers like Wes Craven, and there are fragments of 1984’s Nightmare on Elm Street lurking in this tale of a troubled tomboy (Ness Roque) whose vibrations of high-tension fear conjure a sinister spirit only she can see. This, on top of threats both natural — her island home is dark and lush, with nature’s stormy menace permeating every frame — and domestic: “You think the road home is safe? No one will hear you when you scream,” snarls her mother, who has a bit of Carrie White’s Bible-thumping mama in her.

Mom’s not even the biggest issue, though — that’d be the girl’s drunk, leering father (Noni Buencamino, one of the country’s most acclaimed actors — along with his wife, Shamaine Buencamino, who plays his wife in Disappear), who lurches around with a loaded shotgun and spends all his money betting on cockfights. Aside from its more experimental sequences, which are set to a buzzing electronic soundtrack (and thankfully, no Radiohead), Disappear‘s deliberately loose narrative pivots around strained dinner-table conversations among this dangerously dysfunctional family. Most of the longer passages of dialogue take the form of recitations: Bible stories (Lot and his daughters get a thematically appropriate shout out); folklore (a surprisingly funny tale involving a royal chicken); and a school recital on Filipino history, in which the young heroine plays a gun and her classmates, portraying vengeful villagers, warn the parent-filled audience: “We are going to hunt you down!”

Disappear‘s title card appears a full hour in, or nearly at the end of this 79-minute tale; it’s a blazing beacon in a film otherwise dominated by water imagery. Things only get bleaker, more surreal, and more shockingly violent from there. “If you’re wondering why we’re making such a fuss about new Filipino cinema, this is a great place to start,” explain series co-programmers Joel Shepard and Philbert Ortiz Dy in their program notes.

A far sunnier view of youth in the Philippines emerges in Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo’s Anita’s Last Cha-Cha, also about a tomboy, whose coming-of-age through first love begs the question why this film isn’t called Anita’s First Cha-Cha instead. Anita is 12 and not ready to embrace puberty, despite her widowed mother’s best efforts to dress her up like a princess for the community’s annual fertility festival. This all changes when she catches sight of long-limbed lovely Pilar, the former town beauty who’s returned after a stint studying physical therapy abroad. As Pilar sets up a massage practice in her house (not surprisingly, the local men line up for appointments), Anita begins spending all of her time daydreaming about the older woman.

Of course, her fantasy girlfriend — who has a tortured romantic past with Anita’s age-appropriate male cousin — is just that, and the two become allies as the story takes a melodramatic turn. Writer-director Bernardo will attend the screening in person to discuss her feature debut.

Probably the most high-profile entry in the YBCA series is Sean Ellis’ urban thriller Metro Manila, which won an Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the top prize at that year’s British Independent Film Awards. Ellis is a Brit, but Metro Manila is acted (splendidly) by an all-Filipino cast. After a meager harvest, naïve farmer Oscar (Jake Macapagal) convinces his wife, Mai (Althea Vega), to move with their small children to the big city in search of work. But the grimy metropolis proves a dangerous place, and what’s essentially a predictable tale of country-bumpkin-learns-a-hard-lesson-on-the-mean-streets is elevated by a ruthlessly desperate tone and a killer performance by John Arcilla (as Oscar’s shifty new co-worker). Even better: a couple of clever last-act twists that shake up the story’s seemingly inevitable arc.

These three films are just a surface glimpse of what New Filipino Cinema has in store. Closing night’s screening of Brillante Mendoza’s Thy Womb, starring veteran superstar Nora Aunor, is already sold out, but fret not: The film, the much-praised latest from the director of 2009’s controversial Kinatay, returns to the YBCA for its own engagement June 26-29. Also screening post-fest is Lav Diaz’s acclaimed Norte, The End of History (June 19-20), a 250-minute epic inspired by Crime and Punishment. *


Wed/11-Sun/15, $8-$10

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

The Damned on playing small venues, headgear that protects you from spit, and why they won’t stop ’til the Stones do


For nearly four decades now, legendary British rockers The Damned have been haunting stages around the world with their brand of gothic-inspired punk.

Since storming onto the London punk scene in 1976, the band has evolved and survived multiple line-up changes over the years, with the group now led by founding members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible, who are keeping the original spirit of The Damned alive and well.

Today, Vanian’s punk-meets-rockabilly crooner vocals and Sensible’s wildly blistering guitar are backed up by the jackhammer rhythm section of drummer Pinch and bassist Stu West, along with keyboardist Monty Oxy Moron, who often looks like a possessed version of Beethoven, his hands flailing wildly about when not pounding the keys.

Bay Area fans are in for a treat this week as The Damned play two shows in Northern California ahead of their appearance at the Ink-N-Iron festival in Long Beach — and these are the only U.S. gigs on the books for the year.

“I love visiting San Francisco, it’s the most European city in North America and a vegetarian’s paradise. My home is in Brighton, the gay capital of the UK and a lot of the relaxed liberal attitude we have there is over here too,” says Captain Sensible, via email. “I like the way the Bay Area is a collection of villages all with their different vibe, but mainly it’s the smart, friendly people here that make a visit such fun.”

Looking back over almost 40 years of on and off history as a band, Sensible offers a candid assessment of what life has been like as a member of The Damned.

“I’m not one for regrets, we’ve had a splendid crack as a band. A lot of things that went pear shaped was our own stupid fault — and how we survived the mania of the 70s / 80s without anyone dropping dead I’ve no idea. But as you can imagine it was bloody good fun in a time when bands could pretty much do what ever they wanted in the studio without label types breathing down our necks; in fact, when they did turn up we always put on a little show for them, band splitting up, drummer climbing in a grand piano to add nonsensical avant-garde overdubs on a straightforward punk tune, food fights. They got the idea in the end and left us alone, and we actually made a few decent records despite all the chaos.”

The Damned were the first punk band from the UK to release a single — “New Rose” — and an album, Damned Damned Damned.


They also broke ground as the first to cross the pond and tour the United States, a jaunt that saw them play the infamous Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco back in 1977.

“It’s all a blur as you can imagine, but we met loads of young upstarts who told us they were getting their bands together. It was a great time, a clean slate if you like. And it felt good to give the jaded stadium rock stars of the time a kick up the arse.”

“I also remember American beer being universally appalling. In fact I would cram my suitcase with as much booze as possible, if you can believe that. Now, of course Californian craft beer is the cutting edge of brewing and we intend to visit a few breweries this trip.”

As for Sensible’s now-signature stage attire — a red beret and crazy sunglasses — it turns out it had nothing to do with trying to make a fashion statement: It was born from the environment that came to epitomize live shows in the early days of the punk movement.

“The truth is that at first I only wore a beret to stop the ‘gob’ (spit) getting in my hair. After Johnny Rotten and Rat Scabies had their famous spitting incident at a Pistols gig in ’76 it became part of the punk scene for a year or so. The problem was the hot stage lights baked the gob in your hair and it was almost impossible to remove the hard lumps afterwards, so I wore a beret and sunglasses to stop it getting into my eyes. That’s the true story, it wasn’t fashion — it was self preservation!”

Fans will be able to hear all sorts of first-hand accounts and behind the scenes stories in the near future when a documentary film about The Damned is released, made by Wes Orshoski, the filmmaker behind “Lemmy,” the award-winning portrait of the iconic Motorhead frontman.

“I took Wes to do an interview outside the former home of my parents — where I spent my school years — and no sooner was the camera rolling than a drug crazed mugger made a grab for it and a good old fashioned punch up ensued in which $50,000 worth of film equipment got completely trashed. Wes ended up being rushed to hospital. He probably needed a rabies antidote,” says Sensible.

“I should have mentioned to him that I was born and raised in the roughest part of South London — where one person’s posh movie gear is someone else’s years supply of crack cocaine.”

Despite difficulties such as that jarring incident, Sensible says that the rest of the project has been proceeding along well.

“He’s captured some very funny footage already as the Damned are quite a strange bunch these days. People think they know us, but I reckon there will be a few surprised faces when the film is released.”

One fact that casual fans of The Damned might not know is that Captain Sensible is a huge train buff — he’s driven steam engines in England, and even had a diesel locomotive named after him.

“There was a company that had a punk fan as boss and he named his locos after his heroes. John Peel, Joe Strummer — mine was originally going to be called Morrissey but it came to the guy’s attention that he made a point NEVER to travel by train. Whereas I do all the time, so I got it instead!”

Unfortunately, Cotswold Rail went out of business a few years ago, and when the engine was sold, a disgruntled employee that was owed money stole the nameplates.

“I’d maybe buy ‘em if he offered, gotta be worth a fiver, eh?” says Sensible.

While the Damned often perform at large music festivals around the world these days, Sensible still favors smaller shows, like the one the band will play at Slim’s on Wed/4.

“I prefer the club gigs, the closeness to the audience. And when I see bands, that’s also the environment I prefer. Festivals with screens and the musicians half a mile away on a distant stage is not great is it? The problem is that now we are a certain age, and there’s not likely to be another club tour as it’s a bit knackering.”

Although Sensible mentions that the members of The Damned aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore, he’s adamant that they have no intention of hanging it up anytime soon.
“The Damned ain’t going to quit while the Stones are still lurching on,” he says. “We’re not gonna be beat by a bunch of old Tories.”


The Damned, with Koffin Kats and Stellar Corpses
Wednesday, June 4
8pm, $30
333 11th St., SF
(415) 255-0333

Where evil grows



FILM For film fans, there’s a delight that comes from charting a talented director’s progress from obscurity to cult fame to “next-big-thing” status. I remember settling in to watch Jim Mickle’s 2010 breakout Stake Land (his first feature was 2006’s micro-budget creature feature Mulberry Street, which played multiple festivals on the genre circuit). I knew it was a vampire movie, a weary subject thanks to Twilight mania, but it soon became clear that Stake Land was not a by-the-numbers affair: Within the first five minutes, a crusty fang-slinger devours a human infant. “This is not a film to be fucked with,” I scribbled in my review, and filed away the name “Jim Mickle” for future consideration.

Last year, he returned with We Are What We Are, a remake of a Mexican chiller about cannibals fighting to keep their secret traditions alive despite pesky interference from the modern world. It was his third film with writing partner Nick Damici — also the lead in Mickle’s first two films, though he moved to a supporting role in We Are, which focused mostly on the teen sisters at its core. Set in rural upstate New York, We Are had its share of gore, but it also went deeper, teasing out a macabre and surprisingly detailed history of its flesh-eating family.

“To me, it’s more of a dark story about faith and religion,” he told me in an interview at the time. “I was much more interested in the girls’ story, and the story of a family trying to hold together after a tragic event.”

Now comes Mickle’s most accomplished film to date, and it’s even less overtly horror (though it contains a multitude of terrifying moments): Cold in July, a thriller ranging across East Texas, circa 1989. The script by Team Mickle-Damici is adapted from the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, who — buckle up, cultists — also penned the short story which spawned 2002’s Bubba Ho-Tep. That said, there are no supernatural elements afoot here; all darkness springs entirely from the coal-black hearts beating in its characters.

Well, some of its characters. Cold in July begins with a killing, but the trigger hand is attached to mild-mannered frame-store owner Richard Dane (Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, rocking a splendid mullet). The masked man he shot was breaking into the Dane family home; Richard was just protecting his wife (Vinessa Shaw) and young son (Brogan Hall). That he accidentally, kinda, nailed the burglar — spraying brains everywhere, necessitating amusing later scenes of weary clean-up and furniture replacement — is breezed over by the police (including a cowboy-hatted Damici). “Sometimes, the good guy wins,” they assure him.

The good guy/bad guy dynamic is twisted, tested, and taken to extremes as Cold in July continues; it’s the sort of film best viewed without much knowledge of its plot twists, which are numerous and cleverly plotted. (Which is to say: You may read on, genre junkie, without fear of spoilers, because I don’t wanna ruin anyone’s viewing enjoyment.) The day after his run-in with vigilante justice, Richard realizes he’s the number one conversation topic in his small town, and his shiny local-hero status has attracted the attention of the dead robber’s father (Sam Shepard), just out of the clink and skilled in the art of Cape Fear-style menace.

What happens next is best left a surprise, though it does involve Don Johnson as a flamboyant, convertible-driving pig farmer; plenty more bloodshed; a meeting at a drive-in that just happens to be screening Night of the Living Dead (1968); and the line “You don’t wanna fuck with the Dixie Mafia.” Throughout, Cold in July expertly works its 1980s setting as both homage to and embodiment of the era’s gritty thrillers; its synth-heavy score and neo-noir lensing (by frequent Mickle collaborators Jeff Grace and Ryan Samul, respectively) and the casting of Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt; he was also in We Are What We Are) in a key role add to the feeling that Cold in July was crafted after much time spent in the church of St. John Carpenter. There’s humor, too, deployed with careful timing that doesn’t compromise the slow-burning tension that builds throughout — as when Richard celebrates some good news by headbanging to period-perfect power rock in his enormous, wood-paneled station wagon.

Most intriguingly, and for all its retro trappings, Cold in July offers a very modern exploration of masculinity via all of its leads, though Richard is obviously the embodiment of this theme. “I’ve been waiting for something big like this,” he says to his wife before slithering away on a secret road trip (she thinks he’s talking about landing an important new client). Unlike Viggo Mortensen’s secret gangster in 2005’s A History of Violence, which begins with a similar premise (family guy shoots someone in self-defense, opening a can of worms in the process), Richard has zero past aggression to draw on; dude’s got a history of mildness — with a heretoforth untapped curiosity about the wilder side of life awakened by a sudden bloody act. Once again, Mickle has delivered an unfuck-with-able film. Can’t wait to see what he does next. *


COLD IN JULY opens Fri/30 in Bay Area theaters.

Gettin’ festy



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

Summer fairs and festivals


MAY 24-25

Carnaval San Francisco Festival: Sat/24-Sun/25, entertainment begins at 11am, free, Harrison between 16th and 24th Sts, SF. Parade: Sun/25, 9:30am, free, starts at 24th and Bryant Sts, SF; www.carnavalsf.com. The theme of the 36th annual event is “La Rumba de la Copa Mundial,” so prepare to catch World Cup fever as part of this spangly, sparkly celebration of international music, dance, cuisine, crafts, and more.

San Francisco International Beer Festival Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, SF; www.sfbeerfest.com. 7-10pm, $75 (“Brewmaster” early entry ticket, 5pm, $175). More than 100 international and local craft brewers showcase their wares at this 31st annual event. Plus: pizza, sausages, beer-infused gelato, and other treats to soak up the suds. All proceeds benefit the Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School.

MAY 31

Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival Shattuck between Rose and Vine, Berk. www.anotherbullwinkelshow.com/chocolate-chalk-art. 10am-5pm, free. Chalk artists compete for prizes while turning the sidewalks into eye candy — and speaking of candy, sweet tooth-ers can pick up ticket packs ($20 for 20) to sample chocolate items galore, including exotic treats like picante habañero chocolate gelato.


Castroville Artichoke Food and Wine Festival Monterey County Fair and Events Center, 2004 Fairground, Monterey; www.artichokefestival.org. May 31, 10am-9pm; June 1, 10am-7pm. $5-10. See why Castroville is “the Artichoke Capital of the World” at this fest, which has grown so big it shifts locations this year to the fairgrounds in nearby Monterey. Try the fan favorite, artichoke cupcakes.


Philippine Independence Day Celebration: Lumago Lampas (Grow Beyond) Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding, Alameda; www.rhythmix.org. 7pm, $15-25. Celebrate with performances by Parangal Dance Company, musician Ron Quesada, artist Kristian Kabuay, and more. Presented by the American Center of Philippine Arts.

Yerba Buena Art Walk Between Market and Folsom and Second and Fifth Sts, SF; yerbabuena.org/artwalk. 12:30-6pm, free. Yerba Buena Alliance presents this neighborhood showcase, highlighting galleries, exhibitions, and institutions throughout the downtown cultural center.

JUNE 7-8

Union Street Festival Union between Gough and Steiner, SF; www.unionstreetfestival.com. 10am-6pm, free (tasting tickets, $30-35). This 38-year-old festival features tasting pavilions highlighting Bay Area craft beers and wines. Each block of the fest will also have a themed “world,” centered around fashion, culinary arts, tech, locals, crafts, and fitness.

JUNE 7-15

San Mateo County Fair San Mateo County Event Center, 1346 Saratoga, San Mateo; www.sanmateocountyfair.com. June 7-8, 10, and 14-15, 11am-10pm; June 9 and 11-13, noon-10pm, $8-10. All the classics (horse show, the Zipper, funnel cakes), plus modern touches like hip-hop dance performances, poetry readings, pig races, and concessions geared toward health-conscious fairgoers. Evening concerts include Air Supply, Brian McKnight, and War, plus tributes to Neil Diamond, Journey, and the Beatles.


Haight Ashbury Street Fair Haight between Stanyan and Masonic, SF. www.haightashburystreetfair.org. 11am-8:30pm, free. Live music on two stages, plus over 200 vendor booths, highlight this groovy tradition.

JUNE 14-15

Crystal Fair Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina, Bldg A, SF; www.crystalfair.com. June 14, 10am-6pm; June 15, 10am-4pm. $8. The one-stop shop for all your crystal needs, for both jewelry and healing-arts purposes.

Live Oak Park Fair Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; www.liveoakparkfair.com. 10am-6pm, free. The 44th annual fest hosts over 100 artists and craftspeople selling jewelry, clothing, contemporary art, quilts, pottery, and more, plus tastings of food by local artisans.

North Beach Festival North Beach neighborhood, SF. www.sresproductions.com/north_beach_festival.html. 10am-6pm, free. Historic North Beach hosts its 60th annual festival, with 125 arts and crafts booths, 20 gourmet food booths, live entertainment, and more, plus the ever-popular blessing of the animals (2-3pm both days at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, 610 Vallejo).


Stanford Jazz Festival Venues and prices vary; www.stanfordjazz.org. Both legends (Chick Corea, Arturo Sandoval, Joe Louis Walker) and up-and-comers (Taylor Eigsti, Meklit, Pacific Mambo Orchestra) fill the schedule at this annual fest.

JUNE 28-29

San Francisco Pride Venues and prices vary; www.sfpride.org. Amid the zillion parties, performances, and events that’ll go down this week, the biggest are the celebration (June 28, noon-6pm; June 29, 11am-6:30pm, $5, Civic Center), and the parade (June 29, 10:30am, starts at Market and Beale). This year’s theme is “Color Our World with Pride.”


Free Shakespeare in the Park Venues and times vary; www.sfshakes.org. Free. Get thee to a park (including the Presidio, Aug 30-Sept 14) for a free, professional production of The Taming of the Shrew.


Fourth of July at the Berkeley Marina Berkeley Marina, 201 University, Berk; www.anotherbullwinkelshow.com. Noon-10pm, $15. Family-friendly fun with live entertainment, pony rides, arts and crafts, and fireworks (9:30pm).

JULY 4-5

“The Ripple Effect” Opening weekend: Dolores Park, 19th St at Dolores, SF; www.sfmt.org July 4-5, 2pm, free (donations accepted). Continues through Sept 1 at various NorCal venues. The veteran San Francisco Mime Troupe stays current by skewering San Francisco’s ever-dividing economy; think rising rents, tech-bus protests, and (natch) Glassholes.

JULY 5-6

Fillmore Jazz Festival Fillmore between Jackson and Eddy, SF. www.fillmorejazzfestival.com. 10am-6pm, free. The largest free jazz fest on the West Coast fills 12 blocks with music, arts and crafts, gourmet food, and more.

JULY 17-27

Midsummer Mozart Festival Venues, times, and prices vary; www.midsummermozart.org. Two weeks paying tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus, with highlights like a San Francisco Boys Chorus guest appearance, and (in honor of the fest’s 40th season), a performance of Symphony No. 40 in G minor.

JULY 19-20

Renegade Craft Fair Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, 2 Marina, SF; www.renegadecraft.com. 11am-6pm, free. DIY crafters unite at this celebration of indie design. Hey, it’s never too early to get a jump on your holiday shopping.

JULY 25-27

Gilroy Garlic Festival Christmas Park, Gilroy; www.gilroygarlicfestival.com. 10am-7pm, $10-20. Garlic is the pungent star of this annual food fair. Garlic ice cream gets all the press, but don’t sleep on the garlic fries, 2012’s most popular purchase (13,401 servings!)

JULY 26-27

Berkeley Kite Festival Cesar E. Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina. www.highlinekites.com. 10am-6pm, free. Because where else are you gonna see the world’s largest octopus kite?

Vintage Paper Fair SF County Fair Building, Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, SF; www.vintagepaperfair.com. July 26, 10am-6pm; July 27, 11am-5pm. Free. Relive the days before digital ruined everything with this showcase of vintage postcards, photographs, labels, sports memorabilia, and “all manner of curious, beautiful, and interesting old paper.”


Up Your Alley Fair Dore between Howard and Folsom, SF; www.folsomstreetfair.com/alley. 11am-6pm, $7 suggested donation. Folsom Street Fair’s naughty little brother fills Dore Alley with leather-clad shenanigans.

AUG 1-3

Eat Drink SF Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina, SF; www.eatdrink-sf.com. Times and prices TBD. Formerly known as SF Chefs, this Golden Gate Restaurant Association-hosted event brings together food, wine, and spirits. Foodies, start your engines.

AUG 2-3

Art + Soul Oakland Downtown Oakland (adjacent to the 12th St/City Center BART station); www.artandsouloakland.com. Noon-6pm, free. Live music is Art + Soul’s main draw, but a new event — the Oaktown Throwdown BBQ competition — will surely be a popular addition.

Bay Area Aloha Festival San Mateo County Event Center, 1346 Saratoga, San Mateo; www.pica-org.org. 10am-5pm, free. The Pacific Islanders’ Cultural Association showcases Polynesian dance and island cuisine at its annual event.

Nihonmachi Street Fair Post between Laguna and Fillmore, SF; www.nihonmachistreetfair.org. Times TBD. This long-running community event celebrates Asian-Pacific American life with performances, food, activities for kids, and more. Plus: the crowd-pleasing dog pageant and accompanying parade.


Jerry Day Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, McLaren Park, 45 John F. Shelley, SF; www.jerryday.org. 11:30am, free (donate for reserved seating). Live music (lineup TBD) honors the legacy of the Grateful Dead legend, who grew up on nearby Harrington Street in the Excelsior.

AUG 16

Stumptown Brewery Beer Revival and BBQ Cook-off Stumptown Brewery, 15045 River, Guerneville; www.stumptown.com. 1-6pm, $75-100. Over 30 breweries and 30 BBQ teams await at this event, which makes the following claim: “If you can’t have fun at this one … you can’t have fun.” ‘Nuff said. AUG 23-24 Bodega Seafood, Art, and Wine 16885 Bodega Highway, Bodega; www.winecountryfestivals.com. Aug 23, 10am-6pm; Aug 24, 10am-5pm, $8-15. It’s there in the name, folks: tasty seafood, a juried art marketplace, and wine (and beer) tastings. Plus: three stages of live entertainment. Golden Gateway to Gems SF County Fair Building, Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, SF; www.sfgemshow.org. 10am-6pm, check website for price. It’s the diamond jubilee (60th anniversary) of this San Francisco Gem and Mineral Society event, and the 2014 theme is “Heavy Metal” — so prepare for face-melting encounters with rock, gem, and jewelry dealers; educational lectures and demos; and a “stump the expert” mineral ID station. Rock on! *

It’s all reel



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger on going electric and the timeless combination of marijuana and Pink Floyd


By Rebecca Huval

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is out to topple everyone’s expectations. The two-piece band has rather public identities to overcome: Sean Lennon is the only child of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl is a world-class model who was the youngest covergirl on Britain’s Harper’s Bazaar.

With their latest release, Midnight Sun, Kemp Muhl has shown she has the pipes and songwriting chops to be taken seriously as a musician, and Lennon has proved he’s more than just his father’s ghost — rather, he’s the inimitable frontman of The GOASTT.

In the trajectory of Sean Lennon’s solo career and The GOASTT’s six-year history, Midnight Sun is their going-electric moment. Sean Lennon’s subdued and minimalist solo music paved the way for The GOASTT’s initial albums to be acoustic and saccharine in what Kemp Muhl now describes as “nerdy folk music.” This April’s album is oh-so-different. Inherited Beatlesque psychedelica meshes with modern-day indie à la Tame Impala and Deerhunter. Midnight Sun rocks in full-fledged electric, with synthy splashes and warped vocal reverb. The album ranges from trippy tracks such as “Devil You Know,” with prismatic texture and thick percussion, to thoughtfully orchestrated ballads such as “Don’t Look Back Orpheus” and Kemp Muhl’s graceful solo, “Johannesburg.”

Ahead of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’s show at Great American Music Hall on Tue/20, I spoke with Charlotte Kemp Muhl about meeting Lennon at Coachella, the aha moment listening to Pink Floyd that triggered the band’s psychedelic shift, and how she balances jet-setting modeling and music careers.

San Francisco Bay Guardian You met Sean at Coachella in 2006. How did you strike up a conversation?

Charlotte Kemp Muhl I don’t remember which one of us struck up the conversation, but we were magnetized to each other. We were talking about things like Stephen Hawking, whatever random thing we’d read that week, and claymation. I just thought he was so eccentric and wearing this suit in the middle of the desert. He was with his friend Vincent Gallo, who told him, “Don’t go for that girl, she’s crazy.” I just remember he was really enthusiastic about things and unusual and childlike, even though he was much older than me [30 years old]. I was 17 at the time. We connected immediately.

SFBG Have you put a pause on your modeling career to concentrate on music?

CKM Kind of, it tag-teams. I have to do modeling to support doing music. I would never be able to afford collecting instruments, and unfortunately, it’s really hard to make money as a musician. You don’t! I have to do modeling to do music, but I can’t wait until I can retire and just concentrate on music. In a way the two careers are complementary. Fashion and music are connected like Siamese twins. In the sense that rock n’ roll has been influencing fashion and fashion, rock n’ roll for a long time. They’re incestuous industries.

SFBG Who are some of your musical role models?

CKM Hendrix, Syd Barret, and Bach.

SFBG What have you learned about music from working with Sean?

CKM The area in which I’ve most grown is rhythmically. He’s taught me a lot about being funky and syncopation. He’s an amazing drummer, and I’ve been teaching myself how to play drums by watching him. I learned a lot about arranging. We’ve both influenced each other a lot. It’s been fun.

SFBG Why did you wait until a year after you were dating to share your musical talents with Sean?

CKM I was shy. Everyday someone comes up to him with a demo CD. I didn’t want to be like that. I never thought we’d work together. I thought he’d do his solo career. I showed him one of the childhood songs I wrote, and he loved the melody and insisted that we work together. He quit his solo career to work with his mom and work with me. I hope he goes back to his solo career, fingers crossed for that, but he’s very shy. It’s been fun doing heavier rock music because it’s forcing him to be more of a frontman. We’re not just doing Sonny & Cher melodies. I really want him to be a frontman. He spent so much of his life being a sideman.

SFBG As a solo artist, Sean seemed very minimal and moody. Then, it seemed like The GOASTT started out very sweetly and softly with your acoustic album. Now, The GOASTT is more edgy, percussive, and textured. What do you contribute to his sound?

CKM I pushed us even further into a Pink Floyd, psychedelic direction. When we were doing a tour in France, I discovered the pairing of marijuana and [Pink Floyd’s] Live at Pompeii. We were at some cheap hotel in France, and it was freezing cold. Something just clicked in my mind, and I wanted to be doing psychedelic music and not nerdy folk music. Sean had always been into that shit so he was into that direction. That’s the ultimate cliche, marijuana and Pink Floyd, but it worked! We were opening up for Johnny Hallyday and Matthieu Chedid. He’s huge in France, like the Michael Jackson.

SFBG What was at like playing at Occupy Wall Street?

CKM It was fun. A lot of our friends were doing that at the time, and we were excited that people were getting together to protest because people are placated by their gadgets and they rarely show interest and support. We just came to support anti-fracking and we didn’t even think Sean would get flack for supporting OWS. People online were saying he’s the one percent, which is ridiculous, he’s not in the one percent. I mean technically, anyone with a color TV is in the one percent of the world. We performed a bluegrass version of “Material Girl,” by Madonna. It was supposed to be ironic.

SFBG Have you collaborated with Yoko Ono? What is like working with her?

CKM I played bass for her for a while for her festivals and her shows. We’re around a lot. She doesn’t really collaborate with people, she’s like a singular, visionary person. Sean is much more into collaborating and working with people. She’s more of a leader of an army. She’s like a visionary. You just do what she says kind of a thing.

SFBG What has been your favorite part of working with Sean?

CKM I’ve been working with other musicians without him around. Sean plays every instrument like a virtuoso. In the studio, it’s like a super weapon. I send him in to overdub instrument ideas, and then I’ll edit them all together. We can cover a lot of ground that way. I’ve noticed with other musicians, they’re very limited. They only play one of two instruments, and don’t have a bird’s eye view of songwriting. Sean always have great ideas about rhythm and harmony. We both have a million ideas, and it’s frustrating when you work with someone who’s not that inspired.

SFBG I know you’re a multi-instrumentalist: What instruments do you play on Midnight Sun?

CKM On the record, I play bass, keyboard parts, guitar, percussion, and arranged harmonies. The main instrument I play is Pro Tools. I do all the editing and all that stuff.

SFBG It seems like the album switches between different settings: Xanadu, a missed flight to Johannesburg, traveling to the underworld with Orpheus. Where were you when you wrote these songs? What was your process for collaborating?

CKM I wrote the words for Johannesburg when I was in Johannesburg with a Pirelli shoot for Peter Beard. “Xanadu” and “[Don’t Look Back] Orpheus” we wrote upstate on his farm. We would stay up all night writing acoustic songs in his bed. We would walk down to his studio, which is by a lake, and jam it. Other than “Johannesburg,” I write a part and then he writes a part. It’s like one of those drawings when you fold up a napkin and each of you draw part of a monster.

With Syd Arthur
Tue/20, 8pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

SFIFF 57: Strange love, Varda, Swedish grrrls, and more!


The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival runs through May 8; all the details are here. Guardian correspondent and confirmed film fest addict Jesse Hawthorne Ficks checks in with his mid-SFIFF picks and reactions.

Charlie McDowell’s The One I Love (screens tomorrow; ticket info here) showcases exceptional performances by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss and should be a multiple Independent Spirit Award nominee come next statuette season. This unique genre fluster-cluck digs much deeper into marital problems than you would ever expect (audiences seemed quite flipped upside down after the film’s world premiere at Sundance). Similar to films like Darren Araonfsky’s Pi (1998), Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), and Shane Caruth’s Primer (2004), this will be a film that’ll spark conversations and inspire repeat viewings.

Mexican auteur Fernando Eimbcke, who directed Duck Season (2004) and Lake Tahoe (2008) is back with another coming-of-age stunner: Club Sandwich. The director’s slow-burning method of sticking two people in a room and allowing life’s natural moments to unfold is as precise as the tiny moustache on the protagonist’s upper lip. Rewarding to those who are patient, Club Sandwich is the perfect reminder of that pre-adolescent summer that changed just about everything.  

Agnes Varda’s latest opus, From Here to There, is a 225 minute, five-part miniseries originally made for French television. It casually chronicles her guest appearances at film festivals and cinematheques around the world with numerous asides and melancholic moments that have made Varda one of the most likable icons of cinema. In fact, the episodes work similarly to her earliest films Cleo From 5-7 (1962) and La Pointe Courte (1955), gracefully moving the viewer through moments that seem minor at first, but are in fact profound. (Listening to an 85-year-old Varda get distracted and start talking about the history of chairs brought me to tears.) Like her 2008 film The Beaches of Agnes (2008), this is a must see.

Swedish auteur Lukas Moodysson is back and he may have just created one of the most riotous punk rock extravaganzas ever. We Are the Best! (Sweden/Denmark), which takes place in the early 1980s and is based on wife Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel, allows the all-grrrl band to blossom into real-life punk rockers. Evoking passionate punk portrayals like 1980’s Times Square and 1981’s Ladies & Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains (fun fact: Moodysson was unaware of the latter film until I interviewed him!), this drama seems to capture Stockholm circa 1982 in perfect detail. The soundtrack was a major part of discussion during the Q&A, becoming the perfect entry point for those of us desiring an history lesson on the Swedish punk scene. But what I found most exciting about We Are the Best! is its approach to gender roles, as its young female characters attempt to cast aside pressures to look pretty. Either way, Moodysson has created a film just as enjoyable as his debut feature, 1998’s Show Me Love. It has the potential to become a worldwide hit in the same vein as Trainspotting (1996) and Run Lola Run (1999). (Info on screenings today and May 7 here!)


In the 1990s, Tsai Ming-liang’s films were often mentioned alongside works by Hirokazu Kore-eda and Hou Hsiao-hsien. But two decades later, only Tsai has stayed the determined course of creating endurance-driven, contemplative cinema. Presenting his tenth feature (and showcasing yet again his alter ego, actor Lee Kang-sheng), Stray Dogs (Taiwan) is a breathtaking meditation on a homeless Taiwanese family, who are quietly doing what they can to get by. With this film, Tsai has almost abandoned story completely, instead favoring long, drawn-out, surreal, one-shot sequences — next-level abstractness that will either send you running for the hills or leave you unblinkingly glued to the screen.

The film is made to be watched more than once and upon multiple viewings you gain not only patience for Tsai’s masterful aesthetic but an appreciation for how futuristically meditative it is. Someone should program Stray Dogs with his 2012 short Sleepwalk, which follows a monk as he walks, and his follow-up film Journey to the West (2014) which stars Lee and Denis Lavant(!) Whether that would equal absolute transcendence or absolute boredom depends on the viewer, of course. I can’t think of a more emotionally implosive filmmaker working today. 


Rewatching Hong Sang-soo’s Our Sunhi (South Korea) is in fact as monumentally enjoyable as viewing his previous film, In Another Country (2012). This new film represents another solid entry for the director. The succinct ways in which his male characters are emotionally self-destructive with one another can and should be compared to best of Eric Rohmer and Woody Allen’s films. And this time out, he has created a female protagonist (played by hilariously by Jung Yoo-mi) that adds a complexity to his alcoholic-ridden world. If you were a fan of Hong’s films and stopped watching them, it’s time to come back and enjoy one of the funniest films of the festival circuit.

The surprise documentary hit at this year’s SFIFF most definitely has to be Julie Bertuccelli’s School of Babel (France). Simple catalogue description: “The film details a year in the life of a Parisian class of immigrant youth from countries around the globe — boys and girls ages 11 to 15 — who have come to France to seek asylum, escape hardship or simply better their lives.” What is so overwhelming about this personal journey is how the film not only showcases the student-teacher relationships, but the parent-student dynamics. It culminates in a devastating filmmaker-audience relationship.

Exploring pedagogy as a whole caught me off guard so intensely that I, like many in the theater, felt we were back in school trying to figure out all of life’s problems in between breaks for recess. The film ties in perfectly to the San Francisco Film Society’s Education program, which serves more than 11,000 students and teachers every year, from kindergarten through college, to develop media literacy, cultural awareness, global understanding, as well as a lifelong appreciation of cinema. Do whatever it takes to see this film yourself, and if you’re a teacher, share it with your own students.

Happy Hour: The week in music


— The 2014 Music Video Race, the competition that pairs local bands with filmmakers for the 48-hour speed-creation of music video magic, is now accepting applications from musicians and filmmakers. The filmmaking weekend is July 11-13, and the screening/party, due to popular demand, has been upgraded to The Independent on July 20. Yours truly will be one of the judges, so, er, make this tough for me.

— The Stern Grove Festival, AKA one of the few summer festivals that delivers killer live performances without killing your hopes of ever sending your unborn kids to college, announced this year’s lineup of Sunday afternoon shows. For the low price of zero dollars, you’ll get such heavy hitters as Smokey Robinson, Rufus Wainwright, Andrew Bird, Darlene Love, Allen Stone, and plenty of other local stars, like LoCura, Vetiver, and, of course, the SF Symphony. Pack a picnic, bring a jacket (this is summer in San Francisco, after all) and get there early if you actually want to see the stage.

— Here is an insane new video from A Million Billion Dying Suns:

— The women of Warpaint stuck their feet in their pretty mouths, calling out Beyoncé and Rihanna for dressing like “sluts,” then they apologized. Some people had some smart things to say about it.

— Best rap feud ever.

Live review: Mastodon at the Fox Theater


They still exist: big metal bands that go on old-fashioned tours, rather than exclusively playing festivals or headlining package tours (aka shows that start at 4pm and are comprised of two bands you actually want to see and five others the label shoehorns in because that’s the only way they’ll get exposure). Also still in existence: a band that will tour between albums, in fact hitting the road less than two months before a new album drops, and play a set that contains two new songs (to give fans a taste of what’s to come), but is mostly composed of familiar back-catalogue tunes. 

Not, however, still around: actual Mastodons.

No worries, dudes — Mastodon the band shows no sign of going anywhere, and based on what drummer Brann Dailor said at the end of last night’s show at Oakland’s Fox Theater, they’ll soon be back in the Bay Area, pumping their sixth studio release, Once More ‘Round the Sun, which arrives in late June. Based on the two new songs heard last night (“Chimes at Midnight” and “High Road;” stream the latter via the band’s Soundcloud page, or check out the “Audio Visualizer” below the jump), your sludgy summer soundtrack awaits.


This between-albums tour was slightly more stripped-down than, say, shows supporting 2009’s Crack the Skye, which boasted a hypnotic visual component built heavily around the album’s astral-projection-meets-Rasputin-themes (in other words, it went well with the funny-smelling smoke that tends to waft around during Mastodon shows). Here, we just got a backdrop of a pair of psychedelic eyes, plus a light show with occasional Laser Floyd flourishes. But Mastodon is not a band that needs bells and whistles to enhance its crushing riffs. Nor does it spend a lot of time chatting up the crowd between songs, though it’s clear this is a band that appreciates its fans, evidenced by the huge array of t-shirt designs and other merch available in the Fox lobby. (Personal favorites: a shirt inspired by the “Come and play with us, Danny!” scene from The Shining, and a pair of gym shorts with “Asstodon” emblazoned on the booty. Perfect attire for the Bay Area’s recent heat wave, no?)

Opening the show for the Atlanta, Ga. foursome were a pair of heavy-hitting European imports: Kvelertaka personal favorite of the Prince of Norway — and Gojira (“We are Gojira from France!”, as the Bayonne-based band is fond of saying). The latter summed up the feeling of the crowd with its enthusiastic performance, and singer-guitarist Joe Duplantier’s frequent declarations of how fuckin’ stoked he was to be on tour with the mighty Mastodon. Us too, bro. Us too.  

New direction



SFIFF First things first: Brand-new San Francisco Film Society Executive Director Noah Cowan’s two favorite movies are 1942 Preston Sturges screwball comedy The Palm Beach Story and 1974 disaster drama The Towering Inferno. Appropriately, our first meeting takes place in downtown San Francisco, where that fictional world’s tallest building (containing Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, and O.J. Simpson, among others) went up in flames.

Cowan is very freshly transplanted from his native Toronto, where he worked for years in various roles at the Toronto International Film Festival; his career highlights also include co-founding Cowboy Pictures and the Global Film Initiative. He’s so new in town that his 12-year-old greyhound, Ruckus, has yet to make the move (“He’s gonna come down in the fall, because it’s been so busy, and I’m traveling a lot this summer”); he’s barely had time to find an apartment (home is now the Inner Sunset) and get his bearings.

But the San Francisco International Film Festival, now in its 57th year, waits for no man — not even this man, SFFS’ fourth executive director after the deaths of Graham Leggat in 2011 and Bingham Ray in 2012, and the brief tenure of Ted Hope, who began a new job at Fandor earlier this year. As the fest ramps up to its opening this week, the energetic Cowan — a huge San Francisco fan — gives the impression of someone who plans on going the distance.

SF Bay Guardian So, you started in early March, and the festival begins April 24. You’re plunging right into it!

Noah Cowan Yeah! But I think it’s better that way, because I’m experiencing the key event of the organization. I was able to help out at the very last minute on a few of the bigger films, but [starting right before SFIFF] allowed me to see the tail end of the programming process, and start thinking about ways we want to move things in the future.

SFBG How does this job differ from what you were doing previously?

NC My role in Toronto was really as an artistic leader, as opposed to an executive leader. Obviously there’s artistic-leadership aspects of my current job, but I have the benefit here of three really capable artistic heads: [director of programming] Rachel Rosen, who runs the festival and our other film screening programs; [Filmmaker360 director] Michelle Turnure-Salleo, who runs the filmmaker services and filmmaking area; and Joanne Parsont, who is a gifted director of education. I’m more strategic guidance and day-to-day administration, really learning how to run and expand and change the business.

In my career, I’ve gone back and forth between these two tendencies. I really feel now that I want to be back in the executive director’s seat. I was co-president of my own business for almost 10 years, and I’ve really missed that — the ability to mentor staff and to shape the overall tone of an institution. San Francisco provides unusually interesting opportunities for making a new kind of institution. It’s just a place that loves invention, and the people, including our board, have a real can-do attitude about change. For me, it’s a dream come true! I just need to get through the festival [laughs] to get a breath.

There are certain holdovers from my role in Toronto, where we built a crazy big building, [the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which opened in 2010]. There’s nothing else like it in the world of film, and I had the great honor and privilege of being able to oversee the artistic life of that building. Maybe some things that we did there aren’t going to translate here, but some of them will. We engaged in a lot of pilots in education and film-community outreach that taught me some valuable lessons about how those can and can’t work, and what’s changed about education now that we’re in the digital world.

In addition, I’ve learned the pros and cons of having your own theater space. While I’m highly optimistic that we’ll have alliances in the future where we’ll be able to have a year-round screening presence, I’m going to be pretty cautious about how we go about that from a business perspective.

SFBG SFFS already has several special presentations and mini-festivals throughout the year (Taiwan Film Days, French Cinema Now, etc.) When you say “year-round,” do you mean an increase in programming? Weekly screenings?

NC What would exactly happen in that theater is still a question. Maybe it’s just these small festivals that we have. I think there’s something about being associated with a permanent space, even if you don’t own it, that is really important for a film institution — to really be anchored. Film is kind of a retail business in a funny way, and while festivals are the Black Friday of film going, you need to have a sustainable relationship with your audience to be able to grow it, and to have them trust you to follow different pathways.

SFBG Fortunately, like Toronto, San Francisco has a built-in audience of film fanatics.

NC It’s interesting here — it’s more diffuse environment. While there are a lot of film festivals in Toronto, there are a million in San Francisco and in the Bay Area in general, and there’s positives and negatives about that. When I have a second, after our festival, I’m looking forward to reaching out and understanding the needs of other film organizations in the city, and how we might be able to help. So far, this has felt like a city that really welcomes collaboration, so I hope we’ll be able to have some really exciting conversations.

SFBG What are you most excited about at this year’s SFIFF?

NC I really like this festival. There are a number of terrific films. I really like Rachel Rosen’s taste! Very much like the Toronto festival, the San Francisco festival is really focused on audiences: what kind of audiences are going to be interested in what kinds of films, and in general, an eye to audience enjoyment in the selections, even for films that are on the difficult side. There’s a thoughtfulness to the kinds of responses that the programmers would like to elicit, which really fits in with my own philosophies of why film festivals and film organizations are generally on the planet.

In terms of individual films, there are some films that I’ve championed before that are here, like Roberto Minervini’s Stop the Pounding Heart, or James Franco’s Child of God, which I was the programmer of this past year in Toronto. I’m happy to see them again! And then there’s some new work, particularly in the documentary area, that really impresses me — films like Art and Craft and Burt’s Buzz, which are really strong and really accessible.

And then, of the many elements that drew me to San Francisco, probably the biggest one was the incredible work that we’re doing in making films. So I’ll be paying very special attention to the San Francisco Film Society-supported films — we have seven films that we’ve supported, strictly church and state in terms of being selected for the festival, that are going to be here because they’re just the best films of the year, particularly from an American independent perspective. I’m just so delighted that we can have these deep, family associations with films like Hellion, Little Accidents, and Manos Sucias. These are all films of really high caliber that are going to be among the most talked-about films of the year. *


The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 24-May 8. Screening venues include the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; New People Cinema, 1746 Post, SF; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; and Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post, SF. For tickets (most shows $15) and complete schedule, visit festival.sffs.org.

Shot of Coachella



In case you were on some kind of self-imposed social media hiatus last weekend (early, tech-centered Lent ritual?), you’re probably aware of a little music festival called Coachella that comes around this time of year like a bass-thumping, hashtag-happy harbinger of Spring.

The festival’s first weekend (Fri/11 through Sun/13) wasn’t short on memorable moments: Solange bringing big sister Beyonce onstage for a choreographed dance routine on Saturday; Arcade Fire’s Win Butler putting the festival grounds’ VIP section and increasingly moneyed atmosphere on blast — before being joined by Debbie Harry, Pharrell and his hat seemingly welcoming the years 1998 through 2002 onstage on Sunday, by way of guests Gwen Stefani, Nelly, and Snoop Dogg. Then again, we hear OutKast’s reunion was met with an underwhelming response from the audience — we’ll have to wait for BottleRock Napa in May to find out for ourselves if that’s on them, or had more to do with an overheated, EDM-leaning crowd.

As is often the case with big festivals like this one, a lot of the best sets came from smaller acts whose names you’re not likely to see in the tabloids anytime soon. We sent photographer Eric Lynch to capture some impressions of everyone’s favorite hot, dusty, celebrity-filled, dance-until-you-can’t-feel-your-feet-oh-wait-maybe-that’s-the-drugs party, and boy did he deliver. Check ’em out, and feel free to send us your own snaps and stories if you’ve got something cool to share: esilvers@sfbg.com.

A few last thoughts from Coachella


Words and photos by Eric Lynch.

If Friday was about jorts and flower crowns and Saturday was about sandstorms and solid “lesser” acts, then Sunday was about Coachella babies and big performers who totally brought it.

Arcade Fire played to their 80,000 lost souls with a world of possibilities ahead of them, introducing one of their tour de forces, “There’s a lot of kind of like fake VIP room bullshit happening at this festival and I just want to say that sometimes people dream of getting in places like that and it super sucks in there so don’t worry about it.  This song’s called ‘The Suburbs’…”


Debbie Harry and Regina Chassagne sang “Heart of Glass” then Harry stood there looking shell-shocked and awkward during Chassagne’s “Sprawl II.”

There is an obvious predecessor to Pharrell’s (stupid) Vivienne Westwood hat — you know, the hat that contained all his friends that showed up to bounce around the stage with him on Saturday: Nelly, Diddy, Busta, Snoop, Gwen, et al. Beck’s hat is senior.

Much to the glee of the crowd, Beck took us on a mind-journey in his Hyundai during “Debra,” giving shout-outs to SoCal cities along the way.  Tongue-in-cheek, sure, but the masses loved it as they “stepped inside the passenger door.” He played, along with his son Cosimo on tambourine, until the Golden Voice clock-watchers turned out the power.


AlunaGeorge gave a great performance, despite an outfit that included comfortable/restaurant worker-appropriate shoes. Shape-Ups? Troubling opening with an overwhelming bass line (she opened with “Attracting Flies”) but she adjusted very well. 


DARKSIDE: Probably the best performance of the weekend. Nicolas Jaar (who played a solo DJ set on Friday in the Yuma tent) and Dave Harrington consecutively constructed and destroyed throughout their set. Plus Nicolas Jaar is dreamy.


Despite Neutral Milk Hotel’s lo-fi output, devoted fans worshipped every  spangle-jangled second. Sing-alongs aplenty and clapping 30-somethings and mid-life couples with one and a half babies. 

The 1975 brought fun and a bit of realness to the festival early on Sunday. Hot skinny slim-mustachioed gay boys and white jeans with matching boat shoes-sporting straight feys regaled.

Ty Segall gave the longest and loudest sound check in the history of outdoor festivals. They know we’re standing ring here, right?!  The band’s energy was palpable.


CHVRCHES apologized for having to wear sunglasses because “we’re really not from here.” But their performance was anything but apologetic. Polished and clean.


Future Islands: I thought Black Flag front man Henry Rollins had been reincarnated as a less punk, more enraged white guy, mugging for the crowd, bleating and blathering with testosterone force.

Warpaint had the most crowded photographer’s pit. Full of 20-something bloggers and middle-aged stock photogs. The ladies did not disappoint. 


As a photographer, I’m always hoping for a performance and a persona like Solange. She can just electrify with her presence. Not knowing at the time who she was, I actually snapped some great shots of her last year at Coachella, while  watching the Jesse Ware performance — simply because I could not take my eye off of her adorable sundress covered in bright yellow lemons.  This year onstage, she teased and taunted us in an orange shorts suit.  At one point she jokingly admonished the YouTube videographer to get out of her crotch as she writhed and pined in front of his lens. Something for the gays, the girls and the bros! Yes, and big sis Beyonce showed up, duh.


Overall: Blood Orange, Holy Ghost, Warpaint, The Knife, Solange, DARKSIDE, the 1975 and Arcade Fire were absolute standouts.

Coachella for agoraphobics: How to do the festival without leaving your house


Fun fact: I’m bad at festivals. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, per se: there’s live music, the outdoors, fried food, great people-watching.

It’s just that — well, okay, I lied, I usually don’t enjoy them. I’m not 22 anymore. I don’t like waiting in long lines for disgusting Port-a-Potties. The sound is often unpreventably terrible. Trying to see all the bands you really care about becomes a headache-inducing feat of scheduling Sudoku. And the people-watching, while entertaining, often devolves into being so annoyed at/dismayed by the people around me that I’m too distracted to enjoy the music.

I’m great at parties, I promise!

Here’s the thing: I truly love a lot of the acts on the lineup at Coachella this year. OutKast, The Dismemberment Plan, come on. And the fact that I’m not going to see the Replacements tonight makes me feel all kinds of superfan failure feelings (see: the name of my column).

I can’t be alone in my competing excitement about this year’s artists and total lack of desire to physically be on the hot, crowded premises for their shows. Thus, without further ado — before your social networks start blowing up with pictures of your friends having The Time of Their Lives there — a step-by-step guide to doing Coachella this weekend from the comfort of your own home.

Step 1: Get dressed. Ladies, you’re gonna want one of these.


On the bottom, go for the timeless, comfortable class of cutoff shorts that let the entire bottom half of your ass hang out the leg holes (you can Google image-search that one yourself). Pair with tall, furry boots. If you’ve been working out lately — or even following the Coachella diet — and really want to show off your complete lack of self-awareness, try appropriating the rich, storied culture of a persecuted people with your headgear. Guys, you can do this one too.




Step 2. Hit the hardware store and garden supply center. You want a high-powered space heater and several bags of very dry dirt — we’re in a drought here, after all. On the way home, collect a full trash bag of empty beer bottles, used condoms, and other detritus from the street. (Optional, depending on personal preference: Buy drugs.) When you get home, turn the heater on full blast and close the windows; then scatter dirt and garbage everywhere.

Step 3. Invite some friends over. You’re not into big crowds, but come on, you’re not anti-social. Bonus points if you can get a local celebrity, like John Waters, Rider Strong, or the Tamale Lady. Instagram the shit out of everything they do, such as taking selfies, taking more selfies, and sitting on their bodyguards’ shoulders, smoking blunts.




Step 4. Put on some tunes. To get that special “festival” sound, try turning the volume and bass up until every single element is distorted, then wrap your speakers in heavy blankets. Follow up by either standing with your ear smashed against them or walking half a mile away. Here’s a playlist featuring all of Friday, to get you started:

Step 5. Sometime around 5am (your mileage may very depending on drugs of choice), try going to sleep. Hey, look at that — you’re in your own bed! If you want to get that authentic camping feeling, make your friends stay over and sleep in super-cramped positions next to you. Ideally, you’ll wake up to the sound of someone vomiting five feet away from your head. I’m lucky enough to have a bedroom window facing 16th Street; again, YMMV.

But don’t think about that now. Get a little bit of rest. Drink some water. Tomorrow’s another long, glorious day of the best music festival you’ve ever been to, and if you want to have document the Time of Your Life, you’re gonna need your energy.

[More seriously — we do have a photographer at Coachella this weekend, check back here for cool photos that are not the result of me gleefully Google image-searching “Coachella headdress terrible.”]

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CAREERS AND ED Ah, the bright lights of Hollywood — so close, and yet thankfully far enough away to allow Bay Area filmmakers to develop their own identities. The SF scene thrives thanks to an abundance of prolific talent (exhibit A: have you noticed how many film festivals we have?), and continues to grow, with a raft of local programs dedicated to teaching aspiring Spielbergs — or better yet, aspiring Kuchars — the ins and outs of the biz.

San Francisco’s big art schools all have film programs. California College of the Arts offers both a BFA and an MFA in film, with an eye toward keeping students trained not just in cinema’s latest technological advancements, but its ever-changing approaches to distribution and exhibition. One look at the staff roster and it’s not hard to see why CCA’s program is so highly-acclaimed, with two-time Oscar winner Rob Epstein (1985’s The Times of Harvey Milk; 1995’s The Celluloid Closet; 2013’s Lovelace); indie-film pioneer Cheryl Dunye (1996’s The Watermelon Woman; 2001’s The Stranger Inside); and noted experimental artist Jeanne C. Finley, among others. www.cca.edu

The Art Institute of California has a Media Arts department that offers a whole slew of programs, including BS degrees in digital filmmaking and video production, digital photography, and media arts and animation, as well as an MFA in Computer Animation. The school, which offers a number of online courses, is affiliated with the for-profit Argosy University system and aims for “career-focused education.” www.artinstitutes.edu/san-francisco/

The San Francisco Art Institute has this to say about its programs: “The distinguished filmmaker Sidney Peterson initiated filmmaking courses at SFAI in 1947, and the work made during that period helped develop “underground” film. From the 1950s to the early 1970s, filmmakers at the school such as Bruce Conner, Robert Nelson, Stan Brakhage, and Gunvor Nelson brought forth the American avant-garde movement. Our current faculty is internationally renowned in genres including experimental film, documentary, and narrative forms.” The school has embraced new technology and offers extensive digital resources, but it also supports artists who prefer working with celluloid. 16mm and Super 8 filmmaking lives! www.sfai.edu/film

The Academy of Art University may be largely known around SF for the number of buildings it owns downtown, but it does have a School of Motion Pictures and Television that offers AA, BFA, and MFA diplomas, augmented by an extensive online program. Its executive director is Diane Baker, eternal pop-culture icon for her role in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs (“Take this thing back to Baltimore!”) Other faculty members include acclaimed choreographer Anne Bluethenthal. Students can also take classes from Guardian contributor Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, who programs the popular “Midnites for Maniacs” series at the Castro Theatre and is the school’s film history coordinator.

“I teach 11 different theory classes, including the evolution of horror, Westerns, melodramas, musicals, and ‘otherly’ world cinema, as well as a close-up on Alfred Hitchcock,” Ficks says. “But bar none, the History of Female Filmmakers class seems to create the biggest debates. Some find it sexist to emphasize gender — as artists, why can’t we transcend that concept? Except why have the majority of textbooks forgotten, ignored, or even re-written these women out of history? If the argument is that female filmmakers just aren’t good enough to be ranked alongside their male counterparts, how about watching more than one film by Alice Guy, Lois Weber, Frances Marion, Dorothy Arzner, Maya Deren, Ida Lupino, or Agnes Varda? And that’s just the first six weeks of class.” www.academyart.edu

The eventual fate of the City College of San Francisco is still being decided, but for now, its cinema department offers students a mix of hands-on (classes in cinematography, editing, sound, etc.) and theory (film theory, film history, genre studies, etc.) classes. The spring 2014 course catalog included such diverse offerings as “Focus on Film Noir,” “The Documentary Tradition,” “Pre-Production Planning,” and “Digital Media Skills.” Since 2000, the department has showcased outstanding student work in the City Shorts Film Festival, which last year screened both on-campus and at the Roxie Theater. www.ccsf.edu

Tucked into the city’s foggiest corner is San Francisco State University, whose cinema department remains strongly tied to the school’s “core values of equity and social justice,” according to its website, with a special focus on experimental and documentary films. The faculty includes acclaimed filmmakers Larry Clark and Greta Snider, and students can earn a BFA, an MFA, or an MA (fun fact: like I did!) www.cinema.sfsu.edu

On the newer end of the spectrum is the eight-year-old Berkeley Digital Film Institute, which offers “weekend intensives” to smaller groups of students. Dean Patrick Kriwanek says the school teaches “LA-style,” or commercial-style, filmmaking. “Our teachers all come from the American Film Institute or have worked on features,” he says. “We’re trying to train our kids to produce the same level of work that you’d see out of UCLA or USC grad schools — excellent work that’s thoughtful.”

The school also takes the practical side of entertainment into account. “I always joke that we try to be 51 percent art school and 49 percent business school, but it’s really true,” he adds. “You really have to be a business person if you want to succeed.” www.berkeleydigital.com

On this side of the bay, at Mission and Fifth streets to be precise, there’s the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, which aims to “create filmmakers with careers in the entertainment industry.” Faculty members include Frazer Bradshaw, director of the acclaimed indie drama Everything Strange and New (2009) and screenwriter Pamela Gray (1999’s A Walk on the Moon). In addition to months-long programs, the school offers workshops like a crowd funding how-to (an essential area of expertise for any independent artist these days) and a single-day “boot camp-style” intro to digital filmmaking. www.filmschoolsf.com *


I watched Rebelution next to Dusty Baker


“Put in this story that you watched Rebelution next to Dusty Baker,” said Dusty Baker. As I stood against the railing on the upper level of the Independent Tuesday night, I was unknowingly chatting up the former San Francisco Giants’ manager. The baseball legend chuckled at my slight embarrassment at not recognizing him. He leaned over the railing as he talked about supporting live music and coming here with his best friend from 2nd grade. We overlooked a sold-out room, filled to the brim with an eclectic group of high school and middle-aged reggae lovers.

Rebelution opened the show with a tight guitar riff before the rest of the band jumped in with drums, bass, keyboard, and saxophone — a signature Rebelution move. No fog machine needed, dozen of joints lit up within the first minute creating a hazy shadow around the musicians. If you weren’t high before, you certainly would be through second-hand smoke alone — which got me wondering, is Dusty Baker high right now? Within the first song, my thoughts turned to nostalgia for simpler times.


Disclaimer: Rebelution has been a long time favorite band of mine. I remember listening to the sweet reggae songs on road trips down the coast during high school. In college, I drove through the night to see the band play at Lollapalooza. My ringtone still to this day is the first 30 seconds of “Safe and Sound.”

The band’s front man, Eric Rachmany, started the show off with the crowd favorite “Attention Span.” Images of lazy afternoons and thoughts of making the world a better place overtook me. “It’s a pleasure to meet ya,” he sang.

It really was a pleasure for him. The SF native was genuinely pumped to be playing in his hometown. At every bridge, transition, and break between songs, Rachmany called out to the sold-out venue. “How are we doing San Francisco?” The crowd cheered back with matching enthusiasm. This mutual delight in each other’s presence is such a rare occasion in live music nowadays; Rebelution has a riveting stage presence.


Beyond Rachmany, the keyboard player Rory Carey softly caressed the keyboard offering harmonious beats to Wesley Finley on the drums. Carey’s long blonde locks flowed side to side as he swayed back and forth over the keyboard. Standing well over six feet tall, the timid bassist, Marley D. William, occasionally stepped out from the shadows and commanded the stage. And the excellent touring member Khris Royal stole the show by blowing insane saxophone melodies that matched up perfectly with Rachmany’s guitar.
“He used to play guitar in the hallways at Drew,” said Adam Swig, a high school friend of Rachmany’s whom I met at the show. Rachmany grew up in the Sunset and went to the Drew School. “I was like ‘Man, that’s cheating. Girls are here.’” It’s no doubt that Rachmany is a babe magnet. With his soothing vocals and honest energy, the lead singer had girls in tube tops fawning over him. To be fair, dudes in backwards baseball caps, graphic T-shirts, and oversized hoodies partook in the fawning, especially during his epic guitar solos.


While the vocals and instrumentals were perfectly on par, Rebelution’s performance was not only about music — it was about community. The Santa Barbara band opened for Israel Vibration at the Independent back in 2007, after independently releasing its first full-length album “Courage to Grow.” Since then, the band has played all across the California coast and around the country, selling out local venues and opening music festivals. Two years later, Rebelution founded its own record label 87 Music, named after the band members’ address while at UCSB, where they met. With three albums, an independent label and an upcoming fourth album, the reggae band found its way back to its roots at the Independent in celebration of the venue’s 10th anniversary.

With just a few simple strums of the acoustic guitar, Rachmany quieted the room for “Feelin’ Alright,” the band’s most popular single, about releasing hatred and surrendering to the music. The soft strings reverberated around the hall. To no one’s surprise, the entire crowd joined in with vocals. “I’m trying to pick up the soul’s intention to soak in music relaxation,” he sang.


“They are probably the most successful ‘true’ independent touring band,” said Swig about his high school buddy’s band. Bias aside, the band’s success can be measured by the community love. As Emma wrote last week, the Independent is at the heart of the city. Much like the Divisadero venue, Rebelution relies heavily on the community, which was clearly seen at last night’s show, from Dusty Baker showing support to a surprise performance by Zion I. The show wasn’t about Rebelution; it was a celebration of live independent music. Rachmany spit a verse during Thrive’s opening set. The trumpet player of Brass Magic (first opener) played alongside sax player Royal during “Roots Reggae Music,” a new song from Rebelution’s upcoming album.

At the end of the set, Rebelution performed a wonderful two-song encore, including “Green to Black” with complementary green lights. Basking in the green-soaked room, the audience roared with excitement and the fan-made smoke machine started up again. Rarely have I seen such pure happiness and tranquility in this condensed space. It didn’t matter that the show was almost over, it happened. Waves of enlightenment overpowered Rebelution’s fans, including myself.

“We appreciate your energy,” yelled Rachmany through the thick fog. The crowd cheered back. From the light tunes of “Lazy Afternoon” to the socially conscious lyrics of “Good Vibes,” Rebelution’s intention was to bring honest joy to San Francisco, and I couldn’t get enough of the good vibes.

Gimme 5: Must-see shows this week (Noise Pop edition)


Like sands through the hourglass, so are the festivals of San Francisco. Or something like that. SF Beer Week is over, dear readers, but fret not! It’s the end of February, which is undoubtedly the cruelest month, no matter what T.S. Eliot said, when the darkest days of winter (in places that have that season) are finally over, and the first blossoms of spring are testing their sea legs like so many trepidatious Bambis. In these parts, that means one thing: Noise Pop is upon us.

This the year NP turns 22, so the festival is definitely old enough to hang with the big kids. And there are indeed some big kids in this year’s lineup — Lord Huron, Real Estate, and Dr. Dog, to name a few. But our favorite part about this festival is what it means for up-and-coming Bay Area acts, for whom playing Noise Pop is something of a rite of passage. We’ll be highlighting a few of our favorites over the course of this week, but for now, here are some suggestions for places to show some local pride. As per usual, the tightly-packed schedule presents some tough choices — so yes, we know there are more than five options here. Life’s tough. T.S. Eliot got that one right.


Papercuts and Vetiver @ The Chapel
This is a dreamy package deal if I’ve ever seen one. Papercuts‘ Jason Robert Quever’s melodic, melancholy sighs have never sounded as subtlely polished as on his upcoming album, Life Among the Savages, his first for the brand-new LA-based label Easy Sound Recording Co. Labelmates and fellow San Franciscans Vetiver‘s breezy folk-pop is music for a spur-of-the-moment afternoon drive up the coast. Throw in San Diego opener The Donkeys and you’ve got yourself the sonic landscape of a California we’re in the habit of relegating to car commercials where someone in the passenger seat is grinning and sticking their hand out the window playfully, a California where everyone’s fresh-faced and it never rains. Noise Pop-goers, you can have it all! Especially that last part.
With EDJ, and Vinyl selections by Britt Govea
8pm, $18
The Chapel
777 Valencia, SF

(Plan B: Strange Vine/French Cassettes at Bottom of the Hill, or CCR Headcleaner/Skate Laws at Benders)


Jel @ Sparc
Forget the music, watching Jel repeatedly punch drum machine pads and twist sampler knobs on bulky, last-gen machinery would be worth the price of admission. The East Bay-based electronic hip-hop producer manages to keep his appendages intact while stabbing out a dizzying array of kick drums, snares, and percussion in ever-shifting breakbeat arrangements and tempos. On his latest LP, Late Pass (Anticon), Jel balances bass with shoegaze melodies, hints of psychedelia, electric guitar chords and some of his own emceeing. In line with the political undertones throughout the album (“Don’t get comfortable,” the title track advises), this show marks the two-year anniversary of the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center, a medical cannabis nonprofit. — Kevin Lee
7pm, free (RSVP req. for non badge-holders)
1256 Mission, SF

(Plan B: Social Studies, Aan, Farallons, Max and the Moon at the New Parish)


Painted Palms, Dirty Ghosts, Happy Fangs @ Slims
Sure, Cold Cave is technically the headliner, but calling these three local bands supporting acts just seems wrong. SF duo Painted Palms are the darlings du jour of the psych-rock world, for good reason — Forever, released just last month, is one of the most lush, layered debut albums we’ve heard in a while. Dirty Ghosts‘ Allyson Baker is a frontwoman and a half, drawing from punk, blues, experimental rock, and electronica, and the band has promised a new record in 2014, so we wouldn’t be surprised to hear some fresh material. And Happy Fangs, featuring boundless, rough-around-the-edges, sweet n’ salty energy from former members of My First Earthquake and King Loses Crown, will be playing their first show with a live drummer (check back here for a Q&A with them later this week).
7pm, $16
333 11th St, SF

(Plan B: Soft White Sixties/The She’s at the Chapel, Bleached/Terry Malts at the Rickshaw Stop)


Black Map, Free Salamander Exhibit, Lasher Keen, Happy Diving @ Bottom of the Hill
Yes, there’s a lot going on Saturday night. No, you shouldn’t go see that band you’ve seen a million times before. If you’re in the mood to get super-heavy and excellently weird, this is a solid lineup of newish Bay Area talent running the gamut from Black Map‘s epic, guitar-driven, smart-art-rock-meets-anthemic-metal sound to upstart Happy Diving‘s soft-grunge-leaning, head-bobbing power pop. Lasher Keen’s earthly psychedelia seems to be from another century, you just can’t tell if it’s the future or the past — we’re pretty sure they’d say that’s a good thing. And Free Salamander Exhibit is, of course, the new project from former members of the elaborately theatrical, cultishly loved experimental noise-rock outfit Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Let’s just say you’re not going to be bored.
8pm, $15
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF

(Plan B: Mikal Cronin at the Chapel, Mark Kozelek at Great American Music Hall — look for our feature on the latter in this week’s paper.)


Rogue Wave, Trails and Ways, Wymond Miles @ The Chapel

Oakland’s Rogue Wave set the tone for lo-fi, indie pop-rock way back in the mid-aughts, with an onset of popularity so sudden it seemed unsustainable. Not so — the lineup may change, but the band’s talent for crafting jangly earworms needs no further proving, as of last year’s Nightingale Floors. Trails and Ways, whose members met at Cal, make danceable, Bossa Nova-infused dream-pop that broadens and deepens with repeated listens, but doesn’t take itself overly seriously; oh yeah, they also sing in three languages. And Wymond Miles, still probably best known as the Fresh and Onlys’ guitarist, put out his second solo work late last year — a dense, thoughtfully arranged post-punk gem of a record. Note: This is an afternoon show and, with a bloody Mary on the side, would probably be an excellent hangover soother.
3pm, $20
The Chapel
777 Valencia, SF

Happy Hour: The week in music


Dearest clock-watchers! If you hadn’t noticed, it’s almost the weekend. In the event that your excitement is currently tempered with social anxiety about which pop culture topics to discuss over happy hour beverages — a very sad and all-too-common affliction — here are a few gems from the music world that the Internet bestowed upon us this week.

— The 5th annual Burger Boogaloo, one of the spunkiest (and most affordable!) festivals in the Bay Area’s grand feast of summer festival offerings, announced its lineup yesterday, and it’s a good one. What says “summer” more than the legendary Ronnie Spector crooning “Be My Baby” as hipsters play drunken kickball around you in Mosswood Park?

— Oakland noir-pop rockers DRMS released this epically and mysteriously engaging 17-and-a-half-minute film set to some of the most experimental music we’ve heard from them yet. They’re at the Rickshaw Stop tomorrow night [Sat/22], if you wanna get good and dreamy.

— The city of Abderdeen, Wash., home of one Kurt Cobain, celebrated its first annual “Kurt Cobain Day” yesterday, Feb. 20, on what would have been the rocker’s 47th birthday. With what, you ask? Why, a giant, weird, crying, Jesus-like Kurt Cobain statue, of course. Because that definitely seems like something he would have wanted.

— The SFJAZZ Center is a very precocious one-year-old. [SFGate]

Kelis will finally get to share her milkshake recipe with the world — or at least viewers of the Cooking Channel — thus eliminating the need for boys to even come to her yard at all.

Cranky dude at the Thermals show last night at The Chapel: You’re unhelpful. [via Mission Mission]

Go forth, my friends. Stay hydrated.

Sundance, fin: more from the Native Forum


Running into Chris Eyre was easily one of the most exciting moments of this year’s festival. Following his 1998 Audience Award-winning debut, Smoke Signals, Eyre premiered Skins at Sundance 2002, just a few months after 9/11 — and it still ranks as one of the most memorable cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. 

After the film, which offers a harrowing look at a sheriff on the Pine Ridge reservation (which is still to this day the poorest in the nation), Park City audiences were dumbfounded as to how to respond. Producer Jon Kilik, who also helped Spike Lee with his ensemble masterpieces Do the Right Thing (1989) and Clockers (1995) was on hand with director Eyre as they plowed through us progressive pit fallers at Sundance. “We are all responsible.” Eyre’s words are still stuck in my head. 

Other than directing a couple of Friday Night Lights episodes and a few TV movies, Eyre has since had difficulty getting features financed. Make sure to track down his stunning 40-minute A Thousand Roads (2005), created for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. It showcases a harrowing score by Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard. 

And so the baton seems to have been passed to 34-year-old Oklahoma-based Sterlin Harjo, who read a segment from Hal Ashby’s Bound To Glory (1976), an ode to folk pioneer Woody Guthrie, at the Native Forum anniversary celebration. It perfectly connected his regional stories to a larger context. 

Harjo’s third feature, documentary This May Be the Last Time (US) is a historian’s as well as musicologist’s dream, as Harjo attempts to uncover his grandfather’s disappearance in 1962. As he traces the origins of the Seminole songs that he grew up with, he learns that his tribe’s singing style is tied to traditions that originated in Scotland, Appalachia, and the experiences of enslaved African Americans.

With a film that plays out similarly to Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man (2012), Harjo has constructed a deeply moving personal documentary that transcends the region, and can connect to anyone interested in our country’s complicated colonialism. 

I was able to track Sterlin Harjo down post-fest for a quick interview, and he’s as thoughtful and as passionate as his films suggest. Smoke Signals and Jim Jarmusch’s acid-western Dead Man (1995) both came out at the perfect time to open Harjo’s eyes to filmmaking as a possible career.

“Jarmusch did such a wonderful job with Dead Man, even better than some Native filmmakers. The language, the wardrobe, the regions, it was all so well researched. And the film isn’t about an Indian; it’s about a human who’s complicated, with a dark side and a lighter side,” he said. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 1998, Harjo found that he had to leave home to begin reflecting on his own part of the country. 

After completing the Sundance Lab and Native Forum through the Sundance Institute, Harjo made his debut feature, Four Sheets to the Wind (2007), a terrific hipster comedy about a twenty-something who takes a trip to visit his sister off the reservation. “The film is a reactionary Native film to the reactionary Native films that I grew up with. I wanted to contradict the newly formed stereotypes from within the community. No one was going to walk around talking about ‘being an Indian,’ because that didn’t happen in my world. There’s an integrated relationship with a white woman and no one was going to comment on it. Indians were going to drink beer and smoke pot and it wasn’t going to be an issue.”

Though star Tamara Podemski won an Independant Spirit Award nomination as well as a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for her “fully realized physical and emotional turn,” the film ran into categorical problems from distributors. “There were supposedly three-hour meetings about how the film was ‘too Indian’ as well as ‘not Native enough’,” he recalled. 

And here lies perhaps the biggest problem with second-generation Native/Indigenous cinema; Who wants to watch these films? Harjo’s follow-up, 2009’s Barking Water, which premiered at Sundance, spotlights a powerhouse performance by Richard Ray Whitman as a man dying of cancer trying to get back home. 

With shades of David Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999), this poignant piece engages the viewer thoroughly through the struggles of generation gaps in our contemporary culture. And all the while, it exposes Oklahoma’s quiet and even “magical” ambiance, according to Harjo. 

“It’s true, all of my films are centered around ‘Home’. That’s ‘Home’ with a capital H because growing up, displacement was a constant subject taught to us. The Trail of Tears seems to still be affecting us to this day. And so ‘Home’ is sacred and part of our mythology yet we are aware of it often feeling temporary. Funny enough, my next film Chief (which is a term used for homeless Natives) is centered around the loss of home when a man is forced to head to Tulsa, where he becomes homeless and finds himself in the middle of the city’s homeless population. You could call it a poetic thriller.” 

Harjo is exactly the type of filmmaker I hope to uncover at film festivals: his work is thought-provoking, passionate, and energized. It’s now up to us to seek out and watch his films so that we don’t read about him 30 years from now and ponder “it’s too bad those second-generation filmmakers didn’t make more cinema.”


A very Indy decade



LEFT OF THE DIAL If there’s one thing Allen Scott remembers from opening the Independent 10 years ago, it’s the rush. Not the emotional high (though surely that was a factor too), but the literal rushing around that was necessary to open a state-of-the-art live concert space with a capacity of 500 “on a shoestring budget.”

“We barely got open on time,” recalls Scott, the managing owner of the venue at 628 Divisadero — the latest in a long line of storied San Francisco clubs that have shared that address. “We had friends painting it right up until about the day before we opened. We’d moved the sound system in but didn’t have alarms set up, so we were taking turns sleeping on the stage overnight. People would come by and say ‘When are you opening?’ and we’d say ‘In a couple days,’ and they’d laugh, like ‘Good luck with that.’ The night we opened, the fire department signing everything off while the band was sound-checking.”

That band was I Am Spoonbender, and that show was the first of more than 2,500 that have taken place within the Independent’s walls since February 2004. If the space feels like it has a deeper history than that, it’s for good reason: In the late 1960s, it was home to the Half Note, a popular jazz club that saw the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk; the house band featured George Duke and a young Al Jarreau. In the early ’80s it became the VIS Club, and served as a hub for local punk, new wave, and experimental bands; by the late ’80s it was the Kennel Club, and hosted up-and-comers like Nirvana and Janes Addiction. In the mid-’90s, it was reborn as the Justice League, nurturing burgeoning electronic and hip-hop acts — Fat Boy Slim, Jurassic 5, the Roots, and plenty others all found enthusiastic crowds. To put it mildly, if those walls could talk, they’d tell a lot of good party stories. Next week’s lineup of shows will only add to the vault: From Feb. 19 through Feb. 26, the Independent will host Allen Stone, John Butler Trio, Beats Antique, DJ Shadow, Two Gallants (below), Rebelution, and Girl Talk in a series of special performances to celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary.

Two Gallants play The Indepednent Feb. 23

As the club has changed, San Francisco — as it is wont to do — changed around it. The formerly gritty Western Addition is now shiny NoPa (at least according to real estate agents); what was once a bustling center for the city’s African-American population and jazz scene is now more of a bustling dining destination for the upper-middle-class. Regardless, says Scott, there’s no question that the Independent is “in the heart of the city…being part of this neighborhood, this community, is so important to us.”

Scott was just a young San Francisco promoter with an impressive track record when he was approached in 2003 by Gregg Perloff and Sherry Wasserman — proteges of Bill Graham and owners of the scrappy, barely-year-old concert promotion/marketing team Another Planet Entertainment — to run booking and promotions at the unopened venue.

“The name ‘The Independent’ came up through some discussions with music industry friends,” Scott told SF Weekly at the time of the club’s opening. “The whole idea of the Wal-Marting of America applies to the music industry as well. We wanted to stand alone: independent thinking, independent music. We’re an independent company. Of course, it was also an elbow in the side of the corporate giant out there.” (Perloff had just parted ways with Clear Channel under less-than-friendly circumstances.)

A decade later, of course, APE runs a couple of the biggest festivals in Northern California, and functions as the exclusive promoter for Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, Oakland’s Fox Theater, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, among others. And Scott’s now the vice president of APE. But The Independent, now the smallest APE operation, is still his baby.

“We wanted a utilitarian room that had great sound, great lights, and perfect sight lines,” he says. “And because it’s a box, the sight lines there really are perfect — no matter where you’re standing in the room, you can make eye contact with the performers and vice-versa. I think it’s the best-sounding room in the city. And I’d say it has the best lights of any venue underneath the size of the Fillmore.”

Nicki Bluhm is among the local artists who now regularly pack larger venues (see: her sold-out Fillmore show Jan. 25) but maintain a soft spot for the Independent. “[The club] treats their artists with so much respect,” she says, adding that the atmosphere there has led to some of her band’s most memorable shows. Also memorable, says Scott: Obama’s first presidential win, when the club held a free results-viewing party with live music. “When he won, the place erupted, and everyone spilled out into the streets…so there was a band playing inside and people just raging outside,” he recalls. “Very San Francisco.”


What does a quintessentially Brooklyn-loft-party-post-punk band sound like when two of its principal members relocate to LA? Judging by VoyAager, the lush, layered, immersively and epically spacey new album from experimental stalwarts Aa (“big A, little a”), it sounds like someone sent an assortment of synthesizers, samplers, and drum sets into the future, and the future is an industrial cityscape full of curiously advanced life forms who don’t communicate in a narrative sense, but they sure have lots of energy, and they like writing melodies (though not the kind you’ll likely hear on the radio anytime soon). Life sounds rough around the edges on this planet, but you kinda don’t ever want to leave. (Give the first track a listen at the end of this story.)

John Atkinson, the drummer-heavy band’s main vocalist and one of said members who relocated to the West Coast about three years ago, said the album — the band’s first in seven years — is actually the culmination of nearly seven years of recording. “We all work on songs together even when we’re not in the same place,” explains Atkinson, who lived (and recorded some of his parts) in France in the mid-aughts. Though Aa’s lineup and instrumentation seem to be constantly in flux (at this point, says Atkinson, there’s something of an East Coast lineup and a West Coast one), the band’s sound is distinctly more cohesive and melodic than on its 2007 debut, gAame.

Aa perform, with Lil B looking on.

“We don’t want to be making straight-ahead pop songs, but at the same time, I’d say the sounds of pop music have broadened our palette, while sticking to the way we like to put songs together,” says Atkinson. The changing lineup has helped the band’s sound evolve, as well: “Everyone listens to different music…dark industrial heavy stuff, electronic stuff, metal, punk, another drummer is into Samba, world music and jazz…everyone brings something different, so it’s great to watch that kind of stew congeal into something that still sounds like us.”

Playing the Hemlock on Feb. 15 will be the second stop on a weeklong West Coast tour that will take the guys up to Seattle, after which Atkinson will be making a point to stop at every basketball stadium he can on the way back down — the Jersey native is a fairly new appreciator (not a bandwagon fan, he wants to be clear) of California basketball.

As for the NYC/LA transition in general: “New York’s always gonna be home to me, but every time I go back, so much has changed about Brooklyn — all these condos, cookie-cutter new restaurants, and the vibe of the city is just not what it used to be,” he says, “LA is a really hard city to get to know, but that also means there’s a ton of interesting new stuff to discover all the time. It’s starting to feel like home.”

Last but definitely not least: Don’t forget to check out the first Bay Area Record Label Fair, (or B.A.R.F., which is funny whether or not you are 12, admit it), at Thee Parkside on Feb. 15, the brainchild of SF promoters Professional Fans and the city’s own Father/Daughter Records. Some 18 different labels will be represented at the daylong affair, plus live performances from Cocktails, Dog Party, and others TBD. Oh yeah, and it’s free — so bite your tongue the next time you find yourself saying that everything in this city has gotten too expensive.


The Independent’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
Feb. 19 – Feb. 26, show times and prices vary
628 Divisadero, SF

With Alan Watts, Wand, and Violent Vickie
Saturday, Feb. 15 9pm, $8
Hemlock Tavern 1131 Polk, SF

Saturday, Feb. 15 12pm – 5pm, free
Thee Parkside
1600 17th Street, SF