Video games

Gamer: Sony PlayStation Vita top picks (and games to skip)

0

Read Peter Galvin’s review of the Sony PlayStation Vita in this week’s Gamer column.

Most of the Vita’s launch games exist to show off what the system can do. Mini games, short races, puzzlers; a lot of this initially sounds like phone gaming. But, even with all of Sony’s efforts to ape the success of Apple’s app store, don’t discount the Vita’s sticks and buttons, a fundamental that phone gaming has yet to overcome. Real games have buttons, people.

Little Deviants
This mini-game collection came as a pack-in with early orders of the Vita and seems specifically designed to show off the system’s novelties. Think WiiSports, but instead of a remote, you have touch screen games and “augmented reality” that uses the rear camera to allow you to shoot aliens in your house. Each game is fairly one-note and, for all but children, the novelty will grow old fast.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss
For everyone who thinks their phones can play games, play Golden Abyss. While this third-person shooter may stack less favorably against its console brethren, as a handheld title it’s simply stunning. An Uncharted adventure with very few concessions, Golden Abyss is closest to a home experience you’re likely to get on a handheld.

Super Stardust Delta
A score-attack twin-stick shooter where you wipe out asteroids as a tiny spaceship, Stardust has been a fixture on the PlayStation, and this handheld version might be the prettiest and most addicting entry yet.

Escape Plan
Early shoo-in for most unique downloadable title in the launch, Escape Plan has a gloomy black-and-white aesthetic that recalls Limbo and early Tim Burton. Basically a point-and-click adventure game, Escape Plan probably tries to do too much, but its distinct style is worth a look.

WipEout 2048
The best racing game at launch, WipEout offers a lot of content, a great sense of speed and a steady increase in difficulty — and it means you can skip the depressingly shallow ModNation Racers: Road Trip and Asphalt Injection.

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
This entry in the Hot Shots Golf series is largely uninterested in the Vita’s touch-screen, but golf mechanics are tight and short rounds create an addicting “just one more hole” experience that would seem to go against the sport’s generally calming nature.

Lumines Electric Symphony
Lumines may be the most addictive puzzle game. The Tetris-esque gameplay seems simple, but Lumines is more of an audio-visual experience that challenges you to beat your own — and the world’s — high scores to some pretty rave-y electronic music. Wear headphones!

Rayman Origins
Rayman Origins may be a port, but it’s a port of a full length console game and remains one of the best platformers of this generation. Even without co-op play, the colorful and fast-paced stages are masterfully designed and it’s nice to have them on the go.

Silver Swans

2

When is the cover better than the original? When the original is by newbie/vitriolic web backlash victim Lana Del Rey, and the cover is a sensual send-up by seasoned San Francisco duo Silver Swans (silverswans.bandcamp.com). The local act split open the pop song — “Video Games” — slowed it down, and filled it with chilly synth floating below breathy vocals.

But we’re not here to debate Del Rey’s musical ability; we’re here to keep a glossy superhero eye on Silver Swans. Formed by Las Vegas-born vocalist Ann Yu and Jamaica-bred effects wizard-DJ Jon Waters in 2007, the band has delivered a lovely catalogue — most recently 2010’s Secrets EP and the upcoming LP Forever (Feb.7) — of heart-wrenching synth pop and shoulder-dancing, Manchester-evoking icy club rock. It’s high time they get their international due.

Description of sound: Someone else said it best: “tropical synths and stuttering 808s” wrapped in ambivalent romance and bittersweet longing.

Like most about the Bay Area music scene: The Bay Area music scene is both sophisticated yet charming. So many amazing bands come out of SF, yet you can still create your own place here and find people who appreciate what you do. In that sense, it’s still fresh here. The scene isn’t jaded and over-saturated, there’s charm and new inspiration everywhere.

What piece of music means the most to you and why: This is a hard one, so many songs have come into my life and forever changed me, the first mixtape I got had a song on it called “So Said Kay” by The Field Mice and I think I could have listened to that song on repeat for days reading into every lyric and just taking in the voice. It made me sad too, and just made me feel exactly what I wanted to feel at the time. It was one of the first songs to inspire me to write and also tap into that unknown territory where you don’t care about how unique or difficult a part is write, you just let yourself get carried away in the moment of the song itself and let it almost write itself.

Favorite local eatery and dish: El Metate Mexican Veggie burrito, the vegetables are roasted and always fresh. Everything there is delicious and on the cheap, right down to their alfajore cookies, I fully endorse the entire menu.

Who would you most like to tour with: Karin Dreijer Andersson — Jon and I are both admirers of everything she does. She is a true artist, and I get lost in her songs always.

The bottom of the top

0

YEAR IN GAMER One of the most exciting release windows in recent memory, this year’s fall gaming onslaught is officially behind us. And while most gamers are quick to rank the marquee experiences — battling dragons (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), thwarting diabolical clowns (Batman: Arkham City), and riding giant birds in a green tunic (The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword), it’s only when you approach the bottom half of a critic’s top 10 that the real debate begins.

So let’s skip ahead, past Uncharted 3 and Portal 2, which round out the established top five games of the year, and delve into the bottom half of the top 10. Any one of the following games might have taken home top honors in years past. As it stands, you may have overlooked one or two. And that’s what Christmas is for.

6. Rayman Origins

2D platforming in 2011 takes place in one of two venues: the games marketplace, like PSN or XBLA, or on your phone. Rayman Origins‘ greatest disadvantage is that it looks like something you can get on your phone for a buck but it costs full price. Don’t be fooled, a dollar will never get you as much content as you’ll find in Rayman, with its more than 60 levels of hand-drawn animation, four-player co-op, and star limbless thingamajig. Rayman isn’t just a re-skinned Mario; it’s a brighter, sillier and more rhythm-based experience than the Italian plumber, with a similar level of polish.

7. Dark Souls

It feels strange to be recommending a game that I’m often too afraid to play. Dark Souls is a brutal action RPG wherein you play a sort of zombie that most enemies can kill with a single hit. Save points are sparse and taking a break respawns any enemies that you might have killed already. (If you’re an old-school gamer, you’re screaming “all games used to be like this!”) Dark Souls employs an amazing level design that intricately connects its diverse dungeons and features a unique multiplayer system that allows other players to either leave tips for you or invade your game and make life even harder. You know that snotty friend who says today’s games are too easy or too much like movies? Get him this game.

8. L.A. Noire

Dismissed by some as a hackneyed attempt to marry Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto with a point and click adventure, L.A. Noire may not be the perfect joining of genres we all hoped it would be, but it’s a wonderful homage for aficionados of 1940s crime movies. A sordid tale of an ex-Marine turned policeman rising through the ranks of the LAPD, L.A. Noire is well paced and acted, with a fully fleshed-out story — which can be hard to find in video games. Though it ultimately made more headlines for the developers’ harsh working environment, L.A. Noire remains a unique and expansive take on an under-represented genre.

9. Driver San Francisco Do you like driving fast cars but find yourself overwhelmed with the intricacies of real-life simulations? More racing games are contextualizing their in-game courses with a bit of drama and back story, and Driver San Francisco takes the cake when it comes to unique storytelling. You play an SF cop in a coma who can enter the bodies of other drivers on the road and drive like a maniac without consequence. He uses this amazing power to help teenagers win street races, freak out driver’s ed instructors and save the city from a terrorist attack that may or may not exist at all. Driver SF is less than polished, and local residents will notice some discrepancies in the city’s geography, but for pure entertainment few games take risks like these.

10. Super Mario 3D Land

After a bit of an embarrassing year for Nintendo, and the 3DS in particular, Super Mario 3D Land marks the first game to make the troubled console truly worth owning. A jump-in-and-play good time, Mario 3D highlights both the 2D platforming of New Super Mario Bros. and the fluid 3D exploration of Mario Galaxy, creating something that’s more than a throwback, it’s a refinement of everything that makes the 25-year franchise so popular. It’s not innovative enough to be worth buying a 3DS for, but early adopters finally have a game to call their own.

The new (open) world order

0

YEAR IN GAMER In 2010, year-end awards were dominated by one game: Red Dead Redemption. Published by Rockstar Games, the title was a sweeping, epic Western in the best American tradition. Using a proprietary game engine, Rockstar stitched together a giant swath of imaginary frontier, a teeming open world that seems to leap straight from the imagination of John Ford or Sergio Leone.

Now that 2011 is nearly done, it’s clear that Red Dead Redemption‘s success was merely a sign of things to come. Rival publishers must have watched contentedly as the game’s accolades stacked up. They were about to make 2011 the year of the open world game, ushering in a glut of go-where-you-want, do-what-you-want, slay-who-you-want titles that would dominate both discourse and sales.

Rockstar themselves were the first to get in on the action, taking a second bite at the apple in May with L.A. Noire. Developed by now-shuttered Australian studio Team Bondi, the game takes place in a meticulously recreated version of late-40s Los Angeles. Like Red Dead Redemption, Team Bondi’s title is an engrossing pastiche of classic cinema, drawing on the tropes, mopes, and molls of vintage noir. While critics rightly complained that the game’s open world offered little except the opportunity to drive around and sightsee, the simulated city’s presence added atmosphere and heft to an already immersive game.

Explore L.A. Noire‘s carefully art-directed metropolis, and the most dangerous thing you’re likely to encounter is fast-talking dame with nothing to lose. Not so in Dark Souls, an October release by iconoclastic Japanese studio From Software. From’s open world is a foreboding, twisted take on fantasy gothic, full of decaying grandeur, uncanny creatures, and fetid environs. Players must creep forward against their better judgment, dreading whatever horror lurks around the next corner. Though the game’s uncompromising difficulty acts as a deterrent, Dark Souls‘ labyrinthine, deadly world and endless creativity are well worth the frustration.

In Batman: Arkham City, British developers Rocksteady Games put Batman in his place: perched on the roof of some crumbling Gotham pile. The game’s titular open world is a vast outdoor prison, an entire urban zip code done up in hyperbolic neon-noir, then filled with psychopaths and super-villains. While he’s not using Rocksteady’s impressive, flowing combat system to put the hurt on Gotham’s criminal underclass, Batman can deploy gadgets like the Batclaw to swoop around. Though Arkham City mostly serves as a backdrop for a fairly linear narrative, but there are also dozens of collectible, lime-green “Riddler Trophies” scattered around, giving gamers an incentive to explore every inch of the game’s open world.

For sheer size and scope, you can’t top The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, released in November by Maryland-based Bethesda Game Studios. Bethesda have made open worlds something of a specialty in recent years, and Skyrim is the company’s most ambitious effort to date. Set in a frigid, arctic landscape, the game showcases natural beauty on a grand scale, rendering icy peaks, swampy tundras, and furtive wildlife darting among snow-dappled pines. Players will spend hours completing hundreds of quests, scaling the world’s highest heights and descending into the bowels of its darkest dungeons. Though the game makes it easy to follow a floating arrow directly to you current goal, Skyrim’s best moments are often the product of getting hopelessly lost.

When it comes to the sheer joy of exploring an open world, Minecraft reigns supreme. Created on a lark by Swedish programmer Markus Persson, the game randomly generates a gargantuan new environment every time you tell it to. Comprised entirely of chunky, Lego-like blocks, the world can be altered at will — dedicated players have spent hours moving blocks one-by-one to create replicas of things like the USS Enterprise. Minecraft is an impressive indie success story — first released in its alpha version in 2009, the game now boasts nearly 242 million logins per month.

What lessons will open world games learn from the class of 2011? Will 2012’s vast gaming environments be welcoming or forbidding? Will players be given long lists of collectibles to hunt, or simply asked to explore for its own sake? Dec. 20, thousands of people logged into Star Wars: The Old Republic for the first time, a big-budget MMORPG from local publishers LucasArts and Electronic Arts. Not content with the vast worlds already available to them, these intrepid gamers opted for an entire galaxy — a galaxy far, far away.

Combat fatigue

0

Battlefield 3

(DICE, Electronic Arts)

Xbox 360, PS3, PC

GAMER It’s disappointing that a Battlefield 3 review has to begin with a discussion of Call of Duty, but we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. For months, the Battlefield team has been shooting barbs at Call of Duty, warning the makers of the best-selling video game in the world that they intended to steal the Brown-War-Shooter crown. The previous Battlefield release was a multiplayer surprise success, performing just below Call of Duty for the better part of a year, and Swedish developer DICE intended to go all the way this time.

Well, the time has come to evaluate the threat. And while the multiplayer delivers on the promise, the rest of the package makes those earlier boasts seem a little premature.

A significant number of Battlefield fans never touch the single-player campaign, bypassing it to dive right into the online experience, and this time they aren’t missing much. In search of authenticity, the campaign takes a deliberate approach to combat, but it feels old hat. Most action takes place in corridors — not Battlefield‘s strong suit — where soldiers pour into an area and you have to clear them out. Yawn. You start thinking, maybe Call of Duty was right to juice up their ostentatious campaigns in the name of fun.

In the campaign’s second half, DICE comes around on Call of Duty‘s strengths as well, feebly aping that series’ better bits: a nuclear threat, car chases and shootouts in the streets of Paris and the NY subway. It’s not just disappointing that the levels are unmemorable and derivative, it’s a shame there’s no real exploration of the team-based combat that makes the series unique.

And yet: it’s revealing that for the reviewed Xbox version, Battlefield 3’s campaign comes on the second of two discs; the campaign itself is negligible. Battlefield‘s roots are multiplayer, where their Conquest and Rush modes prove that war is not just about killing, it is about cooperation. Whether you’re driving friends around in a jet, helicopter, or tank, fixing vehicles or attacking capture points, Battlefield is more than a shooter, it’s a full war experience. Undeniably, having 64 combatants on the field in multiplayer makes PC the go-to version if you can afford the rig.

Despite how much went wrong with the story missions, if you approach Battlefield 3 with the right expectations, it comes out largely unscathed. DICE’s multiplayer offers up massive vistas and the opportunity to feel like an essential cog in the war machine. Will it take this year’s Brown-War-Shooter crown? The online community will suss that out for themselves, but until DICE can deliver a complete package, I suspect Battlefield will have to learn to share. 

Boo ya!

0

culture@sfbg.com

Hell’s bells, our very own high unholy day approaches — and the fact that Halloween’s on a Monday this year means an entire weekend of insane. Oh, why not just make it a whole week. Surely you have a week’s worth of slutty Rick Perry toupee costumes in your closet? Tape ’em on crooked and check out some of the eee-vil events below, from fiendishly family friendly to naughtily “adult.”

WEDNESDAY 26

“Death in Parallel” fundraiser and preview Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission, SF. (415)821-1155, www.missionculturalcenter.org. 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m., $50. Get your dead on a little early at this sneak preview of the epicenter of SF’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Dream Queens Revue: Halloween Spooktacular Show Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF. www.dreamqueensrevue.com. 9:45 p.m., free. The dreamy weekly drag show goes ghoulish with SF’s sole goth queen, Sophilya Leggz.

THURSDAY 27

“Ann Magnuson plays David Bowie and Jobriath, or, the Rock Star as Witch Doctor, Myth Maker, and Ritual Sacrifice San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., SF. (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org. 6 p.m.-9:45 p.m., free with museum admission. Fierce hero of the 1980s New York performance underground (and familiar face as sitcom television sidekick-boss-neighbor), Magnuson returns to her fabulous roots in this piece that include incorporate “dreams, Jung, human sacrifice, Aztec shamanism, and all things dark, bloody, and beautiful.” And it’s a costume party! In the SF MoMA! Creativity abounds.

“Halloween! The Ballad of Michele Myers” CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF. www.counterpulse.org. 8 p.m., also Fri/28-Sun/30, $20. Gear up for a drag-studded slasher musical taking cues from “Heathers” and “The Facts of Life,” starring the perfectly horrific Raya Light. She’s a-scary!

Naked Girls Reading: Neil Gaiman Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. 8 p.m., $15. Costumes and masks are encouraged at this semi-participatory, all-but-traditional reading of Sandman creator Gaiman’s darker work.

TheaterPop SF: SuperNatural, Red Poppy Arthouse, 2698 Folsom, SF. www.redpoppyarthouse.org. 7 p.m., $10. Local performers skip the tacky underchin flashlights and dry ice for carefully composed, intricate explorations of the macabre.

“Unmasked! The 2011 GLBT Historical Society Gala” Green Room, San Francisco War Memorial, 401 Van Ness, SF. www.unmaskedgala.org. 6 p.m.-9 p..m., $60/$100. A star-studded affair featuring fabulous (of course) entertainment, yummy food, and some of the most revered names in the queer community, including Phyllis Lyon, Jose Sarria, and Armistead Maupin.

Zombie Nightlife with Peaches Christ California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF. www.calacademy.org. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., $12. The undead are by no means unfashionable — get a zombie makeover, dance with similarly festering folks, sample the latest zombie video games, and listen to a presentation by the Zombie Research Society at the ever-popular, always good-looking weekly Nightlife event at the Cal Academy of Sciences. With Peaches Christ as hostess, it’s a zombie no-brainer.

FRIDAY 28

The Big Nasty: 10th Anniversary Party with Too $hort Mezzanine, 444 Jesse, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com. 8 p.m., $30. A $1000 best costume prize is sure to put the kibosh on those perennially popular nurse get-ups. As if legendary Bay legend Boo $hort, er, Too $hort weren’t enough of an incentive to ditch tired costumes and go as your favorite classic rapper.

Haunted Hoedown, Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com, 9 p.m., $10. Rin Tin Tiger and Please Do Not Fight headline the second annual hoedown at this live rock showcase; expect a barn-burner.

Jason Webley’s Halloween Spectacular Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com. 9 p.m., $14. After once faking his own death at a Halloween show and then disappearing for six months, accordionist Webley’s full-band show this year promises excitement, to say the least.

Night of the Living Shred Club Six, 66 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com. 9 p.m.-4a.m., $10. This hip-hop and electro throwdown is one where we’ll let the WTF press release speak for itself: “four rooms, five bands, five of the Bay’s best DJs including The Whooligan and Richie Panic, a Paradise Wheels half-pipe and best skate trick contest” — all catered by Mission Chinese Food and Bar Crudo and hosted by two of our favorite people ever, Kelly Kate Warren and Parker Day.

“Rhythm of the 90s” Ultimate Halloween Party Café Cocomo, 650 Indiana, SF. www.fivestarunited.com. 9 p.m.-2 a.m., $45. Break out the Clueless costume and the ketchup bottle; Café Cocomo’s massive dance floor has plenty of room to turn back the clock. Macarena, anyone?

Salem 103 Harriet, SF. www.1015.com, 10 p.m., free. The biggest and scariest name in the witch house dance music movement swoops in from Michigan for a free show, with Tearist, Pfang, Gummybear, Dials and Whitch providing gallows support.

Scaregrove, Stern Grove, 2750 19th Ave., SF. www.sfrecpark.org. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., $8. ‘Tis the season for bouncy castles — bring the kids out for hayrides, carnival activities, a haunted house, and (fingers crossed) funnel cake at the park.

Speakeasy’s Monsters of Rock Halloween Festival Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, 1195 Evans, SF. www.goodbeer.com. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., free. Parties centered upon the theme of good beer never really get old — especially when there are food trucks, live music, and heady costumes.

Sugar Skull Decorating Workshop Autumn Express, 2071 Mission, SF. www.autumnexpress.com. 5 p.m.–6 p.m., $20. Sugar skulls are provided (so you can keep licking away at last year’s) at artist Michele Simon’s decorative exploration of the Dia de los Muertos tradition.

Third Annual Zombie Prom Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF. www.zombiepromsf.com. 9 p.m., $20. Costume contest, coffin photo booth, live music, and a scary thought: the dancers on the floor tonight may have been doing that move for hundreds of years. Hey, our prom was kind of like night of the living dead, too.

SATURDAY 29

BiBi SF: Queer Middle East Masquerade 4 Shine, 1337 Mission, SF. www.bibisf.org, 9 p.m., $10. The charitable and extremely sultry BiBi SF throws a great party that combines Arabic, Persian, Pan-African, and Latin sounds with hip-shaking belly dancers, lovely drag performances, and an unbelievably hot crowd. All are welcome to this fourth installment of marvelous masquerading.

Club 1994 Halloween Special Vessel, 85 Campton Pl., SF. www.vesselsf.com. 9 p.m.-3 a.m., $18.50 advance.  Sexy electro glamour throwdown for Halloween, anyone? The gorgeous crew behind Blow Up is resurrecting its super-popular, Nintendo-rrific tribute to the pop sounds of the early ’90s (oh yes boy bands and TERL classics!) for a Halloween dress ’em up. With Stretch Armstrong, Jeffrey Paradise, and Vin Sol. The awesome Ava Berlin hosts.  

Circus Center’s Haunted House Circus Center, 755 Frederick, SF. www.circuscenter.org. Tours from 6-7 p.m., show at 7:30. Putting your body in the hands of a practicing student is sometimes not the best idea (see: haircuts, dental exams), but the Circus Center’s students have thrown together an extensive haunted house sure to turn your stomach in only the best way.

Dark Room does Halloween Hot Spot, 1414 Market, SF. 10 p.m., $5. “It’s like Debbie Does Dallas for freaks!” Quoth the undead hosts of this cute monthly queer goth and industrial party at a the little-known but awesome Hot Spot club on Market. Throw on your sheet and twirl. 

Ghost Ship IV: The Afterlife Treasure Island. www.spacecowboys.org. 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $50 tickets (extremely limited) on site. A massive, Halloween-themed arm of Burning Man, Ghost Ship mashes together DJs, art cars, food trucks, a stroboscopic zoetrope, and thousands of people.

GO BOO! Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com, 9 p.m.-late, $5. If you want to experience some really sexy underground disco energy with a fantastically diverse crowd, the monthly Go Bang! Party is one of your best bets — this Halloween edition brings in DJ Glenn Rivera and Mattski to join residents Sergio and Steve Fabus of the storied Trocadero Disco. Pop on a costume and hustle on down.

Halloween Freakout with Planet Booty Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.planetbooty.org. 9 p.m., $12. It’s hard to imagine a more extreme Planet Booty, but this would be the night for it: swap your standard neon unitard for a black velvet version.

Halloween Masquerade with Zach Deputy The Independent, 628 Divisidero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com. 8:30 p.m., $20. Deputy’s “gospel-ninja-soul” provides the soundtrack to an unorthodox masquerade, followed by a free (with ticketstub) Boom Boom Room afterparty.

Halloween 2011: A Red Carpet Runway Massacre Jones, 620 Jones, SF., www.juanitamore.com. 9 p.m., $35. “I prefer the glamour to the gore on Halloween,” quoth ever-poised (even while double-fisting shots) drag ruler Juanita More. Join her at recently opened rooftop bar Jones for dancing and fashionable fun with Djs Delachaux and Sparber, club Some Things hilarious Project Runtover amateur design contest, treats from farm:table and Gimme Shoes, and More, More, More.

“Hallowscreen” cartoon screening Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery, Presidio, SF. www.waltdisney.org 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. Also Sun/30, Mon/31. $7 adults, $5 children. Catch “Hell’s Bells” and other early, strange Disney shorts that show Walt’s more uncanny side. If you haven’t been to the excellent museum yet, here’s a great occasion.

Horror Costume Party, SUB-Mission, 2183 Mission, SF. www.sf-submission.com. 9 p.m., $4 in costume. Get your gore on with Meat Hook and the Vital Organs; after an earsplitting set, zombiewalk down the street for a taco at Cancun.

Foreverland Halloween Ball Bimbos 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. www.bimbos365club.com. 9 p.m., $22. The Thriller dance is only the beginning at this costume-intensive, 14-piece tribute to M.J. himself.

Jack O’Lantern Jamboree Children’s Fairyland, Oakl. www.fairyland.org. 10 a.m. — 5 p.m., also Sun/30. $10. From juggling and puppets to rides and parades, Oakland’s Fairyland puts on a gentle All Hallow’s weekend.

Lights Down Low Halloween SOM Bar, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com. 9:30 p.m., $10 advance. One of the city’s finest, wildest parties brings in bass music star Pearson Sound a.k.a. Ramadanman with DJ Christian Martin, Manaré, Sleazemore, and Eli Glad.

Mansion Madness: Official Playboy Halloween 2011 Mist Ultra Club, 316 11th St., SF. 9 p.m., $40-$80 Find your haunted honey bunny among the bodacious playmate hostesses at this hoppin’ Slayboy event.

Monster Bash on the U.S.S. Hornet 707 W. Hornet, Pier 3, Alameda. www.uss-hornet.org. 7:30 p.m., $25. What better place to celebrate spooks than among the 300 ghosts haunting the crannies of Alameda’s ancient aircraft carrier?

Spooktacular Japantown Halloween Party and Trick-or-Treat Japantown Peace Plaza, Post at Buchanan, SF. www.sfjapantown.org. 12 p.m.–4 p.m., free. Uni-nigiri and candy corn: the perfect combination. Trick-or-treat in the light of day through the Japan Center Malls.

32nd Annual Spiral Dance, Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyan, SF. www.reclaimingspiraldance.org. 7:30 p.m., $10–$20 (sliding scale). The witches of San Francisco gather for a huge participatory dance honoring those who have passed.’

Trannyshack Presents: Halloween: A Party DNA Lounge, 375 11th, SF. www.dnalounge.com. 11 p.m., $25. Anything but the traditional drag, the 5th incarnation of Peaches Christ and Heklina’s annual costumed throwdown features a fantastically horrific secret (and “big!”) guest judge. Oh, and the usual genius-creative bevy of outré drag performers, including Fauxnique, Becky Motorlodge, Toxic Waist, and Exhibit Q.

Wild Side West Costume Contest and Party Wild Side West, 424 Cortland, SF. 8 p.m., free. Try not to get your t.p. body cast caught on a shrub in the Bernal hotspot’s beer garden.

Wicked Gay! Halloween Bash Lexington Club, 3464 19th St., SF. www.lexingtonclub.com. 9 p.m., free. The happily hectic Mission dyke bar holds a costume party and contest with live beats.

SUNDAY 30

All Hallow’s Eve DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com. 9 p.m.-afterhours, $13, 18+. Great goth and industrial music parties Meat and Death Guild form an unholy alliance with the gorily titillating Hubba Hubba revue burlesque dancers for what’s sure to be a night to dismember. DJs Decay, devon, Joe Radio, Netik, and more tear you apart on the dance floor

Ceremony Halloween Tea, City Nights, 715 Harrison, SF. www.industrysf.com. 5 p.m.-midnight, $40. The name sounds genteel; the shirtless gay dancing to Freemasons and others will likely be raucous.

Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos Festival Fruitvale Village, Oakl. www.unitycouncil.org. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free. Oakland’s Day of the Dead festival, falling a bit before SF’s, features dancers, gloriously fragrant food, huge crowds, and, of course, compelling tributes to loved ones who have passed.

Halloween Family Dance Class, ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell, SF. www.odcdance.org. 1 p.m-2 p.m., $5/person, $20/family. Britt Van Hees allows kids and folks who’ve already mastered the Sprinkler to add the Thriller dance to their repertoire.

The Holy Crow Holy Cow, 1535 Folsom, SF., www.honeysoundsystem.com. 8 p.m.-2 a.m., $5. Quaffingly queer electronic music collective Honey Soundsystem throw one of the best weekly parties in the city — the Halloween edition of Honey Sunday should be a total scream, queen. 

Midnight Monster Mayhem, Rockit Room, 406 Clement, SF. www.rock-it-room.com. 9 p.m., $10 before 11 p.m. The live hip-hop dance party (costumed, of course) may well be the perfect nightcap to pumpkin pork stew at nearby Burma Superstar.

PETNATION 5 Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com. 9 p.m., $5 before 10 p.m., $10 after. Dance to Fido’s memory — Public Works honors deceased pets with soul-shaking beats, a DDLM art exhibit and a commemorative altar (plus, proceeds go to OccupySF).

MONDAY 31

Classical at the Freight Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison, Berk. www.freightandsalvage.org. 6:30 p.m., $10.50 for adults, under 12 free. The Bellavente Wind Quintet breathes chilling strains to a kid’s costume parade and candy-filled celebration.

Halloween at El Rio El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com. 8 p.m., $7. Two Ohioans under the stage name “Mr. Gnome” take over the inclusive, ever-popular dive for Halloween.

Teatro ZinZombie, Teatro ZinZanni, Pier 29, SF. www.love.zinzanni.org. 6 p.m.-11 p.m., tickets start at $117. Tonight might be the one to finally catch SF’s cabaret mainstay, which for a few precious hours transforms into a zombie-laden spectacle.

Viennetta Discotheque: Halloween! UndergroundSF, 424 Haight, SF. 10 p.m., free. One of SF’s cutest underground queer Monday weekly parties will claws you to reel in horror at the frightful fantasticity of its drag denizens. Your body hits the floor with DJ Stanley Frank, Alexis Blair Penny, and Jason Kendig on the decks.

 

Events Listings: Halloween edition

0

culture@sfbg.com

Hell’s bells, our very own high unholy day approaches — and the fact that Halloween’s on a Monday this year means an entire weekend of insane. Oh, why not just make it a whole week. Surely you have a week’s worth of slutty Rick Perry toupee costumes in your closet? Tape ’em on crooked and check out some of the eee-vil events below, from fiendishly family friendly to naughtily “adult.” 

WEDNESDAY 26

“Death in Parallel” fundraiser and preview Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission, SF. (415)821-1155, www.missionculturalcenter.org. 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m., $50. Get your dead on a little early at this sneak preview of the epicenter of SF’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Dream Queens Revue: Halloween Spooktacular Show Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF. www.dreamqueensrevue.com. 9:45 p.m., free. The dreamy weekly drag show goes ghoulish with SF’s sole goth queen, Sophilya Leggz.

THURSDAY 27

“Ann Magnuson plays David Bowie and Jobriath, or, the Rock Star as Witch Doctor, Myth Maker, and Ritual Sacrifice San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., SF. (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org. 6 p.m.-9:45 p.m., free with museum admission. Fierce hero of the 1980s New York performance underground (and familiar face as sitcom television sidekick-boss-neighbor), Magnuson returns to her fabulous roots in this piece that include incorporate “dreams, Jung, human sacrifice, Aztec shamanism, and all things dark, bloody, and beautiful.” And it’s a costume party! In the SF MoMA! Creativity abounds.

“Halloween! The Ballad of Michele Myers” CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF. www.counterpulse.org. 8 p.m., also Fri/28-Sun/30, $20. Gear up for a drag-studded slasher musical taking cues from “Heathers” and “The Facts of Life,” starring the perfectly horrific Raya Light. She’s a-scary!

Naked Girls Reading: Neil Gaiman Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. 8 p.m., $15. Costumes and masks are encouraged at this semi-participatory, all-but-traditional reading of Sandman creator Gaiman’s darker work.

TheaterPop SF: SuperNatural, Red Poppy Arthouse, 2698 Folsom, SF. www.redpoppyarthouse.org. 7 p.m., $10. Local performers skip the tacky underchin flashlights and dry ice for carefully composed, intricate explorations of the macabre.

Zombie Nightlife with Peaches Christ California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF. www.calacademy.org. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., $12. The undead are by no means unfashionable — get a zombie makeover, dance with similarly festering folks, sample the latest zombie video games, and listen to a presentation by the Zombie Research Society at the ever-popular, always good-looking weekly Nightlife event at the Cal Academy of Sciences. With Peaches Christ as hostess, it’s a zombie no-brainer.

FRIDAY 28

The Big Nasty: 10th Anniversary Party with Too $hort Mezzanine, 444 Jesse, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com. 8 p.m., $30. A $1000 best costume prize is sure to put the kibosh on those perennially popular nurse get-ups. As if legendary Bay legend Boo $hort, er, Too $hort weren’t enough of an incentive to ditch tired costumes and go as your favorite classic rapper.

Haunted Hoedown, Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com, 9 p.m., $10. Rin Tin Tiger and Please Do Not Fight headline the second annual hoedown at this live rock showcase; expect a barn-burner.

Jason Webley’s Halloween Spectacular Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com. 9 p.m., $14. After once faking his own death at a Halloween show and then disappearing for six months, accordionist Webley’s full-band show this year promises excitement, to say the least.

Night of the Living Shred Club Six, 66 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com. 9 p.m.-4a.m., $10. This hip-hop and electro throwdown is one where we’ll let the WTF press release speak for itself: “four rooms, five bands, five of the Bay’s best DJs including The Whooligan and Richie Panic, a Paradise Wheels half-pipe and best skate trick contest” — all catered by Mission Chinese Food and Bar Crudo and hosted by two of our favorite people ever, Kelly Kate Warren and Parker Day.

“Rhythm of the 90s” Ultimate Halloween Party Café Cocomo, 650 Indiana, SF. www.fivestarunited.com. 9 p.m.-2 a.m., $45. Break out the Clueless costume and the ketchup bottle; Café Cocomo’s massive dance floor has plenty of room to turn back the clock. Macarena, anyone?

Salem 103 Harriet, SF. www.1015.com, 10 p.m., free. The biggest and scariest name in the witch house dance music movement swoops in from Michigan for a free show, with Tearist, Pfang, Gummybear, Dials and Whitch providing gallows support.

Scaregrove, Stern Grove, 2750 19th Ave., SF. www.sfrecpark.org. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., $8. ‘Tis the season for bouncy castles — bring the kids out for hayrides, carnival activities, a haunted house, and (fingers crossed) funnel cake at the park.

Speakeasy’s Monsters of Rock Halloween Festival Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, 1195 Evans, SF. www.goodbeer.com. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., free. Parties centered upon the theme of good beer never really get old — especially when there are food trucks, live music, and heady costumes.

Sugar Skull Decorating Workshop Autumn Express, 2071 Mission, SF. www.autumnexpress.com. 5 p.m.–6 p.m., $20. Sugar skulls are provided (so you can keep licking away at last year’s) at artist Michele Simon’s decorative exploration of the Dia de los Muertos tradition.

Third Annual Zombie Prom Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF. www.zombiepromsf.com. 9 p.m., $20. Costume contest, coffin photo booth, live music, and a scary thought: the dancers on the floor tonight may have been doing that move for hundreds of years. Hey, our prom was kind of like night of the living dead, too.

SATURDAY 29

BiBi SF: Queer Middle East Masquerade 4 Shine, 1337 Mission, SF. www.bibisf.org, 9 p.m., $10. The charitable and extremely sultry BiBi SF throws a great party that combines Arabic, Persian, Pan-African, and Latin sounds with hip-shaking belly dancers, lovely drag performances, and an unbelievably hot crowd. All are welcome to this fourth installment of marvelous masquerading.

Circus Center’s Haunted House Circus Center, 755 Frederick, SF. www.circuscenter.org. Tours from 6-7 p.m., show at 7:30. Putting your body in the hands of a practicing student is sometimes not the best idea (see: haircuts, dental exams), but the Circus Center’s students have thrown together an extensive haunted house sure to turn your stomach in only the best way.

Ghost Ship IV: The Afterlife Treasure Island. www.spacecowboys.org. 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $50 tickets (extremely limited) on site. A massive, Halloween-themed arm of Burning Man, Ghost Ship mashes together DJs, art cars, food trucks, a stroboscopic zoetrope, and thousands of people.

GO BOO! Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com, 9 p.m.-late, $5. If you want to experience some really sexy underground disco energy with a fantastically diverse crowd, the monthly Go Bang! Party is one of your best bets — this Halloween edition brings in DJ Glenn Rivera and Mattski to join residents Sergio and Steve Fabus of the storied Trocadero Disco. Pop on a costume and hustle on down.

Halloween Freakout with Planet Booty Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.planetbooty.org. 9 p.m., $12. It’s hard to imagine a more extreme Planet Booty, but this would be the night for it: swap your standard neon unitard for a black velvet version.

Halloween Masquerade with Zach Deputy The Independent, 628 Divisidero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com. 8:30 p.m., $20. Deputy’s “gospel-ninja-soul” provides the soundtrack to an unorthodox masquerade, followed by a free (with ticketstub) Boom Boom Room afterparty.

Halloween 2011: A Red Carpet Runway Massacre Jones, 620 Jones, SF., www.juanitamore.com. 9 p.m., $35. “I prefer the glamour to the gore on Halloween,” quoth ever-poised (even while double-fisting shots) drag ruler Juanita More. Join her at recently opened rooftop bar Jones for dancing and fashionable fun with Djs Delachaux and Sparber, club Some Things hilarious Project Runtover amateur design contest, treats from farm:table and Gimme Shoes, and More, More, More.

“Hallowscreen” cartoon screening Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery, Presidio, SF. www.waltdisney.org 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. Also Sun/30, Mon/31. $7 adults, $5 children. Catch “Hell’s Bells” and other early, strange Disney shorts that show Walt’s more uncanny side. If you haven’t been to the excellent museum yet, here’s a great occasion.

Horror Costume Party, SUB-Mission, 2183 Mission, SF. www.sf-submission.com. 9 p.m., $4 in costume. Get your gore on with Meat Hook and the Vital Organs; after an earsplitting set, zombiewalk down the street for a taco at Cancun.

Foreverland Halloween Ball Bimbos 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. www.bimbos365club.com. 9 p.m., $22. The Thriller dance is only the beginning at this costume-intensive, 14-piece tribute to M.J. himself.

Jack O’Lantern Jamboree Children’s Fairyland, Oakl. www.fairyland.org. 10 a.m. — 5 p.m., also Sun/30. $10. From juggling and puppets to rides and parades, Oakland’s Fairyland puts on a gentle All Hallow’s weekend.

Lights Down Low Halloween SOM Bar, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com. 9:30 p.m., $10 advance. One of the city’s finest, wildest parties brings in bass music star Pearson Sound a.k.a. Ramadanman with DJ Christian Martin, Manaré, Sleazemore, and Eli Glad.

Monster Bash on the U.S.S. Hornet 707 W. Hornet, Pier 3, Alameda. www.uss-hornet.org. 7:30 p.m., $25. What better place to celebrate spooks than among the 300 ghosts haunting the crannies of Alameda’s ancient aircraft carrier?

Spooktacular Japantown Halloween Party and Trick-or-Treat Japantown Peace Plaza, Post at Buchanan, SF. www.sfjapantown.org. 12 p.m.–4 p.m., free. Uni-nigiri and candy corn: the perfect combination. Trick-or-treat in the light of day through the Japan Center Malls.

32nd Annual Spiral Dance, Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyan, SF. www.reclaimingspiraldance.org. 7:30 p.m., $10–$20 (sliding scale). The witches of San Francisco gather for a huge participatory dance honoring those who have passed.’

Trannyshack Presents: Halloween: A Party DNA Lounge, 375 11th, SF. www.dnalounge.com. 11 p.m., $25. Anything but the traditional drag, the 5th incarnation of Peaches Christ and Heklina’s annual costumed throwdown features a fantastically horrific secret (and “big!”) guest judge. Oh, and the usual genius-creative bevy of outré drag performers, including Fauxnique, Becky Motorlodge, Toxic Waist, and Exhibit Q.

Wild Side West Costume Contest and Party Wild Side West, 424 Cortland, SF. 8 p.m., free. Try not to get your t.p. body cast caught on a shrub in the Bernal hotspot’s beer garden.

Wicked Gay! Halloween Bash Lexington Club, 3464 19th St., SF. www.lexingtonclub.com. 9 p.m., free. The happily hectic Mission dyke bar holds a costume party and contest with live beats.

SUNDAY 30

Ceremony Halloween Tea, City Nights, 715 Harrison, SF. www.industrysf.com. 5 p.m.-midnight, $40. The name sounds genteel; the dancing to Freemasons and others will likely be raucous.

Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos Festival Fruitvale Village, Oakl. www.unitycouncil.org. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free. Oakland’s Day of the Dead festival, falling a bit before SF’s, features dancers, gloriously fragrant food, huge crowds, and, of course, compelling tributes to loved ones who have passed.

Halloween Family Dance Class, ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell, SF. www.odcdance.org. 1 p.m-2 p.m., $5/person, $20/family. Britt Van Hees allows kids and folks who’ve already mastered the Sprinkler to add the Thriller dance to their repertoire.

Midnight Monster Mayhem, Rockit Room, 406 Clement, SF. www.rock-it-room.com. 9 p.m., $10 before 11 p.m. The live hip-hop dance party (costumed, of course) may well be the perfect nightcap to pumpkin pork stew at nearby Burma Superstar.

PETNATION 5 Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com. 9 p.m., $5 before 10 p.m., $10 after. Dance to Fido’s memory — Public Works honors deceased pets with soul-shaking beats, a DDLM art exhibit and a commemorative altar (plus, proceeds go to OccupySF).

MONDAY 31

Classical at the Freight Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison, Berk. www.freightandsalvage.org. 6:30 p.m., $10.50 for adults, under 12 free. The Bellavente Wind Quintet breathes chilling strains to a kid’s costume parade and candy-filled celebration.

Halloween at El Rio El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com. 8 p.m., $7. Two Ohioans under the stage name “Mr. Gnome” take over the inclusive, ever-popular dive for Halloween.

Teatro ZinZombie, Teatro ZinZanni, Pier 29, SF. www.love.zinzanni.org. 6 p.m.-11 p.m., tickets start at $117. Tonight might be the one to finally catch SF’s cabaret mainstay, which for a few precious hours transforms into a zombie-laden spectacle.

 

Events Listings: Halloween edition

0

culture@sfbg.com

Hell’s bells, our very own high unholy day approaches — and the fact that Halloween’s on a Monday this year means an entire weekend of insane. Oh, why not just make it a whole week. Surely you have a week’s worth of slutty Rick Perry toupee costumes in your closet? Tape ’em on crooked and check out some of the eee-vil events below, from fiendishly family friendly to naughtily “adult.”

WEDNESDAY 26

“Death in Parallel” fundraiser and preview Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission, SF. (415)821-1155, www.missionculturalcenter.org. 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m., $50. Get your dead on a little early at this sneak preview of the epicenter of SF’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Dream Queens Revue: Halloween Spooktacular Show Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF. www.dreamqueensrevue.com. 9:45 p.m., free. The dreamy weekly drag show goes ghoulish with SF’s sole goth queen, Sophilya Leggz.

THURSDAY 27

“Ann Magnuson plays David Bowie and Jobriath, or, the Rock Star as Witch Doctor, Myth Maker, and Ritual Sacrifice” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., SF. (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org. 6 p.m.-9:45 p.m., free with museum admission. Fierce hero of the 1980s New York performance underground (and familiar face as sitcom television sidekick-boss-neighbor), Magnuson returns to her fabulous roots in this piece that include incorporate “dreams, Jung, human sacrifice, Aztec shamanism, and all things dark, bloody, and beautiful.” And it’s a costume party! In the SF MoMA! Creativity abounds.

“Halloween! The Ballad of Michele Myers” CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF. www.counterpulse.org. 8 p.m., also Fri/28-Sun/30, $20. Gear up for a drag-studded slasher musical taking cues from “Heathers” and “The Facts of Life,” starring the perfectly horrific Raya Light. She’s a-scary!

Naked Girls Reading: Neil Gaiman Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. 8 p.m., $15. Costumes and masks are encouraged at this semi-participatory, all-but-traditional reading of Sandman creator Gaiman’s darker work.

TheaterPop SF: SuperNatural, Red Poppy Arthouse, 2698 Folsom, SF. www.redpoppyarthouse.org. 7 p.m., $10. Local performers skip the tacky underchin flashlights and dry ice for carefully composed, intricate explorations of the macabre.

Zombie Nightlife with Peaches Christ California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF. www.calacademy.org. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., $12. The undead are by no means unfashionable — get a zombie makeover, dance with similarly festering folks, sample the latest zombie video games, and listen to a presentation by the Zombie Research Society at the ever-popular, always good-looking weekly Nightlife event at the Cal Academy of Sciences. With Peaches Christ as hostess, it’s a zombie no-brainer.

FRIDAY 28

The Big Nasty: 10th Anniversary Party with Too $hort Mezzanine, 444 Jesse, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com. 8 p.m., $30. A $1000 best costume prize is sure to put the kibosh on those perennially popular nurse get-ups. As if legendary Bay legend Boo $hort, er, Too $hort weren’t enough of an incentive to ditch tired costumes and go as your favorite classic rapper.

Haunted Hoedown, Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com, 9 p.m., $10. Rin Tin Tiger and Please Do Not Fight headline the second annual hoedown at this live rock showcase; expect a barn-burner.

Jason Webley’s Halloween Spectacular Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com. 9 p.m., $14. After once faking his own death at a Halloween show and then disappearing for six months, accordionist Webley’s full-band show this year promises excitement, to say the least.

Night of the Living Shred Club Six, 66 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com. 9 p.m.-4a.m., $10. This hip-hop and electro throwdown is one where we’ll let the WTF press release speak for itself: “four rooms, five bands, five of the Bay’s best DJs including The Whooligan and Richie Panic, a Paradise Wheels half-pipe and best skate trick contest” — all catered by Mission Chinese Food and Bar Crudo and hosted by two of our favorite people ever, Kelly Kate Warren and Parker Day.

“Rhythm of the 90s” Ultimate Halloween Party Café Cocomo, 650 Indiana, SF. www.fivestarunited.com. 9 p.m.-2 a.m., $45. Break out the Clueless costume and the ketchup bottle; Café Cocomo’s massive dance floor has plenty of room to turn back the clock. Macarena, anyone?

Salem 103 Harriet, SF. www.1015.com, 10 p.m., free. The biggest and scariest name in the witch house dance music movement swoops in from Michigan for a free show, with Tearist, Pfang, Gummybear, Dials and Whitch providing gallows support.

Scaregrove, Stern Grove, 2750 19th Ave., SF. www.sfrecpark.org. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., $8. ‘Tis the season for bouncy castles — bring the kids out for hayrides, carnival activities, a haunted house, and (fingers crossed) funnel cake at the park.

Speakeasy’s Monsters of Rock Halloween Festival Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, 1195 Evans, SF. www.goodbeer.com. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., free. Parties centered upon the theme of good beer never really get old — especially when there are food trucks, live music, and heady costumes.

Sugar Skull Decorating Workshop Autumn Express, 2071 Mission, SF. www.autumnexpress.com. 5 p.m.–6 p.m., $20. Sugar skulls are provided (so you can keep licking away at last year’s) at artist Michele Simon’s decorative exploration of the Dia de los Muertos tradition.

Third Annual Zombie Prom Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF. www.zombiepromsf.com. 9 p.m., $20. Costume contest, coffin photo booth, live music, and a scary thought: the dancers on the floor tonight may have been doing that move for hundreds of years. Hey, our prom was kind of like night of the living dead, too.

SATURDAY 29

BiBi SF: Queer Middle East Masquerade 4 Shine, 1337 Mission, SF. www.bibisf.org, 9 p.m., $10. The charitable and extremely sultry BiBi SF throws a great party that combines Arabic, Persian, Pan-African, and Latin sounds with hip-shaking belly dancers, lovely drag performances, and an unbelievably hot crowd. All are welcome to this fourth installment of marvelous masquerading.

Circus Center’s Haunted House Circus Center, 755 Frederick, SF. www.circuscenter.org. Tours from 6-7 p.m., show at 7:30. Putting your body in the hands of a practicing student is sometimes not the best idea (see: haircuts, dental exams), but the Circus Center’s students have thrown together an extensive haunted house sure to turn your stomach in only the best way.

Ghost Ship IV: The Afterlife Treasure Island. www.spacecowboys.org. 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $50 tickets (extremely limited) on site. A massive, Halloween-themed arm of Burning Man, Ghost Ship mashes together DJs, art cars, food trucks, a stroboscopic zoetrope, and thousands of people.

GO BOO! Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com, 9 p.m.-late, $5. If you want to experience some really sexy underground disco energy with a fantastically diverse crowd, the monthly Go Bang! Party is one of your best bets — this Halloween edition brings in DJ Glenn Rivera and Mattski to join residents Sergio and Steve Fabus of the storied Trocadero Disco. Pop on a costume and hustle on down.

Halloween Freakout with Planet Booty Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.planetbooty.org. 9 p.m., $12. It’s hard to imagine a more extreme Planet Booty, but this would be the night for it: swap your standard neon unitard for a black velvet version.

Halloween Masquerade with Zach Deputy The Independent, 628 Divisidero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com. 8:30 p.m., $20. Deputy’s “gospel-ninja-soul” provides the soundtrack to an unorthodox masquerade, followed by a free (with ticketstub) Boom Boom Room afterparty.

Halloween 2011: A Red Carpet Runway Massacre Jones, 620 Jones, SF., www.juanitamore.com. 9 p.m., $35. “I prefer the glamour to the gore on Halloween,” quoth ever-poised (even while double-fisting shots) drag ruler Juanita More. Join her at recently opened rooftop bar Jones for dancing and fashionable fun with Djs Delachaux and Sparber, club Some Things hilarious Project Runtover amateur design contest, treats from farm:table and Gimme Shoes, and More, More, More.

“Hallowscreen” cartoon screening Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery, Presidio, SF. www.waltdisney.org 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. Also Sun/30, Mon/31. $7 adults, $5 children. Catch “Hell’s Bells” and other early, strange Disney shorts that show Walt’s more uncanny side. If you haven’t been to the excellent museum yet, here’s a great occasion.

Horror Costume Party, SUB-Mission, 2183 Mission, SF. www.sf-submission.com. 9 p.m., $4 in costume. Get your gore on with Meat Hook and the Vital Organs; after an earsplitting set, zombiewalk down the street for a taco at Cancun.

Foreverland Halloween Ball Bimbos 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. www.bimbos365club.com. 9 p.m., $22. The Thriller dance is only the beginning at this costume-intensive, 14-piece tribute to M.J. himself.

Jack O’Lantern Jamboree Children’s Fairyland, Oakl. www.fairyland.org. 10 a.m. — 5 p.m., also Sun/30. $10. From juggling and puppets to rides and parades, Oakland’s Fairyland puts on a gentle All Hallow’s weekend.

Lights Down Low Halloween SOM Bar, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com. 9:30 p.m., $10 advance. One of the city’s finest, wildest parties brings in bass music star Pearson Sound a.k.a. Ramadanman with DJ Christian Martin, Manaré, Sleazemore, and Eli Glad.

Monster Bash on the U.S.S. Hornet 707 W. Hornet, Pier 3, Alameda. www.uss-hornet.org. 7:30 p.m., $25. What better place to celebrate spooks than among the 300 ghosts haunting the crannies of Alameda’s ancient aircraft carrier?

Spooktacular Japantown Halloween Party and Trick-or-Treat Japantown Peace Plaza, Post at Buchanan, SF. www.sfjapantown.org. 12 p.m.–4 p.m., free. Uni-nigiri and candy corn: the perfect combination. Trick-or-treat in the light of day through the Japan Center Malls.

32nd Annual Spiral Dance, Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyan, SF. www.reclaimingspiraldance.org. 7:30 p.m., $10–$20 (sliding scale). The witches of San Francisco gather for a huge participatory dance honoring those who have passed.’

Trannyshack Presents: Halloween: A Party DNA Lounge, 375 11th, SF. www.dnalounge.com. 11 p.m., $25. Anything but the traditional drag, the 5th incarnation of Peaches Christ and Heklina’s annual costumed throwdown features a fantastically horrific secret (and “big!”) guest judge. Oh, and the usual genius-creative bevy of outré drag performers, including Fauxnique, Becky Motorlodge, Toxic Waist, and Exhibit Q.

Wild Side West Costume Contest and Party Wild Side West, 424 Cortland, SF. 8 p.m., free. Try not to get your t.p. body cast caught on a shrub in the Bernal hotspot’s beer garden.

Wicked Gay! Halloween Bash Lexington Club, 3464 19th St., SF. www.lexingtonclub.com. 9 p.m., free. The happily hectic Mission dyke bar holds a costume party and contest with live beats.

SUNDAY 30

Ceremony Halloween Tea, City Nights, 715 Harrison, SF. www.industrysf.com. 5 p.m.-midnight, $40. The name sounds genteel; the dancing to Freemasons and others will likely be raucous.

Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos Festival Fruitvale Village, Oakl. www.unitycouncil.org. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free. Oakland’s Day of the Dead festival, falling a bit before SF’s, features dancers, gloriously fragrant food, huge crowds, and, of course, compelling tributes to loved ones who have passed.

Halloween Family Dance Class, ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell, SF. www.odcdance.org. 1 p.m-2 p.m., $5/person, $20/family. Britt Van Hees allows kids and folks who’ve already mastered the Sprinkler to add the Thriller dance to their repertoire.

Midnight Monster Mayhem, Rockit Room, 406 Clement, SF. www.rock-it-room.com. 9 p.m., $10 before 11 p.m. The live hip-hop dance party (costumed, of course) may well be the perfect nightcap to pumpkin pork stew at nearby Burma Superstar.

PETNATION 5 Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com. 9 p.m., $5 before 10 p.m., $10 after. Dance to Fido’s memory — Public Works honors deceased pets with soul-shaking beats, a DDLM art exhibit and a commemorative altar (plus, proceeds go to OccupySF).

MONDAY 31

Classical at the Freight Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison, Berk. www.freightandsalvage.org. 6:30 p.m., $10.50 for adults, under 12 free. The Bellavente Wind Quintet breathes chilling strains to a kid’s costume parade and candy-filled celebration.

Halloween at El Rio El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com. 8 p.m., $7. Two Ohioans under the stage name “Mr. Gnome” take over the inclusive, ever-popular dive for Halloween.

Teatro ZinZombie, Teatro ZinZanni, Pier 29, SF. www.love.zinzanni.org. 6 p.m.-11 p.m., tickets start at $117. Tonight might be the one to finally catch SF’s cabaret mainstay, which for a few precious hours transforms into a zombie-laden spectacle.

 

Events Listings: Halloween edition

0

culture@sfbg.com

Hell’s bells, our very own high unholy day approaches — and the fact that Halloween’s on a Monday this year means an entire weekend of insane. Oh, why not just make it a whole week. Surely you have a week’s worth of slutty Rick Perry toupee costumes in your closet? Tape ’em on crooked and check out some of the eee-vil events below, from fiendishly family friendly to naughtily “adult.” *

WEDNESDAY 26

“Death in Parallel” fundraiser and preview Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission, SF. (415)821-1155, www.missionculturalcenter.org. 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m., $50. Get your dead on a little early at this sneak preview of the epicenter of SF’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Dream Queens Revue: Halloween Spooktacular Show Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF. www.dreamqueensrevue.com. 9:45 p.m., free. The dreamy weekly drag show goes ghoulish with SF’s sole goth queen, Sophilya Leggz.

THURSDAY 27

“Ann Magnuson plays David Bowie and Jobriath, or, the Rock Star as Witch Doctor, Myth Maker, and Ritual Sacrifice San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., SF. (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org. 6 p.m.-9:45 p.m., free with museum admission. Fierce hero of the 1980s New York performance underground (and familiar face as sitcom television sidekick-boss-neighbor), Magnuson returns to her fabulous roots in this piece that include incorporate “dreams, Jung, human sacrifice, Aztec shamanism, and all things dark, bloody, and beautiful.” And it’s a costume party! In the SF MoMA! Creativity abounds.

“Halloween! The Ballad of Michele Myers” CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, SF. www.counterpulse.org. 8 p.m., also Fri/28-Sun/30, $20. Gear up for a drag-studded slasher musical taking cues from “Heathers” and “The Facts of Life,” starring the perfectly horrific Raya Light. She’s a-scary!

Naked Girls Reading: Neil Gaiman Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org. 8 p.m., $15. Costumes and masks are encouraged at this semi-participatory, all-but-traditional reading of Sandman creator Gaiman’s darker work.

TheaterPop SF: SuperNatural, Red Poppy Arthouse, 2698 Folsom, SF. www.redpoppyarthouse.org. 7 p.m., $10. Local performers skip the tacky underchin flashlights and dry ice for carefully composed, intricate explorations of the macabre.

Zombie Nightlife with Peaches Christ California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF. www.calacademy.org. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., $12. The undead are by no means unfashionable — get a zombie makeover, dance with similarly festering folks, sample the latest zombie video games, and listen to a presentation by the Zombie Research Society at the ever-popular, always good-looking weekly Nightlife event at the Cal Academy of Sciences. With Peaches Christ as hostess, it’s a zombie no-brainer.

FRIDAY 28

The Big Nasty: 10th Anniversary Party with Too $hort Mezzanine, 444 Jesse, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com. 8 p.m., $30. A $1000 best costume prize is sure to put the kibosh on those perennially popular nurse get-ups. As if legendary Bay legend Boo $hort, er, Too $hort weren’t enough of an incentive to ditch tired costumes and go as your favorite classic rapper.

Haunted Hoedown, Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com, 9 p.m., $10. Rin Tin Tiger and Please Do Not Fight headline the second annual hoedown at this live rock showcase; expect a barn-burner.

Jason Webley’s Halloween Spectacular Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com. 9 p.m., $14. After once faking his own death at a Halloween show and then disappearing for six months, accordionist Webley’s full-band show this year promises excitement, to say the least.

Night of the Living Shred Club Six, 66 Sixth St., SF. www.clubsix1.com. 9 p.m.-4a.m., $10. This hip-hop and electro throwdown is one where we’ll let the WTF press release speak for itself: “four rooms, five bands, five of the Bay’s best DJs including The Whooligan and Richie Panic, a Paradise Wheels half-pipe and best skate trick contest” — all catered by Mission Chinese Food and Bar Crudo and hosted by two of our favorite people ever, Kelly Kate Warren and Parker Day.

“Rhythm of the 90s” Ultimate Halloween Party Café Cocomo, 650 Indiana, SF. www.fivestarunited.com. 9 p.m.-2 a.m., $45. Break out the Clueless costume and the ketchup bottle; Café Cocomo’s massive dance floor has plenty of room to turn back the clock. Macarena, anyone?

Salem 103 Harriet, SF. www.1015.com, 10 p.m., free. The biggest and scariest name in the witch house dance music movement swoops in from Michigan for a free show, with Tearist, Pfang, Gummybear, Dials and Whitch providing gallows support.

Scaregrove, Stern Grove, 2750 19th Ave., SF. www.sfrecpark.org. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., $8. ‘Tis the season for bouncy castles — bring the kids out for hayrides, carnival activities, a haunted house, and (fingers crossed) funnel cake at the park.

Speakeasy’s Monsters of Rock Halloween Festival Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, 1195 Evans, SF. www.goodbeer.com. 4 p.m.-9 p.m., free. Parties centered upon the theme of good beer never really get old — especially when there are food trucks, live music, and heady costumes.

Sugar Skull Decorating Workshop Autumn Express, 2071 Mission, SF. www.autumnexpress.com. 5 p.m.–6 p.m., $20. Sugar skulls are provided (so you can keep licking away at last year’s) at artist Michele Simon’s decorative exploration of the Dia de los Muertos tradition.

Third Annual Zombie Prom Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF. www.zombiepromsf.com. 9 p.m., $20. Costume contest, coffin photo booth, live music, and a scary thought: the dancers on the floor tonight may have been doing that move for hundreds of years. Hey, our prom was kind of like night of the living dead, too.

SATURDAY 29

BiBi SF: Queer Middle East Masquerade 4 Shine, 1337 Mission, SF. www.bibisf.org, 9 p.m., $10. The charitable and extremely sultry BiBi SF throws a great party that combines Arabic, Persian, Pan-African, and Latin sounds with hip-shaking belly dancers, lovely drag performances, and an unbelievably hot crowd. All are welcome to this fourth installment of marvelous masquerading.

Circus Center’s Haunted House Circus Center, 755 Frederick, SF. www.circuscenter.org. Tours from 6-7 p.m., show at 7:30. Putting your body in the hands of a practicing student is sometimes not the best idea (see: haircuts, dental exams), but the Circus Center’s students have thrown together an extensive haunted house sure to turn your stomach in only the best way.

Ghost Ship IV: The Afterlife Treasure Island. www.spacecowboys.org. 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $50 tickets (extremely limited) on site. A massive, Halloween-themed arm of Burning Man, Ghost Ship mashes together DJs, art cars, food trucks, a stroboscopic zoetrope, and thousands of people.

GO BOO! Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com, 9 p.m.-late, $5. If you want to experience some really sexy underground disco energy with a fantastically diverse crowd, the monthly Go Bang! Party is one of your best bets — this Halloween edition brings in DJ Glenn Rivera and Mattski to join residents Sergio and Steve Fabus of the storied Trocadero Disco. Pop on a costume and hustle on down.

Halloween Freakout with Planet Booty Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.planetbooty.org. 9 p.m., $12. It’s hard to imagine a more extreme Planet Booty, but this would be the night for it: swap your standard neon unitard for a black velvet version.

Halloween Masquerade with Zach Deputy The Independent, 628 Divisidero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com. 8:30 p.m., $20. Deputy’s “gospel-ninja-soul” provides the soundtrack to an unorthodox masquerade, followed by a free (with ticketstub) Boom Boom Room afterparty.

Halloween 2011: A Red Carpet Runway Massacre Jones, 620 Jones, SF., www.juanitamore.com. 9 p.m., $35. “I prefer the glamour to the gore on Halloween,” quoth ever-poised (even while double-fisting shots) drag ruler Juanita More. Join her at recently opened rooftop bar Jones for dancing and fashionable fun with Djs Delachaux and Sparber, club Some Things hilarious Project Runtover amateur design contest, treats from farm:table and Gimme Shoes, and More, More, More.

“Hallowscreen” cartoon screening Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery, Presidio, SF. www.waltdisney.org 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. Also Sun/30, Mon/31. $7 adults, $5 children. Catch “Hell’s Bells” and other early, strange Disney shorts that show Walt’s more uncanny side. If you haven’t been to the excellent museum yet, here’s a great occasion.

Horror Costume Party, SUB-Mission, 2183 Mission, SF. www.sf-submission.com. 9 p.m., $4 in costume. Get your gore on with Meat Hook and the Vital Organs; after an earsplitting set, zombiewalk down the street for a taco at Cancun.

Foreverland Halloween Ball Bimbos 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. www.bimbos365club.com. 9 p.m., $22. The Thriller dance is only the beginning at this costume-intensive, 14-piece tribute to M.J. himself.

Jack O’Lantern Jamboree Children’s Fairyland, Oakl. www.fairyland.org. 10 a.m. — 5 p.m., also Sun/30. $10. From juggling and puppets to rides and parades, Oakland’s Fairyland puts on a gentle All Hallow’s weekend.

Lights Down Low Halloween SOM Bar, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com. 9:30 p.m., $10 advance. One of the city’s finest, wildest parties brings in bass music star Pearson Sound a.k.a. Ramadanman with DJ Christian Martin, Manaré, Sleazemore, and Eli Glad.

Monster Bash on the U.S.S. Hornet 707 W. Hornet, Pier 3, Alameda. www.uss-hornet.org. 7:30 p.m., $25. What better place to celebrate spooks than among the 300 ghosts haunting the crannies of Alameda’s ancient aircraft carrier?

Spooktacular Japantown Halloween Party and Trick-or-Treat Japantown Peace Plaza, Post at Buchanan, SF. www.sfjapantown.org. 12 p.m.–4 p.m., free. Uni-nigiri and candy corn: the perfect combination. Trick-or-treat in the light of day through the Japan Center Malls.

32nd Annual Spiral Dance, Kezar Pavilion, 755 Stanyan, SF. www.reclaimingspiraldance.org. 7:30 p.m., $10–$20 (sliding scale). The witches of San Francisco gather for a huge participatory dance honoring those who have passed.’

Trannyshack Presents: Halloween: A Party DNA Lounge, 375 11th, SF. www.dnalounge.com. 11 p.m., $25. Anything but the traditional drag, the 5th incarnation of Peaches Christ and Heklina’s annual costumed throwdown features a fantastically horrific secret (and “big!”) guest judge. Oh, and the usual genius-creative bevy of outré drag performers, including Fauxnique, Becky Motorlodge, Toxic Waist, and Exhibit Q.

Wild Side West Costume Contest and Party Wild Side West, 424 Cortland, SF. 8 p.m., free. Try not to get your t.p. body cast caught on a shrub in the Bernal hotspot’s beer garden.

Wicked Gay! Halloween Bash Lexington Club, 3464 19th St., SF. www.lexingtonclub.com. 9 p.m., free. The happily hectic Mission dyke bar holds a costume party and contest with live beats.

SUNDAY 30

Ceremony Halloween Tea, City Nights, 715 Harrison, SF. www.industrysf.com. 5 p.m.-midnight, $40. The name sounds genteel; the dancing to Freemasons and others will likely be raucous.

Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos Festival Fruitvale Village, Oakl. www.unitycouncil.org. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free. Oakland’s Day of the Dead festival, falling a bit before SF’s, features dancers, gloriously fragrant food, huge crowds, and, of course, compelling tributes to loved ones who have passed.

Halloween Family Dance Class, ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell, SF. www.odcdance.org. 1 p.m-2 p.m., $5/person, $20/family. Britt Van Hees allows kids and folks who’ve already mastered the Sprinkler to add the Thriller dance to their repertoire.

Midnight Monster Mayhem, Rockit Room, 406 Clement, SF. www.rock-it-room.com. 9 p.m., $10 before 11 p.m. The live hip-hop dance party (costumed, of course) may well be the perfect nightcap to pumpkin pork stew at nearby Burma Superstar.

PETNATION 5 Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com. 9 p.m., $5 before 10 p.m., $10 after. Dance to Fido’s memory — Public Works honors deceased pets with soul-shaking beats, a DDLM art exhibit and a commemorative altar (plus, proceeds go to OccupySF).

MONDAY 31

Classical at the Freight Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison, Berk. www.freightandsalvage.org. 6:30 p.m., $10.50 for adults, under 12 free. The Bellavente Wind Quintet breathes chilling strains to a kid’s costume parade and candy-filled celebration.

Halloween at El Rio El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com. 8 p.m., $7. Two Ohioans under the stage name “Mr. Gnome” take over the inclusive, ever-popular dive for Halloween.

Teatro ZinZombie, Teatro ZinZanni, Pier 29, SF. www.love.zinzanni.org. 6 p.m.-11 p.m., tickets start at $117. Tonight might be the one to finally catch SF’s cabaret mainstay, which for a few precious hours transforms into a zombie-laden spectacle.

 

Trash Lit: Demon hunting with John Wayne Cleaver

0

I Don’t Want to Kill You, By Dan Wells
Tor, 320 pages, $11.95

One of the reviews on the back of this book says that “regardless or your age or your genre preferences, you will find this story both profound and enthralling.” The usual blurb crap, but it did make me think that this could be another series like the Maximum Ride books –stuff my 12-year-old son and I could share.

He’s pretty advanced in the thriller world; he reads Stephen Hunter and Lee Child. And this one seemed right up his alley — a shy high school kid who has to fight off a demon made of black goo that takes over the bodies (and minds) of humans. John Wayne Cleaver (perfect name for a demon hunter) is the only one who can stop the evil creature from killing everyone in town.

But I Don’t Want To Kill You is just a tad too creepy for young teens, even kids raised on today’s violent video games. See, Cleaver’s mom is an undertaker, and John lives in the family funeral home and helps with the embalming — and while I appreciate the grisly details of mortuary science, particularly the use of vaseline to plug bullet holes so the preservative fluid can be pumped through the veins, it gets to be a bit much.

So I’ll wait a couple of years before I pass this along to Michael — but I’m happy to share it with my adult friends. It’s great — weird, nasty, sometimes sick, but brilliantly written with memorable prose, a great plot and lively characters.

Our protagonist is a diagnosed sociopath, someone pretty much incapable of feeling empathy for other human beings. He’s positively beastly to his poor mom. But he’s not as cold-hearted as he seems — he knows that he has to risk his own life to save everyone else in the town, and he goes about it in a methodical and logical way.

The only problem: This depraved and confused high school kid starts to maybe, sorta fall in love. With a girl who’s hot and popular and ought to want nothing to do with him. For a while, we suspect that she might be the demon, but she’s not — she just likes John, the way cute teenage girls sometimes like boys who are so odd that they’re attractive.

The thing is, her friends, the other teenage girls, start killing themselves, for no good reason, and it’s clear that the demon is somehow at work. Oh, she (John is convinced that the demon is female) also kills a priest and a teacher — and it’s not clear exactly how or why she’s choosing her targets. Except that John Wayne Cleaver is going to be one of them.

Slashed up body parts. Gross post-autopsy mortuary scenes. Eyes gouged out, tongues cut off, bodies stuck up on poles, gunshots, death by fire … and a first date and a first kiss and some honest puberty angst. You know, to go with all the blood and petroleum jelly and body fluids and black goo.

You gotta check this one out.
 

Reprogramming the hardware

9

MUSIC Technology can be so existentially mystifying. One minute you’re a kid in the back seat of your parents’ car with thumbs aimed and eyes glued to the screen of your modern handheld gaming console, the next you’re on stage with blinding lights and an audience, smashing into a modified old-school Gameboy on a snare drum. One second you’re doubled over in bed with the stomach flu, the next you’re in a box on Google+, simultaneously interviewing two band members from their respective Bay Area cities.

It’s enough to melt your mind, and we haven’t even begun to discuss those Gameboy modifications. Chiptune or 8-bit music is nothing new — nerded out musicians have been tinkering with the sounds on gaming consoles since the products hit the shelves in the 1980s — but now the music has the distinction of being both technologically advanced by some standards, and vintage, given its nostalgic sound.

Plus, in these financially-strapped times, it’s an economical way of creating music. “You don’t need anything fancy to make it,” says drummer-synth programmer Matt Payne. “The equipment is dirt cheap and it’s so accessible.”

Chiptune community outreach is big for him, Payne adds from his home in Oakland, holding up a mutant Gameboy with a blinking fuzzed out screen. He and musician-@GAMER magazine associate editor Lizzie Cuevas make up Bay Area-based 8-bit band the Glowing Stars. Cuevas, joining us in the Google+ video chatroom from her office in Daly City, agrees that once people see a live chiptune band, they’re usually inspired to try out the technology themselves. “We always have people who come up at shows and ask, ‘how do you do it?'”

The duo has demonstrated just how they do that at the Maker Faire and Pulse Wave SF — a friendly monthly gathering for chiptune bands. Up next, they play the free CONVERGENCE International Alternative Music and Arts Festival at the Japantown Peace Plaza.

Cuevas and Payne met in 2005, each playing in different punk bands. Payne joined Cuevas’ band (Sputterdoll), which broke up a few years ago. “We knew we wanted to do something video game related, we just didn’t know exactly what,” says Cuevas.

Payne had futzed with a program called LSDJ (LittleSound DJ) when it first came out, but hadn’t been serious about it initially, he says. “There’s a learning curve, it’s one of those easy to learn, difficult to master things.” With the new band starting up in 2010, he began gathering Gameboys and filling them with his own sounds. Given Cuevas’ affinity for early Weezer, the music they make is poppy, but it also has that nostalgic synthesized MIDI sound.

“There’s a misconception about it, that we’re using samples from video game somehow or that we’re doing something using actual songs from video games,” says Payne. “But what we’re actually doing is basically stripping down the console to a little sound making computer and getting it to play back our music.”

The process works like this: Cuevas writes the first skeleton of a song on guitar then sends it to Payne. He then programs it using LSDJ and loads it onto the Gameboy for that 8-bit transformation. They ping it back and forth, adding layers to the song. Payne also just started making music with a Sega Genesis — you can make chiptune on any console — so that might come into play soon.

Live, Cuevas sings and play distorted guitar, and sometimes taps a fresh Gameboy, like in the song “Bounce Bounce” where she solos over the final instrumental part. Payne plays drums and, occasionally, picks up the keytar. He also keeps his modded Gameboy on his snare, which has only once caused significant damage.

“I hit it with the drum stick — it made a loud, awful noise,” he says.

Cuevas smiles and replies, “I think you lost a chunk of your Gameboy.”

 

CONVERGENCE FESTIVAL

The Glowing Stars

With the Bran Flakes, Planet Booty, Teenage Sweater

Sun/4, 12-5 p.m., free

Japantown Peace Plaza Post Street Between Webster and Laguna, SF www.convergencefest.com

The Duke abides: Gamer takes on “Duke Nukem Forever”

1

Duke Nukem Forever
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
(3D Realms / Triptych Games / Gearbox Software / 2K Games)

Duke Nukem Forever is an exploration of myth and ego, a commentary on celebrity-obsessed culture…

Oh, who are we kidding? Duke Nukem is a steroid-popping meathead who loves beer, blow jobs and blasting aliens. DNF is a direct sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, a PC game that debuted in 1996 – in those dying days of action movie excess, nu-metal and witty one-liners – and the sequel does not stray far from its roots.

That it took 15 years to release a sequel makes DNF the oldest video game joke in the industry. Following numerous delays, funding issues and company closures, its imminent release is a moment being watched by many gamers with cautious anticipation: Will the game enjoy the same success it might have had in the 90s? Or has the world changed too much, lending this joke a pitiful punchline?
Somehow, both of these things have happened. DNF successfully channels the crass humor of the original game, which was full of strip clubs and naughty curses, and it benefits from employing the same voice actor, Jon St. John. But the world has changed: it is still capable of containing a character as radical as Duke but the celebrated Duke gameplay is a tad past its sell-by date.

Following the events of Duke Nukem 3D, Duke is enjoying the good life in Las Vegas, where seemingly everything is Duke-branded, from burger joints (Duke Burger) to strip cubs (Duke Nukem’s Titty City.) As Duke is on his way to a late night talk show appearance, aliens attack once again and steal all of Earth’s women. It’s hard to tell whether, at some point in the game’s development, there was ever more to the story. Here it acts as a thin framework to drive the action across Vegas towards the Hoover Dam.

I was only half-joking by describing DNF as an exploration of myth and ego. Certainly, the game makes no great statements on matters of fame and narcissism, but the developers have fumbled the character’s celebrity into a game mechanic where your health is called “Ego” and performing tasks like signing autographs and admiring yourself in the mirror increase your Ego bar permanently. Yes, the first thing you do in the game is press the right trigger to “Piss” in a urinal.

While this jibes with the humor of the original game, it is also suspiciously pandering. There’s a strong disconnect between newly conceived gameplay and whatever was conceptualized over the course of 15 years. Fifteen years is a long time and Duke Nukem 3D wins no awards for its mechanics in today’s modern playground, but DNF more or less sticks to its guns. If you missed circle-strafing enemies, you’re going to have a blast with this.

Likewise, the platforming sections that interrupted the original game’s carnage can’t hold a candle to the type of sure-fingered control we enjoy today. Its inclusion here brought a smile of recognition and a frown of frustration when I couldn’t make jumps that I should have. Let’s not even bring up the fact that it takes over a minute to load a level after you die. How is that possible in 2011?

It’s hard to say what it would have taken to please everyone waiting for Duke Nukem Forever. In adhering to outdated mechanics you frustrate new players, and by updating everything you wind up with a relic of the ’90s in a world where Duke doesn’t belong. DNF straddles the line. It’s funny in a 12-year-old potty humor kind of way, and the Duke character survives his awakening into the 21st century. But 15 years of anticipation overshadows anything less than a home run and DNF is not a home run. If you are a card-carrying member of the cult of Duke, DNF often brings back the ridiculous feeling of playing that game, warts and all. I found myself excusing its failures whenever possible.

Gamer road trip: E3 report!

0

If last week’s E3 press conferences in Los Angeles are any indication, game consoles are no longer just about games. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the year’s biggest video game industry event, lavishly presented gamers with a sneak peek at the most-anticipated titles and hardware goodies looking to lighten wallets later this year. But as more blockbuster game franchises are released simultaneously on the Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox, it’s become imperative for their parent companies to differentiate themselves — and traditional gaming has begun to take a back seat to this broad experimentation.

Along those lines, Microsoft attempted to guide itself out of the corner it had painted itself into following the huge sales of Kinect, the camera device that quickly became the fastest-selling consumer electronic of all time. Microsoft has been lacking significant game releases for Kinect owners, making this year’s release slate integral to satisfying the new and unexpectedly large consumer base. An upcoming Xbox interface allowing users to control other entertainment like Netflix and live TV by voice seemed to be a hit, as was the announcement of Kinect controls for traditional games like Mass Effect 3 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Microsoft undoubtedly launched Kinect to compete with the draw of Nintendo’s family-friendly Wii, and the device’s appeal to the more serious gamer is a delicate maneuver that these franchises could help accomplish.

In the PlayStation camp, Sony made a speedy apology for the PlayStation Network outage that has battered its reputation for the past two months and piggybacked its return with announcements for bundles, deals, and partnerships offering consumers considerable content for their respective price points. Presenting these products as “gifts” to consumers was an interesting approach to mitigating ire over the network snafu. All business, Sony’s presentation was the least titillating but perhaps most solid of the conferences.

No more beating around the bush: the biggest question going into E3 2011 was “What is Nintendo’s new console?” Leaked information that pointed to a new, more powerful console was confirmed when Nintendo announced the Wii U, a console with a touchscreen controller capable of streaming games to your hands — with or without a television screen. Actual game announcements were left to the newly-launched 3DS and surprises were scarce: tried-and-true franchises Mario Kart, Starfox, and The Legend of Zelda. While the possibilities for Wii U initially seem vast, the console’s true nature — and that of its “revolutionary” controller — remains nebulous. There’s the potential for an HD system to recapture Nintendo’s diminishing hardcore audience, but right now the Wii U looks like another stab at cornering families and casual players.

Third-party publishers care less about console revolutions and more about good ol’ fashioned video games. Electronic Arts stuck to its guns, offering concrete gameplay footage and loud (loud!) speakers that shook the Orpheum Theatre with Battlefield 3 explosions. The Battlefield franchise is looking to take Call of Duty head-on this year, and time will tell if players favor authenticity over that series’ scripted bombast. Either way, Battlefield 3 is one pretty game. EA also made a strong go at providing social networking experiences that augment traditional play, and offered them all for free — perhaps a dig at Activision’s recent announcement it will offer paid subscriptions to a similar Call of Duty social experience.

Inside the Los Angeles Convention Center, many newly-announced games were playable or shown in demo form. Highlights: Uncharted 3‘s two gameplay demos both boasted a top-tier knack for exciting set-pieces and storytelling, and it is the first game to truly suggest the power 3-D can add to the gameplay experience. BioShock Infinite was unmatched in attention to detail with its departure to a city-in-the-clouds backdrop. And Mass Effect 3 finally gave gamers a glimpse of Earth’s destruction in a short demo that demonstrated massive carnage and a surprisingly-affecting level finale. There were tears in a few eyes, folks.

E3 2011 was less about this or that game, and more about the process of evolving your traditional game console into an entertainment center where you surf the Web, watch movies, and even take the experience on the go. Nintendo was eager to suggest the new home applications its controller might afford, and Microsoft and Sony focused on expanding new possibilities for their current hardware through Kinect and Sony’s motion device, PlayStation Move. As more and more of the public identify as gamers, this is the playing field expanding to allow for different types of game experiences. Even so, games like Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, and Mass Effect 3 suggest traditional gaming is more than up to the competition a broader user base might bring. 

 

Facing the right way

0

It has been roughly two decades since the arrival of 3-D graphics changed video games forever. Visual fidelity and realism have increased geometrically. But though the ability of designers to render convincing buildings and 800-ton interstellar battlecruisers is at a zenith, one aspect of their games falls consistently behind: the people.

Sure, glistening muscles have long been perfected, and the hair looks better every year. Stare into the lifeless, glassy eyes of a cartoonishly-breasted video game sexpot, however, and there’s no mistaking where you are: the uncanny valley, a metaphorical location coined to describe the sudden onset of revulsion we experience when exposed to simulated humans that approach but do not attain realism (think Tom Hanks in 2004’s The Polar Express).

L.A. Noire, at long last, has built a giant suspension bridge over the gap. Team Bondi, the game’s Australian developers, relied on a new technology called MotionScan, which entails filming actors in a special room using 32 synchronized high-definition cameras that shoot from every angle, but focus on the head. The data from the cameras is then combined to create a stunningly accurate 3-D model of an actor’s face, right down to the laugh lines and the slicked-back, 1940s hairstyle. The model is then grafted onto a body rendered using conventional motion capture, resulting in the most believable human beings ever seen in a video game.

This technological innovation was crucial to L.A. Noire‘s design. As a police procedural, the game makes interrogating suspects the player’s most important challenge. Team Bondi turned to MotionScan in order to create a game that allows sharp-eyed, controller-clutching gumshoes to scrutinize the faces of potential perps, hoping to spot the telltale hard swallows, sidelong glances, and spastic blinking of a liar.

The success of MotionScan reaches far beyond the interrogation sequences, however, or even the game itself. There are important scientific findings suggesting that the interpretation of facial expressions is crucial to the way we experience empathy and understand emotions. The introduction of believable human faces into video games will have a seismic effect on the medium, revolutionizing the creation and efficacy of story and character.

L.A. Noire, like any good detective, provides elegant proof. It may be a game about arresting criminals and identifying their lies, but it is also a game whose strength lies in its tragedy. Lives are ruined, children are orphaned, and a generation of soldiers struggles to cope with the horrors it experienced on the killing fields of World War II. Though they all refuse to talk about it, you can see it in their faces. 

 

Gamer: does the dismal “Homefront” have a silver lining?

19

Can Homefront’s failures inspire change in the game industry?

I’m almost reluctant to add to the media blitz that first-person shooter Homefront (now available) was and is getting. Even with low scores and plummeting stocks, the game managed to sell 300,000 copies on its first day, so to a degree it would seem the publicity has paid off. But, after being personally subjected to an overwhelming number of posters and billboards, hundreds of balloons, an anti-Korean rally, and a long schoolbus ride to a barbed-wire-laden warehouse, I was disappointed to find that behind this velvet curtain was a pretty flimsy product. Maybe Homefront will be the game that gets the ball rolling on an important issue that has been brewing for a while: game pricing.

Kaos Studios was smart to attach itself to a wholly original idea, implausible or not, and putting the power of Academy Award-nominated screenwriter John Milius (1979’s Apocalypse Now) behind it doesn’t hurt. But the premise is wasted on such an impossibly underdeveloped campaign; it’s almost like Milius wrote “North Korea invades U.S.” on a napkin and called it a day.

Kaos’ shooter isn’t the first game to re-neg on its promises (see the ever-fresh wound of the Molyneux/Fable debacle for proof of that) but this burn was unique in that it was a title that appealed to a game audience that is largely overlooked. Alternate history, as a genre, has ardent supporters but aside from Fallout and Singularity its ranks haven’t been stocked particularly well. In that light, Homefront’s undelivered promise only intensifies the sting that results from its brevity.

Sixty bucks and all I get is a three-hour campaign?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9hWdAN6guw&feature=related
You don’t hype a three hour tour.

Homefront’s single-player is surely not worthy of its price tag, so what else is in the box? The game includes a multiplayer mode and it’s light years more focused than the campaign, but multiplayer-only experiences like Battlefield 1943 run around $15. If the studio had released a multiplayer-only title, they would have been welcomed to the table differently. Instead, we’re left wondering how much developer weight was actually put behind the single-player campaign, and why the quality seems so inconsistent with the seemingly-great weight the publicity team put into hyping the mode over the past year.

Now that a sharp divide has evolved in the value of game content, making every game the same price not only hurts the consumer, it also directs the development process towards creating a viable product rather than a singular experience. As more and more players purchase titles purely for their multiplayer components, I might go so far as to suggest completely separating single player and multiplayer experiences through independent purchases.

No matter how it is sold, it seems clear that the value of each mode is rarely analogous to the amount of time developers invest in them. Call of Duty campaigns are five to six hours long, and no one bats an eye because they know the multiplayer will afford them hundreds of hours in entertainment. At the same time, enormous resources are spent on creating multiplayer for games like Bioshock while all anyone wants is to be told a cohesive story. Instead of feeling obligated to deliver both, why don’t developers make a greater effort to give players what they came for?

Perhaps there’s something to be learned from the casual games market. While many console gurus malign the low pricing of iOS games, at least games are variably priced based on their worth. What’s the answer? Publishers would be smart to figure it out before all games go digital, because I expect that flat rate of $60 is going to feel a whole lot heavier without a physical product in hand.

“My girlfriend is a hacker”: Inside the EFF party

2

On our way to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s 21st Birthday party, my programmer friend explained to me why, if it weren’t for the work of the good folks over at EFF, neither eBay nor WikiLeaks could do their thing.

See, it’s all about encryption, a topic my friend is slightly obsessed with. It used to be illegal for anyone but the government to send encrypted information through electronic channels, he explained, using technology that’s now commonplace and used in any website that requires a log in. In the 1990s, the EFF came along with a lawsuit to open up the ability to offer a secure transfer of information to the masses. The tech law firm prevailed, and soon it became possible to securely log in to a website and enter your credit card information without fear that it would be intercepted. Hence, the trail was blazed for online shopping.

From minds far more subversive than that of Meg Whitman sprang a very different use of the technology. Utilizing encryption software, WikiLeaks designed a way for whistleblowers to securely submit classified documents to an online repository.

That’s just one of many accomplishments that EFF could point to at its Feb. 16 celebration. A nonprofit, EFF “fights for freedom primarily in the courts,” according to its website, taking on the US government and major corporations on issues that threaten Internet freedom and digital rights. EFF boasts more than 61,000 contacts through its Action Center, which it uses to beat back bad legislation and raise awareness.

Just in the last few weeks, EFF has taken on the FBI over its plan to expand federal surveillance laws, weighed in on net neutrality, fended off against attacks from Congress over its aggressive protection of online privacy, and spearheaded a program that allows web users to surf secure all the time.

The EFF staged its 21st bash at Bricks and Mortar Media (BAMM.tv), a “content creation factory” in SoMa.

The place was adorned with festive, futuristic hacker art, from a flat-screen monitor displaying a word cloud, to a stage setup featuring an aerial array of computer bits and video game controllers.

One room featured a live video feed projected onto the wall with a strobe-light effect, and partygoers delighted in throwing kung-fu kicks in front of it and watching themselves flicker on screen like action figures seconds later.

In true tech-pioneer fashion, the night featured live nerdcore performances. What’s nerdcore? Let me put it this way. When the star of Dual Core shouts into the mic, “Throw your hands in the air if you’ve got mad skills,” the people he’s addressing really do have mad skills – like programming, web design, developing apps for mobile devices, managing vast databases, creating video games, and yes, even hacking. One of Dual Core’s raps included the line, “My girlfriend is a hacker.” He’s clearly smitten.

Several chiptune artists also performed, including Crashfaster  — “a chip musician, retro remixer, and low-bit concert promoter whose outreach has galvanized the Bay Area’s vibrant chiptune community,” according to EFF – and Trash80, “the eminent chip musician behind ArduinoBoy — software that helps integrate the Nintendo Game Boy into any existing electronic music arsenal.”

I had the honor of chatting with Doctor Popular, described on EFF’s site as a “professional yo-yoer, nerdcore artist, and innovator.” The good doctor makes music using only an iPhone, iPad, and some wires. He told me he writes songs using a handful of apps while riding CalTrain from San Francisco to San Mateo for his day job at a company that makes video games.

And oh, the nerdy crowd! The knowing glint in their eyes, those people who really understand how to manipulate technology. They program software, develop apps, eat, sleep and breathe online communication, whip out iPhones and Droid phones and talk about video games, latest versions of browsers and operating systems, and other matters that this reporter could not quite comprehend, because they were using acronyms.

They were gracious. “Sorry,” some one said to me after launching into a paragraph of alphabet-soup gibberish to my programmer friend. “Sometimes I forget, and then I notice people’s eyes glazing over.”

And yet, when you hang out with hardcore nerdcore fans, you learn the most fascinating things. For example, how when you begin typing “Torrent” into a Google search engine, the word “torrent” will not show up in the automatic feed that suggests search terms. Why? Well, there are theories.

The prop. 8 hearing

2

Watching the hearing was a couple of hours well spent; it’s not often that you get to see an actual live oral argument before a federal appeals court. And it’s not often that you get to see three judges, not all of them liberals by any stretch, take apart the fundamental claims of the anti-gay-marriage folks.


There’s a nice live-blog and analysis here.


One of the most interesting elements in this case is the possibility that the legality of same-sex marriage in California may hinge on whether a deputy clerk in Imperial County has the right to represent the people of California in a legal appeal. See, the governor and the attorney general usually defend state laws when they’re challenged in court, but in this case, both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown declined. In essence, they both said they thought Judge Vaugh Walker’s decision overturning Prop. 8 was just fine.


So the supporters of Prop. 8 have to make the case they have legal “standing” to appeal — and the judges seemed more than a little dubious about that. The political group that backed Prop. 8 was in trouble from the start, and couldn’t really demonstrate what legal authority it had to handle the appeal. The deputy clerk from Imperial County, which has a population of 166,000, argued through her lawyer that she would have to sign marriage certificates, and that Prop. 8 directly affects her job. That didn’t get very far, either. And if the appeals court tosses the case on the standing issue, nothing else matters. Walker’s ruling is affirmed and same-sex marriage is legal in California.


Then to the meat of the case. Judge Hawkins instantly asked Charles Cooper, attorney for the Prop. 8 proponents, if the voters of the state of California could legally amend the state Constitution to re-segregate the public schools. Cooper: No. The point was pretty clear: The voters have the right to amend the Constitution, but not in a way that violates fundamental rights.


Cooper went on with what rapidly devolved into lunacy, eg: “When a relationship between a man and a woman becomes sexual, society has a profound interest.” In other words, a man and a woman have sex; they might conceive a child, who might be born “out of wedlock” and raised by a single parent, which would be a bad thing. Judge Reinhardt: That’s a good argument for prohibiting divorce — but isn’t really on point here.


Theodore Olson, representing the plaintiffs, pretty much knocked it out of the park in his first few minutes, noting that California has effectively engineered discrimination into the Constitution by eliminating a right that the U.S. Supreme Court has said repeatedly (14 times, according to Olson) is fundamental. He pointed out that in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws, the U.S. Supremes determined that sexual conduct between consenting adults of any gender is protected. So how, he asked, can you take away marriage rights because of a Constitutionally protected activity?


Since the Prop. 8-ers have argued that same-sex marriage would force children to have “a premature interest in sexual activity,” Olson suggested that the court would have to “ban comic books, video games and conversations with other children.”


The judges, as is typical, interrupted all the lawyers to ask questions — until Theresa Stewart stood up, representing the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. She was sharp, quick on her feet, perfectly prepared — and for most of her short presentation, the judges simply listened. Her point: When it comes to children, family law in California treats same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples precisely and exactly the same; why should marriage be any different?


In the end, what I saw was three judges struggling not with the outcome of the case — Walker’s decision seems likely to be upheld — but with how broad they want the final decision to be. Based on the questioning at the end, it seemed as if they’d rather uphold Walker’s ruling without making a sweeping statement that gay marriage is Constitutionally protected and must be the law of the land everywhere in the United States.


But unless they try to duck the real issues and rule only on standing, that’s going to be a stretch. Any honest, logical ruling can only come to one conclusion — that treating lesbians and gay men differently than straight people violates the Equal Protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. And if the Supreme Court agrees, it will be the end of gay marriage bans, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the beginning of a new era in America.


UPDATE (thanks to Nichole Dial for research);


Lots of news media coverage on the some good, some lame. The Prop. 8 Trial Tracker website had some of the best breaking stuff. The Mercury News did a live blog by Howard Mintz that was full of details. SF Weekly covered the more amusing accounts such as the crowd outside the court room.  The Bay Citizen also had a live blog and analysis.


Brian at Calitics had one of the best quick analyses and the Chron’s Bob Egelko came out with a really fast story that touches on the major themes of the case.



The AP postings on the Huffington Post covered the highlights as well as an overview of the background of prop 8. The New York Times used the same article, then later added a short, fairly superficial piece by Jesse McKinley  (what, the Times had no live blogger on this?)


 


 

Don’t stop this crazy thing

0

arts@sfbg.com 

Coldcut used to brag that it was “Ahead of Our Time.” In the late 1980s, they slapped the phrase onto a host of groundbreaking forays into cut-and-past sound mathematics like “Beats + Pieces,” “Doctorin’ the House,” and “Stop This Crazy Thing,” freewheeling tunes that treated the history of sound as an enormous candy shop, copyright laws be damned.

And now? Coldcut’s long-running company Ninja Tune reflects the musical times in all its heterogeneous subgenres and variations on familiar themes. When Matt Black and Jonathan More launched Ninja Tune in 1990, it was to create an outlet for the group’s abiding passion in instrumental beats (which the British press would soon garnish with colorful nicknames like “trip-hop” and “sampledelia”). It was built on Coldcut-related productions like DJ Food’s Jazz Brakes series and Bogus Order’s Zen Brakes. Over time, the label flowered into a major indie with two sublabels (Counter and Big Dada) and dozens of artists passing through its doors, from Amon Tobin and Roots Manuva to Antibalas and Mr. Scruff. Today, it releases iconoclastic statements from the L.A. beat scene (Daedelus), the Baltimore indie/electro scene (Spank Rock and the Death Set), and London’s grime and bass worlds (the Bug).

During a phone interview from London, Coldcut’s Black says, “All the artists on the label have their own character. It’s like a collection of audibles, really. There’s a consistency in the fact that we’re all quite out there.” He adds that Ninja Tune is more “advanced” than it was in its first decade, when most of the roster — including production units like the Herbaliser and Funki Porcini — fit under the “trip-hop” rubric. “I felt that some of the early releases interpreted the Coldcut blueprint too literally, just getting some funky loops and sounds and stringing it out for a bit.” Part of this is due to maturity. The Herbaliser, for example, began making beat “loops” for discerning headz but has since grown into a full-fledged band. Even DJ Food, which now solely consists of producer Strictly Kev, has become a purveyor of soundtrack music inspired as much by David Axelrod as Marley Marl.

The mutating Ninja Tune amoeba is being chronicled through a series of 20th anniversary promotions. The deluxe box set Ninja Tune XX includes a hardcover book, six CDs, and six 7-inch vinyl records. The book, Ninja Tune: 20 Years of Beats & Pieces (Black Dog Publishing, 1992 pages, $29.95), is also available separately as a paperback. “If you look at the arrangements and the musicality on the music on the XX set, it’s a lot more advanced than it was a few years ago,” says Black, pointing to San Francisco’s Brendan “Eskmo” Angelides as an example.

Eskmo isn’t the first Bay Area artist to record for Ninja Tune; that honor belongs to rap experimentalist cLOUDDEAD, which released the U.K. edition of its 2001 self-titled album through Big Dada. However, he gives Ninja Tune a foothold in the thriving bass and organic electronic music scene through the symphonic boom of tracks like “Hypercolor.” Eskmo says that signing with Ninja Tune, which just released his self-titled debut, has been “really inspirational,” adding, “It’s a unique thing in this day and age for an independent to be flourishing and still put out creative stuff.”

According to Stevie Chick’s book 20 Years of Beats & Pieces, Ninja Tune emerged in the wake of the music industry’s brief yet disillusioning courtship of Coldcut, who dazzled with a game-changing remix of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid In Full” (the classic “Seven Minutes of Madness” mix) and U.K. pop hits like Yazz’ “The Only Way Is Up” and Queen Latifah’s “Find a Way.” The label began as Coldcut’s middle finger to demands that they become another group of pop-dance hacks like Stock Aitken Waterman. “We really liked making instrumental hip-hop, fucking around, not having to make another ‘pop’ track,” Black tells author Chick. On albums such as 1997’s Let Us Play, Coldcut found an equilibrium between advocating the wonders of cutting-edge technology and vinyl consumption and promoting anticapitalist themes.

An inevitable byproduct of Ninja Tune’s success (as well as that of its great rival, Warp Records) is that its fashion-forward yet radical communal lifestyle seems more myth than reality. In 2005, the label released Amon Tobin’s soundtrack for the Ubisoft video game Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Last year, Speech Debelle won the U.K. Mercury Prize for her Speech Therapy debut. A few months later, the British rapper announced that she wanted off the Big Dada label because it didn’t promote her work enough. Meanwhile, several roster artists have scored popular car commercials, from Mr. Scruff’s “Get a Move On” for the Lincoln Navigator to the Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” for KIA Sorento minivans.

“We’ve adapted our game,” Black explains. “We’ve got a company called Sync, Inc. and they specialize in getting sync licenses or getting our music placed in films, TV, video games, and adverts. That’s become an important part of our business.” When asked if that contradicts Coldcut’s earlier independent philosophy, he answers, “We give our artists a lot of freedom. If an artist wants to license a track to Coca-Cola, we wouldn’t necessarily block them. Coldcut has turned down a lot of syncs, particularly car ads, ever since we did one for Ford and realized that was a terrible idea.” Ironically, the song used was “Timber,” an instrumental decrying the eradication of rain forests. Even though Coldcut gave half of the licensing money to Greenpeace, says Black, “We didn’t feel comfortable with it.”

Two decades on, Ninja Tune continues to weather the rapid changes of the music industry while sustaining Coldcut’s dream of an independent haven for progressive artists. But the future ain’t free. “I believe the corporations are the Nazis of our age,” Black says. “But you sometimes have to talk to the Nazis because they’re a reality.”

NINJATUNE XX

With Amon Tobin, Kid Koala, DJ Food and DK, Toddla T and Serocee, Dj Kentaro, Eskmo, Ghostbeard, An-Ten-Nae, Motion Potion

Fri/29, 9 p.m.-4 a.m.; free with rsvp

1015 Folsom

103 Harriet, SF

www.ninjatunexx.xlr8r.com

 

 

War — what is it good for? Video games!

0

Medal Of Honor

Danger Close, Electronic Arts

(Xbox360, PS3, PC)

GAMER Though it arrives a few years behind its contemporaries in updating the mechanics of the original World War II series, Medal of Honor follows Call of Duty and Battlefield into the modern age of warfare. The most memorable aspect of this reboot’s PR muttering was that it was going to be authentic. Game developers working closely with members of the military is nothing new, but developer Danger Close wanted its take to be relevant to today’s war by setting the fight in Afghanistan and making the villains the Taliban. The game’s professed intent is to honor the soldiers who die every day in the conflict but, while the locations lend the game a sort of theoretical accuracy, Medal of Honor mostly just feels like War Games 101.

You won’t have any problems jumping into the action. From the first moments, Medal of Honor‘s game play, pacing, and button layout recall Modern Warfare‘s winning formula. The story is a tad more down to earth, but not without thrills and chills, and a good chunk of the game is devoted to sniper missions that do more than pay homage to the iconic Modern Warfare level “Ghillies in the Mist.” There are a few new twists (I will say, it’s been a while since a war game has made suppressive fire a mandatory game play element) but for the most part Medal of Honor emulates Modern Warfare‘s “shooting gallery” experience, which makes it fine, if not terribly inspired.

First-person shooters now ship with split personalities: single-player and multiplayer. The experiences are so divided (literally, with completely separate title screens) at this point that they might as well be two different games. Many developers have begun to send multiplayer development out-of-house, with the intention of focusing all their strength on the single-player experience. It’s probably a good idea — if one team is spread too thin, both experiences suffer.

Medal of Honor seems to have taken the stance “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” enlisting Battlefield developers DICE in creating its multiplayer experience. As such, Medal of Honor‘s multiplayer emulates the tight feel and style of Battlefield 2 fairly well, but lacks the balance of the different classes. Limiting the choice to assault, spec-ops, or sniper doesn’t encourage teamwork in the same way that including a medic or engineer does.

I suppose Danger Close deserves some kudos for even attempting to engage with a real, contemporary war, but it’s also the sort of thing that needs to be done right. If you’re going to talk the big talk, you better walk the long walk, and Medal of Honor doesn’t really offer much that you can’t find in either of its competitors’ more refined products. Nonetheless, it remains an engaging, well-made war game that delights adequately enough and could indicate a better game to come. 

Our Weekly Picks: September 8-14, 2010

0

WEDNESDAY 8

DANCE

Project Thrust

Many might think the bigger the bust, the better. But when it comes to the female body, shit gets complicated. Tits are either too big, too small, too this, too that. “How, when, and why are women aware and unaware of their feminine features? When do women hide curves and when do they flaunt them? Is it difficult to sustain sexiness?” These are some of the crucial questions choreographer and dancer Malinda LaVelle — who has danced with the Foundry and is now an artist in residence at the Garage — explores with her dance company Project Thrust and its newest work, Project Bust. Whether you love or hate the twins, LaVelle’s bold and funny choreography will leave you with a profound new respect for the female form. (Katie Gaydos)

Through Thurs/9

8 p.m., $15

Garage

975 Howard, SF

(415) 518-1517

www.projectthrust.org

 

THURSDAY 9

THEATER

Jerry Springer the Opera

Time for a big, dramatic, Jerry Springer Show-style revelation: I’m the father of your baby! Uh, just kidding. Actually, I was going to say that I had to ask the Googles if The Jerry Springer Show is still on TV. And indeed, 19 seasons along, it is. Even if its zeitgeist was a few years ago, and the most scandalous stuff on the idiot box now comes courtesy of Real Housewives, there’s no excuse for any self-respecting Springer fan (oxymoron?) to miss Jerry Springer the Opera, which promises “strippers and rednecks, incest and coprophilia, Jesus, Satan, and the Virgin Mary, the Ku Klux Klan, and a lesbian dwarf.” Adventurous local company Ray of Light Theatre ushers in its 10th anniversary season with this lurid, award-winning spectacular. (Cheryl Eddy)

Through Oct. 16

Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m., $20–$36

Victoria Theatre

2961 16th St, SF

www.jerrysf.com

 

MUSIC

Apocalyptica

Thanks to Judgement Day, Grayceon, and Giant Squid, San Francisco concert-goers are familiar with the peculiar potency of heavy metal cello. Unlike those bands, however, Finland’s Apocalyptica consists entirely of cellists. Since its beginnings in 1993 (sawing out Metallica covers), the quintet (four cellos, drums) has built up a cult following and turned its talents toward writing original songs. A new album, 7th Symphony, was released Aug. 20, featuring collaborations with Dave Lombardo (strong) and Gavin Rossdale (weak). Apocalyptica’s live show, nevertheless, is not to be missed. If you’re never seen someone play a cello while standing up and headbanging — well, what’s taken you so long? (Ben Richardson)

with Dir En Grey, Evaline

8 p.m., $28

Regency Ballroom

1290 Sutter, SF

1-866-448-7849

www.theregencyballroom.com

 

FILM

“Infinite City: Cinema City”

Writer Rebecca Solnit’s “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas” mapmaking project has investigated butterflies, queer history, hippies, and the SF vs. L.A. rivalry. Now, and perhaps inevitably, Solnit and her collaborators turn their attention to local cinema. Tonight’s work-in-progress screening, “Housing Shadows and Projecting Fog,” includes films on film (and fog) by Andy Black and Sam Green, and Christian Bruno. Saturday’s sprawling “cinema crawl” invites the movie-minder to various theaters. Two highlights: the Roxie spreads sparkle with Pickup’s Tricks, Gregory Pickup’s 1973 profile of founding Cockette Hibiscus; and the obligatory Vertigo screening (1958) at the Vogue. (Eddy)

7 p.m., free with museum admission ($9–$18)

(Sat/11, “A Few Dream Palaces of San Francisco” cinema crawl, various venues and times)

Phyllis Wattis Theater

SF Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF

(415) 357-4000

www.sfmoma.org

 

MUSIC

Coliseum

Having stormed out of Kentucky onto the national scene with 2007’s No Salvation LP, Coliseum took an abrupt left turn when it came time to write this year’s follow-up, House With A Curse. Throttling back the incendiary crust-punk crossover of their previous albums, the trio debuted a new drummer and a stately post-punk sound — its tempos, at least when compared to precedent, sound almost meditative. Despite the switch, the songwriting remains stellar, and mastermind Ryan Patterson’s throaty yowl is wielded with mastery. Joined by local troublemakers Walken on Potrero Hill’s lowest stage, the band will deploy its new bread and circuses. (Richardson)

With Burning Love, Walken, Buried at Birth

9 p.m., $8

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St., SF

(415) 252-1330

www.theeparkside.com

 

MUSIC

The Gories

Looking for some good clean fun? This ain’t the show for you. As their name suggests, garage-rock vets the Gories play dirty, sinister blues with vocals that wail about feral girlfriends, explosive girlfriends, and motorcycle heroes, intercut with harmonica blasts and impassioned, slightly insane woo-hoo!s. Formed in Detroit circa 1986 — when squares were jamming to Whitney Houston and “Addicted to Love” — the band’s sound suggests nothing about the ’80s; it’s more like the tunes you’d want to hear while drag-racing to a midnight rager in a cemetery. Singer Mick Collins went on to form the Dirtbombs, a band that’s commanded its own rightful following, and this Gories reunion gig is a rare affair indeed. Turn up early for Haunted George, a kindred lo-fi cat whose discography includes an album titled Pile O’ Meat. Have mercy! (Eddy)

With Haunted George and Nice Smile

8 p.m., $20

Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421

www.theindependentsf.com

 

FRIDAY 10

 

DANCE

Paul Laurey and Christine Bonasea

Paul Laurey grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia; he was training to be a scientist when the desire to dance hit him. Christine Bonasea was born in France and also tried academia and dance. Dance won out for her as well. Now courtesy of Joe Landini’s RAW — or resident artist workshop, which offers no money but free rehearsal space — they are sharing an evening of independent choreography. Both work with excellent, equally committed fellow performers: Laurey in Pull, Push and Things that Matter with Christine Cali and Sonsheree Giles; Bonasea in the matter of things with Rosemary Hannon, Jorge Rodolfo de Hoyos, and Kira Kirsh. The thrill comes from watching good dancers taking new risks and committing themselves to new contexts. (Rita Felciano)

Through Sat/11

8 p.m., $15

Garage

975 Howard, SF

www.975howard.com

 

FILM

“Drawn From Life: Comic Books and Graphic Novels Adapted”

When it comes to adapting a work for film, some preexisting properties have proven more successful than others. Video games: bad; Jane Austen novels: better; comic books: blockbusters, even when the movie ends up sucking. There’s yet to be a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar doled out for a graphic novel or comic adaptation, but can such a breakthrough be far off? Missing from the Pacific Film Archive’s lineup are Ghost World (2001) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (still in theaters), but as graphic novel geeks the world over await/assault news regarding the Y: The Last Man movie, there’s plenty of tiding-over afoot. Campy delight Flash Gordon (1980) kicks off the series, with Hellboy (2004), Popeye (1980), American Splendor (2003), and Wes Craven’s oft-overlooked 1982 Swamp Thing among future selections. (Eddy)

“Drawn From Life: Comic Books and Graphic Novels Adapted”

Through Oct 31, $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-5249

www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

 

SATURDAY 11

COMEDY

Craig Ferguson

In the supposedly madcap, late-night TV landscape (see: 1996’s The Late Shift), it’s surprising that Craig Ferguson has ultimately emerged as the least traditional of them all. The Scottish comedian — accent and all — makes up jokes on the fly, curses like a sailor, and often references his past as an alcoholic, a bartender, and a punk band drummer, every night on The Late Late Show. But in sticking to his guns, Ferguson comes off as a real talent rather than a manufactured experience, and the program’s unpredictable nature is the real reason to tune in — who cares about the guests anymore? You don’t have to visit the L.A. studio to see the man work; this week he brings his wanton charm to Davies Symphony Hall. (Peter Galvin)

8 p.m., $45–$55

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF

1-866-448-7849

www.ticketmaster.com

 

VISUAL ART

“Castration Myth”

So there was this artist named Rudolf Schwarzkogler who was affiliated with Viennese Actionism — a 1960s art movement that used the body as canvas and violence as paint — and in 1965 he scared the art world and discredited the avant-garde by cutting off his penis. Or so people thought; turns out it was just a friend and a filleted fish. Fast-forward 36 years to 9/11 and we have the whole world scared, the term post-avant, and not one, but two dismembered phalluses — this time for real. Is there another fish myth at stake? Seeing this exhibit of Rudolph’s “Aktion” performance photographs is one way to find out. (Spencer Young)

Through Oct. 9

6–8 p.m., free

Steven Wolf Fine Arts

2747 19th St, SF

(415) 263 3677

www.stevenwolffinearts.com

 

COMEDY

Dylan Moran

Perhaps best known to American audiences for his appearances in Shaun of the Dead and Run, Fatboy, Run, Irish comedian Dylan Moran is a huge hit in his native U.K., notably for his brilliant role as a cantankerous and drunk yet lovable book shop owner in the tragically short-lived BBC series Black Books. His live stand-up is where he’s really made his name though; biting, sarcastic, and side-splittingly hilarious observations of a variety of topics we all encounter in our day-to-day lives — along with ones that most of us presumably don’t, such as having a weekend tryst with a Smurf. (Sean McCourt)

8 p.m., $36

Marines Memorial Theatre

609 Sutter, 2nd floor, SF

(415) 771-6900

www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com

 

TUESDAY 14

 

MUSIC

Suckers

Taking equal parts David Bowie-fetishism, avant-garde pop, and the sort of world eclecticism pioneered by Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel — and recently invigorated by Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend — this Brooklyn band hits just the right measures of each to create its signature Suckers sound. While that description might lead you to believe the foursome’s sound might be aloof or reserved, its debut Wild Smile is surprisingly sunny, like a collection of the slowest dance songs. Forget the name, a sucker is the last thing you’d be for getting a ticket to this one. (Galvin)

With Menomena and Tu Fawning

Through Sun/15

8 p.m., $18

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

www.gamh.com 


The Guardian listings deadline is two weeks prior to our Wednesday publication date. To submit an item for consideration, please include the title of the event, a brief description of the event, date and time, venue name, street address (listing cross streets only isn’t sufficient), city, telephone number readers can call for more information, telephone number for media, and admission costs. Send information to Listings, the Guardian Building, 135 Mississippi St., SF, CA 94107; fax to (415) 487-2506; or e-mail (paste press release into e-mail body — no text attachments, please) to listings@sfbg.com. We cannot guarantee the return of photos, but enclosing an SASE helps. Digital photos may be submitted in jpeg format; the image must be at least 240 dpi and four inches by six inches in size. We regret we cannot accept listings over the phone.