Music Festival

Go green!



"Arcadia: 2007" California Modern Gallery, 1035 Market; 821-9693, Mon/23, 6pm, $125-$350. This soiree and art auction — featuring work by more than 100 artists and hosted by Jeffrey Fraenkel, Gretchen Bergruen, and Thomas Reynolds — will benefit Friends of the Urban Forest, a nonprofit organization that provides financial, technical, and practical assistance to individuals and neighborhood groups that want to plant and care for trees.

"Away Ride Celebrating Earth Day" Meet at McLaren Lodge, Golden Gate Park; (510) 849-4663, Sun/22, 1:30pm, free with preregistration. The SF Bike Coalition and the Bay Area Outdoor Recreation Program join forces to host this moderately paced ride open to all levels of riders. They provide a helmet and a handcycle or tandem bike. You bring a sack lunch and water. Kids also get to decorate their wheels — bike, wheelchair, or skate.

"Biomimicry: The 2007 Digital Be-In" Mezzanine, 444 Jessie; Sat/22, 7pm-3am, $15 presale, $20 door, $100 VIP. Turn on, tune in, log out. In the spirit of the 1967 human be-in that epitomized San Francisco’s hippie generation and made Haight Ashbury famous, counterculture artists and activists have been hosting "The Digital Be-In" for 15 years. This year’s combination symposium-exhibition-multimedia-entertainment extravaganza focuses on Biomimicry as it relates to technology, urban development, and sustainability. There’ll be no Timothy Leary here, but the event will feature live music, DJs, projections, and appearances by modern hippie celebs such as Free Will astrologer Rob Brezsny and Burning Man founder Larry Harvey. Or join in the simultaneous virtual be-in in the Second Life online world. The revolution will be digitized.

"Earth Day Fair" Ram Plaza, City College of San Francisco, 50 Phelan; 239-3580, Thurs/19, 11am-1:30pm, free. View information tables set up by the CCSF and citywide environmental organizations, as well as a display of alternative fuel vehicles.

"EarthFest" Aquarium of the Bay, 39 Pier; 623-5300, Sun/22, 12-4pm, free. View presentations and engage in activities provided by 20 organizations all dedicated to conservation and environmental protection, with activities including live children’s music, a scavenger hunt, and giveaways.

"McLaren Park Earth Day" John McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, 40 John F. Shelley; Sun/22, 11am-7pm, free. What would Jerry do? Commemorate the park’s 80th anniversary with an all-day festival featuring birding hikes, habitat restoration projects, wildflower walks, tree planting, an ecostewardship fair, food booths, a live reptile classroom, puppetry, performance, music, storytelling, and chances to make art.

"$1 Makes the World a Greener Place" Buffalo Exchange local stores; 1-866-235-8255, Sat/21, all day, free. Buy something, change the world. During this special sale at all Buffalo Exchange stores, proceeds will benefit the Center for Environmental Health, which promotes greener practices in major industries. Many sale items will be offered for $1.

"People’s Earth Day" India Basin, Shoreline Park, Hunters Point Boulevard at Hawes, SF. Sat/21,10am-3pm. What better place to celebrate Earth Day than with a community of victorious ecowarriors? Help sound the death knell for the PG&E Hunters Point power plant with events and activities including a community restoration project at Heron’s Head Park, the presentation of the East Side Story Literacy for Environmental Justice theater production, and a display about Living Classroom, an educational and all-green facility expected to break ground this year. Want to get there the green way? Take the no. 19 Muni bus or the T-Third Street line.


"Berkeley Earth Day" Civic Center Park, Berk; Sat/21, 12-5pm, free. Earth Day may not have been born in Berkeley (it was actually the idea of a senator from Wisconsin), but it sure lives here happily. Celebrate at this community-sponsored event, which features a climbing wall, vegetarian food, craft and community booths, valet bike parking, and performances by Friends of Shawl-Anderson Youth Ensemble, Alice DiMicele Band, and Amandla Poets.

"Earth Day Celebration" Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds, Sausalito; 339-3900, Sat/21, 10am-5pm, free with museum admission. Happy birthday, dear planet. This Earth Day connect your family to the wonders of &ldots; well &ldots; you know, with a variety of special activities, including seed planting and worm composting, birdhouse building, a bay walk and cleanup, and presentations about insects from around the planet. For a small fee, also enjoy a birthday party for Mother Earth with games, face painting, crafts, and cake.

"Earth Day on the Bay" Marine Science Institute, 500 Discovery Parkway, Redwood City; (650) 364-2760, Sat/21, 8am-4pm, $5 suggested donation. This is the one time of year the institute opens its doors to the public, so don’t miss your chance for music, mud, and sea creatures — the Banana Slug String Band, the Sippy Cups, fish and shark feeding, and programs with tide pool animals, to be exact. You can also take a two-hour trip aboard an MSI ship for an additional $10.

"Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup Program" California State Parks; 258-9975 for one near you, Sat/21, times vary, free. The best way to celebrate Earth Day is to get involved. Volunteers are needed at California State Parks throughout the area for everything from planting trees and community gardens to restoring trails and wildlife habitats, and from installing recycling bins to removing trash and debris. All ages welcome.

"E-Waste Recycling Event" Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton, Pleasanton; 1-866-335-3373, Fri/20-Sun/22, 9am-3pm, free. The city of Pleasanton teams up with Electronic Waste Management to collect TVs, computers, monitors, computer components, power supplies, telephone equipment, scrap metal, wire, and much more. There is no limit to how much you can donate, and everything will be recycled.

"The Oceans Festival" UC Berkeley, Upper Sproul Plaza (near Bancroft and Telegraph), Berk; Fri/20, 5pm-7pm, donations accepted. This event, sponsored by CALPIRG, Bright Antenna Entertainment, and West Coast Performer magazine, is meant to bring awareness to the problem of plastic in our oceans and to raise money, through donations and food sales, for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. Featuring music and dance performances, as well as presentations by a variety of environmental organizations.

"People’s Park 38th Anniversary Celebration" People’s Park, Berk; Sun/22, 12-6pm, free. Celebrate the park with poetry, speakers, music, art and revolution theater, political tables, a Food Not Bombs lunch, clowns, puppets, and activities for children.


"Green Capital: Profit and the Planet?" Club Office, 595 Market; 597-6705. Wed/18, 6:30pm, $8-15. Can sustainable business renew our economy and save the planet? Can activists ethically exploit market systems? Environmental pioneers, from corporate reps to conservationists, will bust the myths and reveal realities of profitable environmental solutions at this panel discussion cosponsored by INFORUM; featuring Peter Liu of the National Resource Bank, author Hunter Lovins (Natural Capitalism), Steven Pinetti of Kimpton Hotels, and Will Rogers of the Trust for Public Land; and moderated by Christie Dames.

"An Inconvenient Truth 2.0 — A Call to Action" California State Bldg, 455 Golden Gate. Thurs/19, 6:30-9pm, $5 suggested donation. An updated version of Al Gore’s PowerPoint presentation will be screened by Sierra Club director Rafael Reyes, then followed by a discussion of the impact of global warming and a progress report on national legislation by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

"The Physics of Toys: Green Gadgets for a Blue Planet" Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon; 561-0399, Sat/21,11am-3pm, free with admission. The monthly event focuses on the earth this time around, giving children and adults an opportunity to build pinwheel turbines and other green gadgets. Materials provided.


"Agroecology in Latin America: Social Movements and the Struggle for a Sustainable Environment" La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 847-1262, Wed/18, 7:30pm, donations accepted. Get an update on Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, the alliance between environmental and social justice movements in the Americas, struggles for Food Sovereignty, organized peasant response to global agribusiness, opposition to genetically engineered crops, and more. Featuring guest speaker Eric Holt-Gimernez, executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.


"Bio-Mapping" Southern Exposure Gallery, 2901 Mission, SF; (415) 863-2141, Sat/21, 6:30pm, $8-15. Everyone says going green feels good — here’s the chance to prove it. Participate in Christian Nold’s social-art project by strapping into a GPS device and skin censors. Then take a walk or a bike ride while the sensors record your feelings and location. Nold uses the data to make an "Emotion Map" of the city, which you can check out online. (Can’t make Saturday? Nold’s also there Thursdays and Fridays through April 28).

"ReCycle Ryoanji" San Francisco Civic Center Plaza; Thurs/19, 4-6pm, free. Judith Selby Lang, local students, and visitors to the Asian Art Museum have sewn together thousands of white shopping bags to make their own version of Japan’s most famous and celebrated garden as both an art exhibition and community education project. The 18-foot-by-48-foot scale replica of the raked sand and rock garden can be seen at this reception for the project and on display across from City Hall until Tues/24. (Take that, American Beauty.)

"Green Apple Music and Arts Festival" Venues vary; Fri/20-Sun/22, prices vary. Green Apple combines fun and education with a three-day, ecofriendly music festival in cities across the country. San Francisco’s festival includes shows by Yonder Mountain String Band, New Mastersounds, Electric Six, Trans Am, and others at venues across the city, as well as a free concert at Golden Gate Park. Green Apple provides venues with environmentally friendly cups, straws, napkins, paper towels, and compostable garbage bags, as well as doing its best to make the entire festival carbon neutral.


"San Francisco New Living Expo" Concourse Exhibition Center, Eighth Street at Brannan; 382-8300, April 27-29, admission varies according to day and event. Touting 275 exhibitors and 150 speakers (including Starhawk, Marianne Williamson, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and ganja-guru Ed Rosenthal), the sixth annual version of this event promises to energize, educate, awaken, and expand consciousness. You won’t want to miss the environmental activism panel discussion April 28 at 3pm — or the exhibition hall’s special crystal area.


"Harmony Festival" Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa; June 8-10, $125 plus $50 per car camping pass. This festival is so green it’s almost blue — in fact, its tagline is "promoting global cooling." There’s a waste diversion effort, a whole Green Team monitoring the EcoStation, compost cans, and tips on how to be an ecofriendly attendee. Plus, it just looks like fun. With Brian Wilson, the Roots, and Common performing and Amy Goodman and Ariana Huffington speaking, how can you miss it?

"Lightning in a Bottle" Live Oak Campground, Santa Barbara; 1-866-55-TICKET, May 11-13. $95-120. It ain’t just a party. It’s a green-minded, art-and-music-focused campout in a forest wonderland. Organized by Los Angeles’s the Do Lab with participation from tons of SF artists, this three-day event is powered by alternative energy, offers ecoworkshops in everything from permaculture to raw foods, and encourages rideshares — including a participant-organized bus trip from San Francisco. Also featuring performances by Freq Nasty, Bassnectar, Vau de Vire Society, El Circo, and other DJs and artists from San Francisco and elsewhere, LIB attempts to change the precedent that festival fun has to be ecologically disastrous.

"Sierra Nevada World Music Festival" Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville; June 22-24, $125 plus $50 per car camping pass. Peace is green, right? I mean, what about Greenpeace? And peace is what this festival, which promotes "conscious" music, is all about. Plus, a range of representatives of environmental and social issues will be tabling at the festival — and registering voters.


"Burning Man" Black Rock City, Nev.; (415) TO-FLAME, Aug 27-Sept 3, $250-$280. With its Leave No Trace philosophy and its hippie roots, Burning Man has always been greener than most. But this year it’s getting even more explicitly so with the theme the Green Man, focusing on humanity’s relationship to nature (even though there is no nature on the dry lakebed surface). A pessimist might suggest this year’s theme is just another excuse to waste resources on leaf-themed art cars and that "Leave No Trace" usually translates to "Leave Your Trash in Reno." But an optimist might say this is Burning Man acknowledging and trying to address such issues. Either way, air out your dust-filled tent and pack some chartreuse body paint — it’s going to be an interesting year in Black Rock. *

Digging the roots



SONIC REDUCER Whinny, moan, or emote weakly, if you will, at the prospect of so many bland acoustic guitars — singer-songwriters have it rough, warbling softly alone on a big stage, so often the first to get slapped with the "you suck" stick. The worst scenario is too easy to picture: cliché love ballads about the lady or lad up front with the wine spritzer, uncompelling bellyaching about dead pets, lame chord progressions, an unexamined affection for James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel. You’ve got a friend — who wears khakis. So consider it a good fight when singer-songwriters and those who love them wanna bust the stereotypically sensitive mold à la Jay Farrar, Britt Govea, and Marc Snegg. The last started Nevada City’s Grass Roots Records and is sincerely trying to shine a light on songsmiths succored by the rocky, roaring shores of the sweet South Yuba River with, this week, a traveling songwriters revue including Mariee Sioux, Lee Bob Watson, Alela Diane, and Casual Fog.

Can one expect thin song stylings from clotted brains? "That’s not what’s going to be going on at our show!" Snegg protests on the horn from up north. "Each of these songwriters has strong songs, though I guess singer-songwriters sort of get a bad rap.

"The original thing came up because I’m looking around and seeing what’s happening here, what people are doing anyways. I’m trying to congeal and coalesce it into a thing that’s a tour or a record, something that’s a lasting picture of a moment."

You can’t blame the dude, with all the talent pouring out around his hometown, from Joanna Newsom and Noah Georgeson to Hella and the Advantage, many of whom are not only solo artists but bandleaders as well, as Snegg puts it. The ex–UC Berkeley art major heads his own Sneggband, has already had Watson and Hella vocalist Aaron Ross into Dana Gumbiner’s Brighton Sound studio for new albums, and plans to pull in Sioux by April. His latest project: partnering with Nevada City promoters to bring touring and Bay Area bands to the town.

FOLK YOU Snegg isn’t the only wild-eyed seer bringing together two different NorCal scenes with, in his words, "musical momentum" and a few acoustic guitars. Folk Yeah Presents’ Govea has been putting on quiet and increasingly louder shows at Big Sur’s leafy Fernwood Resort and the woody Henry Miller Library for the past two years. The Crime in Choir performance on March 24 laid the heavy down at the first show of the ’07 season, continuing the move toward the harder psych-rock that closed the series last year. "I didn’t want to barge into Big Sur making a big ruckus, but as it turns out, the locals really like to head-bang," the Monterey promoter says as he hurtles down the coast, promising a pair of Chris Robinson shows and a big outdoors bash with as yet unnamed German electronic artists. He’s also folked up about a Mt. Tam performance around the time of Monterey Pop’s 40th anniversary, a very rad, free Earth Day concert at the Henry Miller Library on April 22, and more shows in "exotic" locales closer to San Francisco, including his first in the city with Howlin Rain and a Mission Creek Music Festival night that should have Red Hash heads humming.

"What keeps it unique is the marriage of LA and San Francisco that comes — an interesting mix. The metaphysical fight goes back to Laurel Canyon and Haight Ashbury, but once everyone gets to Big Sur, it’s nothing but hugs. And other things," Govea adds merrily before breaking up amid the pine needles.

FARRAR OUT Also unfurling a louder, prouder sound is Farrar, who’s been working the other side of the folk acoustic spectrum and mining a kind of Midwestern country-soul for years, in Uncle Tupelo and solo and now once again with Son Volt. The band he cultivated while former UT cosongwriter Jeff Tweedy nurtured his Wilco has birthed an admirably multitextured new CD, The Search (Sony/BMG), full of songs seeking insight amid post-9/11 wartime ("The Picture"), soullessness ("Automatic Society"), drugs ("Methamphetamine"), and other trad forms of escape ("Highways and Cigarettes").

"I probably read too much current events in the paper," Farrar, 40, says from St. Louis. "And some of those topical issues do find a way into the writing. ‘The Picture’ is a song like that. There’s a line — ‘War is profit / Profit is war,’ and that’s kind of being borne out by companies like Haliburton moving to the Middle East where the money is being made."

The title song seemed to best tie together his thoughts about this moment. "I mean, I didn’t want to call it Methamphetamine!" he says, gracefully allowing that, yup, Uncle Tupelo once lived together, subsisting on ramen, and contrary to rumor, their house did not have dirt floors.

Farrar isn’t working "Handy Man" territory yet, but it’s safe to say his partying days are behind him. He’s currently reading S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, about the band’s somewhat infamous 1972 tour, though not for inspiration for his own travels. "Heh-heh, it can definitely be used as a reference point. I think most people who have done as much touring as I have tend to get that out of the way the first couple years. Eventually, you find rhythm that works."

What’s working for him now is playing with a band, a new lineup that includes keyboardist Derry deBorja, who can replicate everything from a banjo to a flute. "I guess having a band," Farrar says with no little irony, "is the one true way to make sure that no one mistakes you for someone that came from American Idol." *


Fri/30, 7 p.m., $5 suggested donation

Mama Buzz

2318 Telegraph, Oakl.

(510) 465-4073


With Spindrift and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound

Sat/31, 9 p.m., $12 advance

Fernwood Resort

Hwy. 1, Big Sur


Fri/30, 9 p.m., $25


1805 Geary, SF


Dance dance revolution


"If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution" is a club-friendly sentiment traditionally attributed to estimable anarchist Emma Goldman. But even if she didn’t put it in quite those words, the message is clear: changing the world doesn’t have to be a grim slog. Why struggle at all if it doesn’t result in a world we can actually enjoy? That’s where these benefit-hosting, rabble-rousing, community-oriented bars, clubs, cultural centers, and performance spaces come in. Like the spoonful of sugar that masks the medicine, a nice pour and a few choice tunes can turn earnest liberation into ecstatic celebration.


Billing itself as "your dive," El Rio defines "you" as a crowd of anarchists, trannies, feminists, retro-cool kids, and heat-seeking salseros as diverse as you’re likely to find congregating around one shuffleboard table. Whether featuring a rawkin’ Gender Pirates benefit show or a rare screening of The Fall of the I-Hotel as part of radical film series Televising the Revolution, El Rio encourages an intimacy and camaraderie among its dance floor–loving patrons less frequently found these days in an increasingly class-divided Mission.

3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325,


Although it’s really an aboveground Mission storefront, Balazo 18 has a great "in the basement" underground vibe, and within its gritty labyrinth, upstart idealists lurk like scruffy Minotaurs. The low overhead and inclusive ambience has proven fertile ground for local activist functions such as the recent Clarion Alley Mural Project fundraiser and December 2006’s Free Josh Wolf event (freedom still pending). The dance floor’s generous size attracts top-notch local bands and sweaty, freedom-seeking legions who love to dance till they drop.

2183 Mission, SF. (415) 255-7227,


Applause for the Make-Out Room‘s green-minded stance against unnecessary plastic drink straws (it doesn’t serve ’em), its championing of literary causes (Steven Elliott’s "Progressive Reading" series, Charlie Anders’s "Writers with Drinks"), and its calendar of benefit shows for agendas as diverse as animal sanctuary, tenants rights, and free speech. Plus, not only are the (strawless) drinks reasonably priced, but the wacked-out every–day–is–New Year’s Eve disco ball and silver star decor hastens their effect.

3225 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-2888,


The Rickshaw Stop hosts progressive literary luminaries by the library-load, raising the roof and the funds for programs such as the 61-year-old San Francisco Writer’s Workshop and the reading series "Inside Storytelling." Other beneficiaries of the Rickshaw’s pro-arts programming include SF Indiefest and Bitch magazine, and the club calendar is filled with queer dance parties, record release shows, and even an upcoming "Pipsqueak a Go Go" dance party for l’il kiddies with the Devilettes and the Time Outs. If teaching a roomful of preschoolers the Monkey isn’t an act of die-hard, give-something-back merrymaking martyrdom, well …

155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011,


A dancer- and activist-run performance incubator, CounterPULSE hosts a diverse collection of cutting-edge artistes ranging from queer Butoh dancers to crusading sexologists to mobility-impaired aerialists. It’s also home to the interactive history project Shaping San Francisco and a lively weekly contact jam. But it’s the plucky, DIY joie de vivre that pervades its fundraising events — featuring such entertainment as queer cabaret, big burlesque, and an abundance of booty-shaking — that keeps our toes tapping and our progressive groove moving. Best of all, the "no one turned away for lack of funds" policy ensures that even the most broke-ass idealist can get down.

1310 Mission, SF. (415) 626-2060,


Sometimes a dance club, sometimes an art gallery — and sometimes not quite either — 111 Minna Gallery is pretty much guaranteed to always be a good time. Funds have been raised here on behalf of groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the West Memphis Three, and Hurricane Relief as a plethora of local and big-name artists and music makers — from Hey Willpower to Henry Rollins — have shown their stuff on the charmingly makeshift stage and the well-worn walls.

111 Minna, SF. (415) 974-1719,


It’s true — the revolutionary life can’t just be one big dance party. Sometimes it’s an uptown comedy club adventure instead. Cobb’s Comedy Club consistently books the big names on the comedy circuit — and it also showcases some side-splitting altruism, such as last month’s THC Comedy Medical Marijuana benefit tour and the annual "Stand Up for Justice" events sponsored by Death Penalty Focus. Even selfless philanthropy can be a laughing matter.

915 Columbus, SF. (415) 928-4320,


The headless guardian angel of cavernous, city-funded cultural center SomArts has been a silent witness to countless community-involved installations and festivals, such as the "Radical Performance" series, a Day of the Dead art exhibit, the annual "Open Studios Exhibition," and the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival. And plenty of fundraising celebrations have been hosted beneath its soaring rafters on behalf of organizations such as the Coalition on Homelessness, Survival Research Labs, and the Center for Sex and Culture. We’ve got to admit — nothing cries "community" like a space where you can drink absinthe and build misfit toys one night, dance to live salsa the next, and attend a sober seminar on pirate radio the following afternoon.

934 Brannan, SF. (415) 552-2131,


Even if the Edinburgh Castle were run by community-hating misanthropes, we’d come here for the craic and perhaps a wistful fondle of the Ballantine caber mounted on the wall. But general manager Alan Black has helped foster a scene of emerging and established writers, unsigned bands, and Robbie Burns lovers in the lively heart of the upper TL. The unpretentious, unflappable venue also hosts benefits for causes such as breast cancer research and refugee relocation. And the Tuesday night pub quiz, twice-monthly mod-Mersybeat dance nights, and annual swearing competition keep us coming back for more (except maybe the haggis).

950 Geary, SF. (415) 885-4074,


Turning martini shaking into charitable moneymaking, Elixir has been the go-to drinks dispensary for fundraisers of all varieties since it launched its unique Charity Guest Bartending program. The concept is simple: the organizers of a fundraising effort sign up in advance, beg or bully a hundred of their best buddies to show up early and stay late, get a crash course in mixology, and raise bucks behind the bar of this green-certified Mission District saloon (the second-oldest operating bar in San Francisco). Did we mention it’s green certified? Just checking. Barkeep, another round.

3200 16th St., SF. (415) 552-1633,


A 2006 Best of the Bay winner, CELLspace has weathered the usual warehouse-space storms of permit woes and facility upgrading, and yet it continues to expand its programming and fan base into some very far-flung realms. From roller disco to b-boy battling, hip-hop to punk rock, art classes to aerial performances, the CELL has been providing an urban refuge for at-risk youth, aging hipsters, and community builders since 1996. Though we mourn the loss of the Bike Kitchen, which moved to its new SoMa digs, we’re glad to see the return of the Sunday-morning Mission Village Market — now indoors!

2050 Bryant, SF. (415) 648-7562,


The power of meat


By L.E. Leone


CHEAP EATS I’m not really going to no wimmin’s music festival in Michigan this summer, don’t worry. It costs money — are you kidding me? And I’m not camping out at no Camp Trans, either, to protest. I already gave up on political actions, restroom-related or otherwise.

Y’all can have your fucked-up ismicistic world.

I have chickens. I have fire and wheels and weird words that nobody knows but me. Ismicistic means everyone’s got to be a somethingist and embrace somethingism. Not the chicken farmer, not no more. I embrace nothing. I lay down my arms, my sword, my pen, my heart. So that means I give up on romantic embracement too.

Hey, maybe the only time anything really really buttery ever happens is after you’ve already surrendered to the bread: the plain old dry, crusty facts of your actual life, exactly what you actually have (e.g. chickens, chicken shit).

I really am going to Michigan, though. In August. I’m going to karate chop my chickens, pack up my pickup, and pitch my little one-farmer tent right smack in the war zone between the wimmin-born-wimmins and the boy-born-girlies, and I’m gonna eat nothing but raw red meat for a week, and lie around in the dirt, naked. Then when all the mosquitoes that bite me start biting everyone else on their vegetarian asses, they’ll all be infected by a meaty, greasy, good-natured carnivorousness, and the world will have been saved without anyone even realizing it.

My Michigan-born-wimminfriend Kizzer deserves a Nobel Warmth prize for teaching me to go to bed with hot water bottles, in lieu of lovers. I giggle and smile and think of her warmly every night as I crawl in under the covers and play footsy with Mr. Hotbelly. Talk about personal growth … I used to sleep with my socks on!

So Kizzer calls me at my brother’s house on a recent Sunday, says she’s been walking around Berkeley all day, smelling meat.

"Let’s be more specific," I said, searching for my pen, which I’d just laid down. Somewhere. "Barbecued? Braised? Broiled? Barbecued? What? Talk to me."

"Grilled," she says, after honestly thinking about it.

"OK, that’s kind of like barbecue. Let me make a few calls, borrow someone’s laptop, see what I can come up with."

K.C., Everett and Jones … been there, done them. There’s another one now called T-Rex, but it looks like high-brow barbecue, which is an oxymoron. And as much as I love oxen and morons, Kizzer and me had just accidentally dropped 40 bucks apiece at some Italian restaurant in the Mission the night before. We were both still reeling and a little nauseous over that.

So I called up Wayway, my go-to Berkeley eats consultant, and said, "Cheap. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap."

"Chicken farmer?" he said. "Is this you?"

It was!

Taiwan Restaurant, he said. Next door to McDonald’s on University. He said it was his favorite place for cheap Chinese food. Ever. Anywhere. And Chinese food ain’t barbecue, I’ll be the first to admit, but when Wayway described the pork noodle soup with mustard greens, it sounded like soul food to my ears. I told you I have this thing for soup right now. In fact, I’d almost rather eat soup than meat — so long as the soup has meat in it, you understand.

I had to talk Kizzer into this. "It’s Chinese New Year!" I said. "It’s the Year of the Pork!"

She bit, and I slurped and slobbered and spilt my tea, I was so excited over the heap of noodles and greens and pork swirling majestically out of the broth like Alcatraz or other islandy, mountainous tourist attractions. With noodles and greens and pork all over them.

Get this: $4.50! For a meal-size bowl of soup. Six-fifty for a huge plate of beef and snow peas, and the meat was tender and the peas were snappy. And the pot stickers took 20 minutes to make and were so juicy and meaty and flavorous that you could almost believe in Santa Claus all over again.

Fifteen dollars stuffed us solid, and me again for lunch the next day. So … do I have a new favorite restaurant?

I do! *


Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.–12:30 a.m.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.–12:30 a.m.; Sun., 10:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.

2071 University, Berk.

(510) 845-1456

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible


Me and my bitches



CHEAP EATS I have long, pretty, curly hair, and there’s always food in it — and often branches and leaves and stuff — because I’m a chicken farmer. I spend my days crawling around in the bushes, looking for eggs.

At the famous Womyn’s Music Festival in Michigan, trans women (MTFs, women who were It’s-a-Boyed at birth) are not welcome. I knew that. What I didn’t know, until Bitch magazine told me, is that trans men (FTMs, men who were It’s-a-Girled at birth) are welcome. To explain their quirky exclusionism, the festival heads have invented a new category of people called womyn-born-womyn.

Well, dang, that ain’t me either….

It’s almost enough sometimes to make a chicken farmer feel a little lonely. In the world. In the woods, I am on top of the world, and I’m working on a new song that says so. It’s called "A Thousand Feet above You." Which is what I am, in a purely topographical sense, assuming you live at sea level.

I’m going to put on my own music festival for chicken farmers–born–chicken farmers. I’m going to play my great new song to an audience of none. And it’s going to be sad and weird and safe and healing and … safe … and …

I’m so confused!

But then the food comes, and everything makes sense again. The cheese on Lisa’s enchiladas is moving! It’s so hot it bubbles up. And my own plate of beef and beans and rice is so big and so heavy-looking that I could cry. It’s hot too. Sizzling. You can hear it. In the kitchen, instead of an oven, they have secret access to the center of the earth, and the food is not cooked so much as volcanoed.

Our meals seem to be trying to say something to us. I bend my ear to my plate and do, indeed, learn something that goes universes beyond anything else I’ve ever learned. It’s like a dream, untranslatably wise. Ever the poet, I lift my head, look Lisa in the eye, and begin to search for words. Exact words with precise meanings … even as the understanding itself is retreating irretrievably into a steamy, dreamy sort of nebulousness.

"You have beans in your hair," Lisa says.

It’s gone. Gone. But I have to grab onto something, or I might disappear too. "That’s it! Never try and listen to your food," I say, or pronounce. In italics. Out in the air like that it seems somehow small, incomplete. "If you have long hair," I add, wiping mine off with humility and grace and a napkin.

Don’t worry, dear reader, this isn’t a date. (Or, if it were, it ain’t no more, Ms. Beanhead.) It’s more like a journalistic summit: Bitch magazine vs. Cheap Eats. Except right off the bat you can tell that, refried ends notwithstanding, we’re on the same exact side!

How can this be? Bitch is a smart, cool, feministic take on pop culture. Beyond my decided preference for root beer, I don’t even know what pop culture means. No TV. I don’t listen to the radio. Most of the records I like are at least 60 years old. And I don’t subscribe to any newspapers or magazines or spend a lot of time online. I can’t remember the last movie I went to or rented. And I can’t afford the opera or ballet or real restaurants. (And by real, of course, I mean unreal.)

In short: I’m a chicken farmer. When I’m not having lunch with my new friend Lisa at my new favorite restaurant, Mexicali Rose, in Oakland, I’m crawling around on my hands and knees in mud and chicken shit, looking for eggs. I have branches and leaves — and now refried beans — in my hair.

What’s more, I’m trans, and that translates to misogyny, according to some feminists. Believe it or not, I’ve heard this. And like everything else I’ve heard, there’s a part of me that is willing to believe it.

Fortunately, there are 40 trillion other parts of me. And 40 trillion other voices. And when Bitch and Cheap Eats put our little blabbers together last week and clicked forks — and mind you, I was born with "male privilege" and a little tiny wee-wee, and Lisa is practically a vegetarian, for crying out loud — I swear it was like we were long-lost sisters.

Is there a word for this? Inclusion? Openness? Warmth?

So, OK … August. Who wants to go to Michigan with me? *


Daily, 10 a.m.–1 a.m.

701 Clay, Oakl.

(510) 451-2450

Takeout available

Full bar



Wheelchair accessible


NOISE: I was almost the Riottt


What about that Be the Riottt press-list line?! Guardian intern Aaron Sankin got to sample it firsthand when he attended the music fest at Bill Graham Civic on Nov. 11. Here’s what he thought:

Girl Talk explodes the Riottt; the one-man party-starter
made an appearance at the eventtt.

Call me a cynic, but it’s tough for me to take seriously any concert that has its own manifesto. It’s not that I don’t think that concerts shouldn’t try to affect social change now and again — any time you can get many young-type people together in one place it would be stupid not to try to get them to get off their lazy, hipster asses and doing something positive for a change. But at the Be the Riottt music festival at the Bill Graham Civic last Saturday, I was having a tough time buying it. Here’s the manifesto:

Restoration Hardcore


Davis might not have those frog signs along the westbound side of Highway 80 anymore — “Live in Davis because it’s green, safe, and nuclear free…. It’s academic!” — but there’s certainly no shortage of wondrous music happening there.
Exhibit A: KDVS — the UC Davis radio station, a longtime champion of alternative music and the only entirely student-run station in the UC system — is about to put on the fourth edition of “Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom,” a twice-a-year one-day music festival, the likes of which have seldom been undertaken by Northern California college radio stations.
Unlike other music festivals hawking themselves as “alternative,” O:RMF is the real thing, presenting strictly music of the compellingly weird variety without sponsored stages and pricey merch tables — by sheer dint of student-volunteer willpower. “It’s a good time out in the sunshine,” said Erik Magnuson, who DJs at KDVS in addition to holding down the station’s assistant programming directorship. “We’re able to get great acts without having to worry about advertising to offset costs.”
The festival isn’t a station fundraiser — all profits go toward future incarnations of the event — but is instead an earnest offering of experimental sounds chosen democratically in committee by station volunteers. Those volunteers run O:RMF at Woodland watering hole Plainfield Station, which KDVS events coordinator and O:RMF organizer Brendan Boyle described as a “biker bar with a quasi-Libertarian vibe.” O:RMF itself fully “represents the radio station,” Boyle continued. “We’re free-form, which is a real anomaly, and it’s a reaction to our current political climate.” Hence the military-operation-inspired name.
The first, all-ages O:RMF in May 2005 was headlined by elastic noise psychos Sightings and Elephant 6 pop oddities a Hawk and a Hacksaw, and the subsequent fests have featured bands like the increasingly relevant, drift-ambience peddlers Growing and the splendidly hard-angled post-punkers Erase Errata. In each case, KDVS has looped in some of the most keenly unconventional artists around, and the upcoming festival looks the best yet.
This time it’s drawn 17 artists of various marginal modes, all of great repute in their respective scenes: longtime glitch-head Kid606 started the Tigerbeat6 label, and quirk-folk guitarist Michael Hurley was a luminary in Greenwich Village’s 1960s folk scene. Hop around to the dance punk of Numbers and the disorienting, psychedelic hip-hop of Third Sight. The garage-punk component is damned impressive by itself: the Lamps, one of Los Angeles’s finest and an In the Red mainstay, will crack their bass-heavy fuzz whip along with Th’ Losin Streaks, whose famously fun live show begets a cleaner, more Nuggets-like, ’60s garage vibe.
Suffice to say that few stations have the guts and the cavalier student base to put on an event like this, especially one that’s plainly not out to make money. As Boyle puts it, “it’s a very real event with no bullshit attached,” and with any luck, attendees will get as stoked on smashing music industry conventions as KDVS is. (Michael Harkin)
Sat/7, noon–midnight
Plainfield Station
23944 County Road 98, Woodland
$15, $10 advance; all ages
For tickets and the complete lineup, go to

Checking the tour and festival circuit


Broke Ass Summer Jam 2006 Living Legends revive the ’90s Mystik Journeymen event, which centered on their mag, underground West Coast acts, and a certain DIY drive. One Block Radius, Mickey Avalon, Dub Esquire, Balance, and surprise guests turn out and turn it up. Historic Sweets Ballroom, 1933 Broadway, Oakl.
Vashti Bunyan We all want to look after the folk legend — discovered by Andrew Loog Oldham and championed by Devendra Banhart — as she stops in the Bay during her first US tour. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750.
Mary J. Blige and LeToya Is the latter hit-minx biting Blige’s leather laces? The tour coined “The Breakthrough Experience” just might say it all. Concord Pavilion, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, Concord. (415) 421-TIXS. Also Sept. 10, Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View. (650) 541-0800.
Gigantour Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine has more than “Symphony of Destruction” on his mind. The man builds — namely, a tour showcasing the long-tressed, rock-hard Lamb of God, Opeth, Arch Enemy, and others. McAfee Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum, Oakl. (510) 569-2121.
Japanese New Music Festival Noise legends Ruins and psych ear-bleeders Acid Mothers Temple perform individually and together in, oh, seven configurations. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455.
Matisyahu The Hasidic toaster catches the spirit with the nondenominational Polyphonic Spree. San Jose Civic Auditorium, 145 W. San Carlos, San Jose. (415) 421-TIXS.
SEPT. 16
Elton John Hold still, this could be painful. The Caesars Palace fill-in for Celine Dion ushers in The Captain and the Kid (Sanctuary), the sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara, San Jose. (415) 421-TIXS.
Zion-I Getcher red-hot underground Bay Area hip-hop right here at a show including the Team and Turf Talk. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000.
SEPT. 20
Kelis A drab new look and a will to rise above “Milkshake.” Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000.
SEPT. 20–21
Guns N’ Roses Word has it that the Chinese democrats sold out in minutes. Warfield, 982 Market, SF. (415) 775-7722.
SEPT. 22–24
San Francisco Blues Festival Little Richard and Ruth Brown carouse at the 34th annual getdown, which includes New Orleans tributes and a Chicago harmonica blowout. Fort Mason, Great Meadow, Bay at Laguna, SF.
SEPT. 28
Tommy Guerrero The artist-skater-musician wears many hats — this time he tips a songwriting cap to laidback funk with From the Soil to the Soul (Quannum Projects, Oct. 10) and tours with labelmates Curumin and Honeycut. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 625-8880.
SEPT. 29
M. Ward The former South Bay teacher looks forward with his Post-War (Merge) and tools around the state with that other MW, Mike Watt. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000.
SEPT. 30
Download Festival Load up on indie-ish artists like Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Muse, and the Shins. Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View. (650) 541-0800.
Supersystem The NYC-DC indie funksters wave A Million Microphones in your mug. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011.
OCT. 1
Godsmack Much yuks were had over Arthur magazine’s recent editorial slapdown of frontperson Sully Erna. Concord Pavilion, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, Concord. (415) 421-TIXS.
OCT. 2
Mariah Carey Emancipated and on the loose via the “Adventures of Mimi” tour, alongside Busta Rhymes. Watch out, all you ice cream cones. Oakland Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakl. (415) 421-TIXS.
OCT. 3
Celtic Frost The notorious ’80s metalists join hands with Goatwhore and Sunn O))) and skip with heavy, heavy hearts. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000.
OCT. 6–8
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass How now, our favorite free cowpoke (folkie and roots) hoedown? Elvis Costello is the latest addition to a lineup that counts in Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Iris DeMent, Billy Bragg, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Allison Moorer, Richard Thompson, T Bone Burnett, Chip Taylor, and Avett Brothers. Golden Gate Park, Speedway Meadow, JFK near 25th Ave., SF. Free.
OCT. 13
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Blogged to the ends of the earth — and to the detriment of our frayed nerves — the NYC band huddles with Architecture in Helsinki. Warfield, 982 Market, SF. (415) 775-7722.
OCT. 16
Ladytron The beloved, wry Liverpool dance-popettes reach beyond the “Seventeen” crowd. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000.
NOV. 5
Rolling Stones They’re baaack. Van Morrison makes a mono-generational affair. McAfee Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakl. (415) 421-TIXS. (Kimberly Chun)

Squeaky wheels


By L.E. Leone
CHEAP EATS Hey now, don’t forget about the Cotati Accordion Festival this summer. Every summer I tell you about it, and every summer you forget to go. I know because I live in Sonoma County and I’ve never been there either.
But of all our great country’s famous yearly thematic bashes that I haven’t ever once attended, the Cotati Accordion Festival is by far my favorite. It’s ridiculously fun, you can just tell. Mark your calendar: Aug. 26–27, downtown Cotati in the park with the statue of the accordion player, off 101 North less than an hour from the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t miss it.
Me, I’m missing it. I’ll be in Idaho, like I am every August on that weekend, except this time instead of playing at the Council Mountain Music Festival, I’m going to be a professional cook for the first time ever. Boy am I nervous — and excited. Cause while my friends are recording the score for a movie, I’m in charge of feeding them and cleaning up and stuff, which will be like a dream come true for me, provided that one of the onions turns into Burl Ives and lectures me on dental hygiene while pointing ominously at a banjo.
One thing about driving a pickup truck is that every now and then you can have a bicycle in back, instead of bales of straw and sacks of feed and scrap wood. Get this: my pickup truck kerplunks on me early morning one morning in Rohnert Park on my way to Kaiser to get blood tested, and what do I have in back but … my bike!
So I biked to my bloodletting. I was fasting and needed coffee bad. And Pop-Tarts. Then, after all that, I biked down to Cotati, to the park with the statue of the accordion player in it, and I called my closest geographical girlfriend, Orange Pop Jr., in San Rafael and convinced her to come rescue-slash-have-lunch with me.
My hero!
I want to tell you a secret, San Francisco. Sonoma County has bigger burritos than you do. Example: Rafa’s in downtown Cotati, just south of the park with the statue of the accordion player, where OP2 and the chicken farmer sat outside under an umbrella on a beautiful day, talking about boys and of course chickens and, um, farming.
It’s a full-on Mexican restaurant, great atmosphere inside and out. Our waitressperson “she’d” me. Then she mal-recognized her “mistake” and apologized profusely and I had to comfort and reassure her that in fact she had made my day, as she all the while played with my hair. This was pretty cool.
Like my new pal OP2, the burritos are LA–style, which means that you have to ask for rice, if you want it. Which we did, but even without, Rafa’s burritos are about as big as … well, they’re two-mealers, and they run from $4.75 to $7.50, with chips.
Afterward, OP2 drove me to San Rafael and put me on a bus for the city, and I BARTed to West Oakland and borrowed my sister-in-love’s pickup truck just in time to drive back home and close my chickens in before foxes ate them. So that was a pretty transportational day for me.
But I have another brother who you haven’t met yet. His name is Santa Claus and he’s only 12 years old. Defiantly, he has two kids, a decent job, and a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. I picked him up at the airport a couple days later still with Deevee’s truck, and his luggage consisted of parts for mine from our family’s own private backyard junk yard in Ohio. Bless my brothers, I’ll be back on my wheels in no time.
Anyway, Nick’s his real name. It was his first time in San Francisco, so I took him to Oakland — to Penny’s Caribbean Café, which is in Berkeley, technically. But I refuse to believe it.
Then I took him to Oregon, where people dance. My new favorite truck stop is Mollie’s in Klamath Falls, not because they used to make a 12-egg omelet, but because they still do make chicken fried steak omelets. It has Swiss cheese inside, and gravy and gravy and gravy all over the top of it, and comes with hash browns and biscuits. You eat this thing and you can’t help thinking that the universe just hums with love, humor, and harmonicas.
And then you need a nap. SFBG
Sun.–Wed., 9 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Thurs.–Sat., 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
8230 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati
(707) 795-7068
Takeout available
Moderately noisy
Wheelchair accessible




Californian campaigns

Come to a campaign finance reform panel with Kris Greenlee of California Common Cause; Maria Guillen of SEIU Local 790; and Dan Purnell of the City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission. The panel – moderated by Tony West, a UC Hastings College of the Law board member – will discuss how to take reforms to the state level. (Deborah Giattina)

Noon-1 p.m.
Commonwealth Club of California
595 Market, second floor, SF
Free, advance registration required
(415) 597-6700


International Youth Music Festival

Musical whiz kids from around the United States and Europe converge on San Francisco for a run of orchestral shows at SF landmarks St. Mary’s Cathedral (Wed/2), Mission Dolores (Mon/7), and Grace Cathedral (Tues/8). The chamber orchestra will perform music by Dvořák, Brahms, Shostakovitch, and others. With performers ranging in age from 12 to 21, prepare to be blown away by the level of play and prodigious talent. (Joseph DeFranceschi)

7:30 p.m.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
1111 Gough
(510) 595-9378

Get the funk out of here


› a&
For more than 30 years, Afrobeat has been slowly grabbing ears in underground music circles like a revolutionary movement steadily arming itself for a coup d’état. Rawer than jazz, more organic than R&B, and as politically and socially relevant as hip-hop, this genre binds American styles to percussive African rhythms, chants, and 10-piece-plus horn-heavy orchestras. This is a high-energy music with the street appeal of blaxploitation grooves and the third-world desperation of reggae, a sound that is as mysterious and at times as daunting as the continent itself. The huge sound and unstoppable momentum require that Afrobeat’s direct political message be taken seriously and unequivocally. As our government takes either the middle ground or simply the wrong ground, the liberal locomotive of Afrobeat is moving ahead full speed, proving that funk beats and dance music slam home a message harder than an acoustic guitar ever did and with more attitude than Neil Young could ask for.
Afrobeat has always had a direct agenda, ever since Fela Kuti, its legendary inventor, decided to fight back. Kuti’s Afrobeat style bloomed in Nigeria during the late 1960s, taking the global explosion of funk and mixing it with African highlife and Yoruba music. He translated the musical message of Curtis Mayfield and Sly and the Family Stone, written on the streets of urban America, for millions of oppressed West Africans. Viewers tell of Kuti performances that resembled a heated battlefield with dozens of musicians backing their fearless leader — he often donned war paint for shows — and bouts that seemed like they would never end till one side surrendered.
Even now, Afrobeat won’t kill you with kindness or change your ways through love — put a flower in Kuti’s gun and you’ll get blasted. This is music for the huddled masses, not a feel-good exercise to tug at the heartstrings of the powerful. It follows that Kuti — a polygamist, presidential candidate, and cultural phenomenon — became a political prisoner when Nigeria’s military junta attempted to quell the musical movement that was planting the seeds of revolution.
Fast-forward to the 21st century: With war and political deception once again on the front pages and, more important, on the minds of young people, Afrobeat is providing a much-needed niche. The sound is being embraced among jam-band earthies who want an honest government that will work to reverse human-made environmental devastation and Latino listeners faced with the anti-immigration issues.
Filled with activist-minded residents ready to get behind authentic revolutions, San Francisco is proving a leader in the revival, playing host to the second annual Afrofunk Music Festival, the only gathering in the world devoted to Afrobeat, though the event encompasses music from great world music artists like Prince Diabaté. Sila Mutungi, the festival’s producer and vocalist of Sila and the Afrofunk Experience, describes the festival’s goal as a fun, positive one, “but ultimately, we’re here to raise awareness and money to fight the tragic famine and genocide happening right now to children and families in Sudan, Niger, and my own country, Kenya.” Proceeds will go to the Save the Children Emergency Relief Fund to aid Africa’s most susceptible population.
For the hard-hitting in-your-face funk that got Kuti chased around the globe, catch Afrobeat artists Aphrodesia and Albino from San Francisco and Los Angeles’s Afrobeat Down. As the first American band to play in Lagos’s New African Shrine, a venue made famous by Kuti, Aphrodesia proudly boast an acute political consciousness, a tight brass section, and a female leader, Lara Maykovich, who demands to be heard. She condemns environmental destruction as she sings, “Somewhere beyond the bulldozed rows/The fallen giants laying low./Sometime before the earth has died/Is where we all must draw the line” on their latest album, Frontlines (Full Cut, 2005). Frontlines is a worthy contribution to the Afrobeat movement, with well-crafted originals, stirring lyrics, and, of course, a Kuti cover. Southern California’s Afrobeat Down is known as its area’s premier Afrobeat combo, one with an unabashed desire to re-create the hard-driving funky sound of its early-’70s inspirations, and 12-piece Albino won the 2005 San Francisco Music Award for Best World Music.
Those three Afrobeat acts should get you dancing and feeling good and help you realize that the answer isn’t blowing in the wind but can be heard at polling places, in lumberyards, on battlefields, and on Afrobeat stages around the globe. SFBG
Thurs/27–Sat/29, 9 p.m.
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

A band of sisters


Cast your eyes on the Billboard chart and it seems like summer 2006 will go down in history as the season of the Latin diva, with Nelly Furtado doffing a soft-focus folkie-cutie image by declaring herself “Promiscuous” and Shakira holding on to the promise of, well, that crazy, sexy, but not quite cool chest move she’s close to trademarked via “Hips Don’t Lie.” Rihanna and Christina Aguilera brought up the rear of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart last week — solo singers all. But with the on-again, off-again slow fade of Destiny’s Child, the imminent demise of the explicitly feminist Sleater-Kinney, and the earlier evaporation of the even more didactic le Tigre, one has to wonder, what has happened to all-girl groups?
Was it a gimmick? Did Newsweek and Seventeen leach riot grrrl’s genuine grassroots movement of its “authenticity” and power? Was Sarah McLachlan lame? Was Courtney Love insane? Perhaps the answer is on today’s pop charts, where the sole “girl group” — if you don’t count the manly guest MC appearances — is the frankly faux Pussycat Dolls, a sorry excuse for women’s empowerment if there ever was one. Their ’90s counterparts the Spice Girls baldly appropriated “girl power” as their own marketing slogan, but at least they gave 30-second-commercial-break lip service to the notion.
The scarcity of all-female bands — particularly the variety whose women do more than simply lip-synch on video — has perhaps spread to supposedly more progressive spheres. Erase Errata bassist-vocalist Ellie Erickson notes that when the band recently played Chicago’s Intonation Music Festival, she was shocked to discover that their all-female trio made up almost half the total number of women performing among about 50 artists. Even at a more down-low, underground gathering like last month’s End Times Festival in Minneapolis, where Bay Area bands dominated, only one all-girl band, T.I.T.S., made the cut, observes the band’s guitarist, Kim West. “When we were in Minneapolis there were so many girls who came up to us and were, like, ‘This is so awesome! There are no all-girl bands here and it’s so rare to see this,’” she recalls.
Girl groups do persist: the news-making, stand-taking, chops-wielding Dixie Chicks among them. But for every Chicks there’s a Donnas, now off Atlantic after the Bay Area–bred band’s second major-label release stumbled at takeoff. Is Dixie Chicks credibility forthcoming for commercial girl bands like Lillix, the Like, and Kittie? Some might argue that feminism’s gains in the ’70s and ’80s — which led to the blossoming of all-female groups from TLC to Babes in Toyland, Vanity 6 to L7, and Fannypack to Bikini Kill — have led to a postfeminist moment in which strongly female-identified artists are ghettoized or otherwise relegated to the zone of erotic fantasy (e.g., Pussycat Dolls). Gone are the days when Rolling Stone touted the “Women of Rock” in their 1997 30th anniversary issue and Lilith Fair brought female singer-songwriters to every cranny of the nation.
“I think that with the demise of Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre, it’s a very sad time for girl groups,” e-mails Evelyn McDonnell, Miami Herald pop culture writer and coauthor of Rock She Wrote. “It seems like the end of the ’90s women in rock era, an era that unfortunately left fewer marks than we hoped it would 15 years ago.”
Radio’s known resistance to women-dominated bands hasn’t helped. Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hanna told me last year that despite the best efforts of her label, Universal, to get her feminist trio’s first major-label release, This Island, out to the masses, “MTV didn’t play our video and radio didn’t play our single either. Some of that is that we’re women and they’ve already got Gwen Stefani. So we just have to wait till she stops making music or something like that.” She was told that a group of three women was less likely to get play than a band of men fronted by a female vocalist.
Perhaps feminism is simply not in vogue, speculates Erase Errata vocalist-guitarist Jenny Hoyston. “I think any woman who’s a musician is going to have people say she’s only getting attention because she’s a woman,” she says. “It’s gonna be assumed that they don’t know how to work their gear, that they don’t necessarily play as well. That kind of typical stuff…. A lot of people aren’t taken seriously, especially if they get too queer or too gay in their songwriting, and I think that people get judged a lot for being too feminist, for sure, and I think there’s a major backlash against feminism in scenes that I’ve been a part of in this country. I think people are cooler about it in the UK definitely and in some other countries in Europe.”
But how does one explain the strong presence of all-female (or female-dominated) bands in the Bay Area such as Erase Errata, T.I.T.S., 16 Bitch Pileup, Blectum from Blechdom, Boyskout, Vervein, and Von Iva? “I think San Francisco is a big hub for women bands,” offers West, a veteran of Crack: We Are Rock and Death Sentence! Panda. With a provocative name and costumes (“It’s sexy from afar — and scary once you get closer,” West says), the band — including guitarist-vocalist Mary Elizabeth Yarborough, guitarist-vocalist Abbey Kerins, and Condor drummer Wendy Farina — reflects a kind of decentralized, cooperative approach to music making. “There’s no lead,” West explains. “I think that’s a really big element. We all sing together and we all come up with lyrics together. We each write a sentence or a word or a verse and put it in a hat and pull it out and that becomes a song. No one has more writing power than anyone else — it’s all even. I think girls are more likely to like some idea like that than guys.”
And there’s power in their female numbers, West believes, discussing T.I.T.S.’s June UK tour: “It’s funny because it was the first time I’d ever been on tour with all four girls. When I’d go on tour with Crack, guys would be hitting on us, and with T.I.T.S., guys were a little more intimidated because I think we were like a gang. We had that tightness in our group, so it’s harder to approach four girls than one girl or two girls, especially when we’re laughing and having a good time.”
In the end, McDonnell is optimistic that feminism could make a comeback. “I see a revival of progressive ideas in general in culture, largely in reaction to war and Bush…. The Dixie Chicks are arguably the most important group in popular music, and they’re fantastically outspoken as women’s liberationists,” she writes, also praising the Gossip, Peaches, and Chicks on Speed. “And the decentralization of the music industry should open avenues to women, making success less dependent on cruelly, ridiculously chauvinist radio.”
Ever the less-optimistic outsider, I’m less given to believing file sharing and self-released music can dispel the sexism embedded in the music industry — or stem the tide of social conservatism in this country. But that kind of spirit — as well as going with the urge to make music and art with other women, from our own jokes, horrors, and everyday existences — is a start. SFBG

Bike safety chic



Lately, I’ve been feeling too spooked to ride my bike. Chalk it up to too many near misses, some of which occurred when I was just walking my bike home in the rain. I often think of the shoulder injury my friend has yet to fully recover from or be compensated for (damn those uninsured motorists who skip town) after being doored two years ago. It doesn’t help matters that I spent the weekend at an East Bay music festival held annually in memory of Matthew Sperry, a bassist, composer, husband, and dad, whose very special life ended while he was cycling to work at LeapFrog in Emeryville on June 5, 2003. And let’s not forget Sarah Tucker (hit and run accident, 1/12/06) and Spider Davila (deliberate hit and run, 12/17/05).

Looks like I’m not alone in my fretting. According to a "report card" issued by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, 13 percent of us are reluctant to pedal around town because we’re too scared. Overall, our city got a C-minus in bike friendliness from the 1,151 respondents who filled out the SFBC’s online and hand-distributed survey, mostly owing to scary motorists, bumpy streets, and not enough bike lanes (all issues the bicycle coalition works very hard on to make for a better biking city).

Even though I’m afraid of eating pavement while riding, I don’t wear a helmet. I used to, but those things never look good with my outfit. Besides, if two tons of car slams into me while I’m rolling down Gough, a little piece of plastic and foam wrapped around my Gulliver won’t save my life. Some of you fixies reading this article might be nodding in agreement. Well, that’s because your heads are still attached to your bodies.

Fixed-gear bikes do look beautiful, unfettered as they are by brakes, cheap plastic reflectors, and clunky beam lights, but I’m here to say that you don’t always have to sacrifice aesthetics in favor of living to a ripe old age.

Here’s a handful of ways for you, whether you’re a fixie, a chopper rider, a hybrid commuter, a BMX daredevil, or just really vain (like me), to avoid wearing a neck brace as a fashion accessory. Trust me, you and your bike will still look cool.

1. Get a light How many times has a passing motorist screamed that at you? You bitch about it, because every time you buy one, someone steals it, so finally you got one that slides on and off. But it was too big to fit in your pocket, and then some moron decided to strip the light’s pedestal still screwed to your handlebars. I solved this problem by getting a Topeak front beam light ($20). It’s small enough to fit in your mouth, and it straps on kind of like a wristwatch. No screwdriver necessary, no tacky plastic pedestal marring the sleek looks of your untaped handlebars. I got mine at San Francisco Cyclery on Stanyan across from Golden Gate Park.

2. Don’t be a sucker Jerks are also always stealing back lights and reflectors off bikes. Valencia Cyclery sells lots of "lollipop" lights, which are made by Cat Eye and attach with elastic cords to your backpack, seat, helmet, belt loop. They cost $13 for a red and $17 for a more-expensive-to-make white LED light.

3. Cop skater style It’s hard to say how these things get decided, but among the tragically hip, lightweight and aerodynamic helmets specifically made for biking are as out as fanny packs. Case in point: Only hybrid riders wear them. But for some reason, wearing a skateboarding helmet while biking is dope. Whatever, they protect equally well. Giro and Bell make bicycle helmets that look like skater (or BMX) helmets, which are more rounded and human headshaped than the amphibious-looking bike helmets of the ’90s. They come in an array of colors in matte and sparkling finishes. Freewheel and American Cyclery sell them for between 20 and 40 bucks. Skates on Haight sells actual skate helmets online for $20.

4. Just don’t commit suicide Road bikes are more the rage these days, but it’s hard to look out for wayward traffic while leaning over those drop handlebars. Cyclocross interrupter break levers ($20$40) install at the top of the bars, near the stem, allowing road bike riders to sit upright. Since these levers connect to the housing instead of to your lower brakes, they are a much better alternative to the old-school versions often referred to as suicide brakes. Valencia Cyclery will retrofit your vintage road bike with these for $30. SFBG

Freewheel Bike Shop

1920 Hayes and 914 Valencia, SF

(415) 752-9195, (415) 643-9213

San Francisco Bike Coalition’s Report Card

San Francisco Cyclery

672 Stanyan, SF

(415) 379-3870

Valencia Cyclery

1065 Valencia, SF

(415) 550-6601

Real huff


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There was a period in the early to mid-’80s when Dieselhed absolutely ruled the San Francisco music scene. Like the previous generation’s Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 or Primus, or maybe today’s Joanna Newsom or Deerhoof, fans enthusiastically lined up to catch the popular quintet every time the group played. To see Dieselhed once was to love them forever. You’ve got that chance, as they’re re-forming for one night at this year’s Mission Creek Music Festival.

What made them so fucking great? For starters, the music: crashing cow-punk guitars alternating with twangy tearjerkers and, over it all, Virgil Shaw’s and Zac Holtzman’s sweet, incandescent harmonies. Dieselhed was a band with a fully formed aesthetic whose keenly observed stories (and all their songs told stories) wheeled out quintessentially quotidian Northern Californian lives: dreaming of a world beyond Humboldt County, summers spent working on fishing boats in Alaska, weddings on the Hornblower, buying titty mags at the 7-Eleven, touring Sonoma Valley small towns and playing breweries, the guy who makes the hash browns at the local greasy spoon.

It was easy to imagine they were singing about you, and sometimes they were: Dieselhed’s number one fan was always the taxi dispatcher and perpetually tipsy Corinne, and, heck, they wrote a song about her: "Corrine Corrine/ Look at you spin / You’ve got me in a half nelson." The shit was funny because it was so real to everyone, including the characters they sang about in their songs: the girl who whispers into her poodle’s ear, the waitress at the truck stop, the guy studying for the forklift operator’s exam.

The band was wonderfully inclusive: Sing-alongs quickly came to include audience-participatory gestures, like the big O-shaped upstretched arms we all flew to represent the diamond ring in "The Wedding Song." Shaw’s then-adolescent sisters, who were budding songwriters in their own right, made guest appearances.

In another example of Dieselhed’s absolute command of who they were and what they meant, there were the improv numbers that charted their growing popularity and the changes in their lives. In "Someday We Won’t Be a Band," each member took to the mic to weave an always different story of what someone else in the group would be doing years hence. What will that tune sound like this time around? It’s guaranteed to have us laughing and crying.

The main thing is this: Dieselhed will always be relevant, and they never fucking lost it. Shaw’s now an acclaimed solo act. Holtzman formed the Cambodian pop group Dengue Fever and is licensed in Chinese medicine. Drummer Danny Heifetz up and moved to Australia. And I can’t wait to hear what bassist Atom Ellis and guitarist Shon McAllin are up to. "Someday we won’t be a band," Dieselhed sang, "but for now, we totally exist!" SFBG


With Fantasy, Sonny Smith, and Marc Capelle

May 21, 8 p.m.

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF

$10 advance, $12 door

(415) 970-9777

ABCs and Rubies


SONIC REDUCER A passionate music fan friend recently laid some curious medicine on me as we were hunkered down at Doc’s Clock, watching our inexplicably enraged lady bartender toss one of our half-full beverages: My friend’s musician ex had already written off his barely released singer-songwriter-ish album, because according to his veteran estimate, "people are only interested in bands these days."

Maybe that’s why Vancouver‘s indie-esque artist and sometime New Pornographer Dan Bejar rocks under the name Destroyer. Still, it’s hard to scan the music news these days and avoid single, solitary monikers like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young, both breaking from their associations with bands and recording protest songs old and new. Bejar’s fellow Canadian Young just last week offered up the quickie, choir-backed Living with War, which includes a song titled "Let’s Impeach the President" and streams for free at starting April 28 (leading one to wonder if the Peninsula’s Shakey is responding to the calls at his onstage SXSW interview for a new "Ohio"?). Perhaps in an instantly downloadable, superniched, and highly fragmented aural landscape, there remains a certain heroic power in creating and performing in the first person, under your own name, while reaching for a collective imagination, some elusive third person.

Chatting on the phone, over the border, Bejar might not easily parse as a part of the aforementioned crew, though he musically cross-references urban rock ’n’ rollers, stardusted glitter kids, and louche lounge cats, explicitly tweaking those "West Coast maximalists, exploring the blues, ignoring the news" on "Priest’s Knees," off his new full-length, Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge). Some might even venture that the late-night, loose lips and goosed hips, full-blown rock of the album, his sixth, marks it as his most indulgent to date.

And Bejar, 33 and a Libra, will readily fess up to his share of indulgences, in lieu of collecting juicy tour adventures. On tour he says, "I tend to go and then kind of hide backstage, get up onstage, try and play, get off, and continue to hide backstage.

"I’m not super into rock clubs," Bejar continues. "I just don’t feel a need to make a home of them."

Just back from the first part of his US journeys ("We played 12 or 14 of 16 dates. That’s hardly any. I think most bands would think that’s psychotic"), Bejar does feel quite at home in Vancouver and will reluctantly theorize about Canadian music. "I think there’s a certain outsider perspective that people might say comes with Canadian songwriters, like the states would never be able to produce a Leonard Cohen or a Joni Mitchell or a Neil Young just kind of idiosyncratic characters." But then he brakes and reverses. "But I don’t know if I believe that."

Bejar could be talking about his own amiable, idiosyncratic self. Most of his sentences end with a little, upward, questioning lilt, giving his responses a way-relaxed, studiedly casual, postgrad quality, clad as they are in contradictions, at times inspiring detailed analysis, but more often triggering mild arguments and arriving at good-humored dead ends. In other words, the man can talk complete paragraphs or monosyllables. Rubies‘ last track, "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever," for example, has been kicking around for five years. "It’s kind of like the first song I tried doing, to break out a certain mold of Destroyer songs that I had unconsciously set up in the late ’90s," Bejar explains. "It was a style of song where the language was mostly based on political or economic rhetoric and social expression and the occasional personal aside. ‘Sick Priest’ is kind of an exercise in a more free-flowing, imagistic song, which I was dead against back in my younger days, and I’ve since completely embraced that style of writing."

Maybe it’s the sax, I venture. To these rust-belt-weaned ears, the new album sounds like urban East Coast rock of the ’70s à la not only Bowie but Springsteen and, say, the J. Geils Band.

"Wow, Peter Wolf," he sighs. "That’s cool. That’s funny. I mean, I kind of have a soft spot for, uh, that kind of sounding band, though I don’t have a soft spot for the songs that those people wrote. I like the ’70s bar-rock feel, especially the laid-back afternoon variety."

Yeah, like when you’re sitting at the bar, drinking cheap beer, watching the sun shoot through a vinyl padded door.


Bejar can go for that scenario: Despite the fact that he will be playing All Tomorrow’s Parties in England shortly after his SF date, you get the impression he can take or leave Destroyer and even the New Pornographers. (Since he moved away to his father’s homeland of Spain a few years ago, he says, "My involvement is pretty minimal. I don’t go to practices. I don’t tour.") Who knows, when he gets some time off after ATP and the Pitchfork music festival in Chicago, he might even take his own "bad advice," the kind that’s ingrained in Destroyer songs’ "little pep talks," and fall back on a career shelving books at the public library. "Something part-time, maybe, that doesn’t involve too much dealing with the public," he ponders playfully. "I’m good at alphabetizing stuff." SFBG


May 8, 9:30 p.m.

Cafe du Nord

2170 Market, SF


(415) 861-5016


Rankin’ Reykjavik



SONIC REDUCER I love the fact that whenever you leave this country, you immediately come to the discomfiting realization that … you’re such a damaged by-product of capitalist America. Case in point: Last week I gazed upon the beauteous, barren, and treeless expanses of Iceland, miles and miles of rock, scrubby grass, and mirrorlike pools of ice. Iceland in the spring is the chill, brown-white-and-blue equivalent of the Southwestern desert, austere yet fragile in the face of certain global warming, and barely containing an undercurrent of volcanic energy reminiscent of Hawaii’s Big Island. So why do I look at these moonscapes and wonder where all the people are and why there aren’t any houses, strip malls, or ski resorts out here? Why do I look at untrammeled land and see real estate?

Reykjavik: I’m here on a press trip with other media field operatives from BPM, OK!, Nylon, and Vapors, studying the club culture, seeing the sights, taking in gutfuls of fresh, fishy air by the wharf, gazing at snowcapped mountains, and perusing menus in shock. I just couldn’t help blurting a culturally insensitive, "Omigod, that’s My Little Pony!" when I saw the roast Icelandic foal with a tian of mushrooms, caramelized apples, and calvados sauce on the bill of traditional Icelandic restaurant Laekjarbrekka.

Likewise, the Icelanders probably can’t help turning those cute puffins and herb-fed lambs into meaty main courses to warm them through those long, dark winters. The real, long-haired, sweet-faced Icelandic horses turned out to be more engaging and curious than I’d ever imagined, strolling up to our group out in the wilds near Thingvellir to examine the hipsters (and hip-hoppsters) and be ooohed over. "They’re more like dogs than horses!" our Icelandair rep, Michael Raucheisen, exclaimed.

After a scrumptious Asian fusion meal at the elegant, cream-colored, deco Apotek (started with kangaroo tartare and finished off with a mistakenly ordered $125 bottle of Gallo cab; travel tip number one: Reykjavik is not the spot to sample California vino), our wild bunch was more into checking out a local strip club than settling in with a good book like Dustin Long’s charming Agatha Christie parody, Icelander (McSweeney’s), or the catalog for the National Museum of Iceland’s current photo exhibit of fishing village life in the southeast, "Raetur Runtsins" ("Roots of the Runtur"). We were more likely to price the local, ahem, pharmaceutical offerings ("$175 for a gram of coke is not cheap!" was one assessment) at the city’s nightclubs than shop for runic love charms or grandmotherly woolens.

One reason for the aforementioned vast, unpopulated expanses: There are only 300,000 people in the entire country albeit well educated, well employed, relatively youthful, and wired. (Is it any wonder this isle has the highest concentration of broadband users in the world?) Most of the youth culture was happening in the capital, where about a third of the population lives it up, sucks down Brennivin and macerated strawberry mojitos, dances with compact little hand motions that resemble a funky elfin hand jive. I must confess that, watching Deep Dish’s Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia skillfully work Iceland native Björk into his house mix at NASA, I’ve rarely seen more hot, seemingly straight men dancing, en masse, on the floor, on the mezzanine, in the booths, every damn where. Where did they get the energy from a geothermal pipeline or those mischievous sprites called Julelads?

As we piled into the van to steep at the sulfur-scented but soul-soothing Blue Lagoon and study the brand-spankin’ Icelandic Idol Snorri Snorrason (I kid you not) serenading the soakers lagoonside with Jack Johnsonlike tunes, I could only sit and plot my next visit possible when Icelandair resumes its summer flights from SF in May? It’ll be too late to catch late April’s new Rite of Spring alt-jazz and folk music festival, but not for October’s Iceland Airwaves music fest (Oct. 18 through 22,, where big tickets like the Flaming Lips have filled the city’s venues alongside Icelanders such as Sigur R??s. I’ll have to catch these new Icelandic rock artists:

Ampop, My Delusions (Dennis)

This trio was getting the royal hype in Reykjavik posters were plastered everywhere. How nice to find that their jaunty yet dramatic English-language orchestral psych-rock traverses the dreamier side of Coldplay and Doves.

Mammut, Mammut (Smekkleysa)

Polished though quirky, this bass-driven, all-lady post-punk fivesome takes a bite of the Sugarcubes, Siouxsie Sioux, and the Raincoats, with plenty of all-Icelandic lyrical histrionics.

Storsveit Nix Noltes, Orkideur Havai (12 Tonar; to be released on Bubblecore)

Last glimpsed at South by Southwest’s Paw Tracks/Fat Cat showcase, these Animal Collective tourmates draw inspiration for their instrumentals from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and the Balkans.

Mugison, Mugimama — Is This Monkey Music? (12 Tonar)

The Mark Linkous of Icelandic rock digs into the raw stuff on this acclaimed full-length. He also recently scored Baltasar Kormakur’s film A Little Trip to Heaven, reinterpreting the Tom Waits track of the same name.

For the real folkways, check out Raddir/Voices: Recordings of Folk Songs from the Archives of the Arni Magnusson Institute in Iceland (Smekkleysa/Arni Magnusson Institute), which includes a great booklet on the music, collected between 1903 and 1973 and revolving around Icelandic sagas and cautionary fables of monsters, ogres, and child-snatching ravens. SFBG


Anthony Hamilton, Heather Headley, and Van Hunt

Hamilton killed, from all reports, at SXSW, and we all know how good that Hunt album is. Wed/19 and Mon/24, 7:30 p.m., Paramount, 2025 Broadway, Oakl. $39–$67.75.

M’s and the Deathray Davies

Chicago cock-rockers meet quirk poppers. Wed/19, 8 p.m., Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. $8. (415) 861-2011


The chairs are pushed back when this band of Tuaregs, the indigenous people from Eastern Mali, break out the guitars. Wed/19, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $14–$20. (510) 238-9200

Keyshia Cole

The gritty girlfriend that might be the next Mary adds a late show. Fri/21, 11:30 p.m., The Grand, 1300 Van Ness, SF. $32.50. (415) 864-0815

Kronos Quartet

The ensemble premieres a collaboration with Walter Kitundu, takes on a Sigur R??s number, and teams with Matmos on "For Terry Riley." Fri/21–Sat/22, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. $18–$35. (415) 978-ARTS

Maria Taylor

Saddle Creek’s electro-folk-pop sweetheart steps out from Azure Ray. Sat/22, 9 p.m., Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $10. (415) 861-5016 SFBG