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Treasure hunting

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esilvers@sfbg.com

Tuckered out from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass? Yeah, us too.

Thing is, October — that’s San Francisco’s summer, if you’re a newbie — is just getting started. Next up is Treasure Island Music Festival (Oct. 18-19), now in its eighth year, aka your annual opportunity to look out at the bay and the twinkling city in the distance, pull your hoodie tighter around yourself, and say “I should come out here more often.”

Even if it’s the only time of year you find yourself on the isle, it’s a damn good one. TIMF is a beauty of festival, design-wise: Two stages within shouting distance of each other plus staggered performances throughout the day mean you don’t get caught up in festival FOMO. And the visual art and DJs it attracts thanks to the Silent Frisco stage pump it up with a distinctly San Franciscan flair (in case, for example, you ingest so much of something that the temperature and skyline aren’t enough to help you remember where you are).

Here are our picks for the best of the fest.

TV on the Radio
Very few bands can accurately claim to sound like the future and the past at once, but these Brooklyn rockers — who have been teasing singles from their new release Seeds, out this November — zoom pretty effortlessly back and forth, with bass, synths, keys, and horns that come together for a damn good dance party.

Ana Tijoux
We first fell for the French-Chilean artist’s textured, colorful blend of Spanish language hip-hop with jazz and traditional South American instruments in 2006 — when her collaboration with Julieta Venegas was everywhere, and we didn’t even get sick of it. Since then she’s only grown more intriguing, and less like pretty much anything else happening in Latin music. Check out this year’s Vengo if you need convincing.

The Growlers
Psych-y surf-punk from Costa Mesa that can help you visualize beach weather, regardless of that middle-of-the-bay breeze cutting through your clothes.

Ãsgeir
This Icelandic folk-tronica phenom is only 22, but he’s already been buzzy (especially abroad) for a good chunk of his adult life. We’re curious to hear how the lush songs off his debut album translate live.

 

TREASURE ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL

Oct. 18-19, $89.50-$295

Treasure Island

www.treasureislandfestival.com

Festival-sized doses of art, food, and technology at Portland’s TBA fest

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As the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) presented the 12th iteration of the Time-Based Art Festival September 11-21, two newer festivals (Feast Portland and XOXO) also peppered the Rose City with foodie events and tech talk galore.

TBA, under the artistic direction of Angela Mattox, formerly the performing arts curator at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, emphasized music and vocal experiments in this year’s program. The international festival is distinct in its presenting platform and density of experimental performance, making it well worth the hour flight to Oregon from San Francisco.

The rather utopian format of a 10-day art binge features rigorous lunchtime conversations about artist processes and concepts, a stacked lineup of daily performances, visual art, and film at venues across the city, and a beer garden for late-night gatherings and conversation, serving as a hub for artists and attendees to mix and digest the work. Additionally compatible with certain Bay Area sensibilities are the possibilities of experiencing the festival by bike and sampling the city’s somewhat precious cuisine, coffee and beer. (Of course, Portland loves to start happy hour at 3pm.)

There’s a choreography to the festival, allowing a sequence of works to rub against each other. After an initial weekend featuring music, sound, and body-based performance, Sept. 15 brought the first text-based work of the festival via a one-woman show. The week moved into personal and self-reflexive modes of storytelling and rounded out with productions of experimental theater tackling rather epic themes such as human evolution and post-traumatic societies.

“We are here for such a short time. We are not supposed to be struggling in our flesh,” Tanya Tagaq commented during her artist conversation. She discussed the release of control as a healing process and her performance was the walk to her talk. Tagaq, who last appeared in San Francisco with the Kronos Quartet in 2012, expanded the Inuit art of throat singing during a highly improvised performance in concert with Robert Flaherty’s seminal silent film Nanook of the North (1922). Tagaq, with violinist Jesse Zubot and drummer Jean Martin, appeared barefoot, frequently assuming a wide stance as she projected her forcefully rhythmic and breathy vocals. Her fully embodied song responded to the vintage footage of an Inuk family projected behind the musicians. The semi-documentary illuminates the harmony and struggle of living off the Arctic land with images of seal hunting, igloo building and child rearing.

Maya Beiser was among the abundant female artists in this year’s festival lineup. A founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Beiser performed Uncovered: electric cello arrangements of cover tunes including Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. Like Tagaq, the glamourous Beiser employed the moving image, playing downstage of a film by Bill Morrison. 

These highly visual music performances bookended a sold-out performance by Tim Hecker, a Canadian noise artist who performed in a darkened house, his arms on the soundboard barely visible. (Gray Area Art and Technology presented Hecker’s San Francisco debut in July.) The darkness amplified visceral and sonic elements of his drones and melodies, a sound bath which rattled the shirt on my body. Hecker’s immersive stasis and wall of sound provided a deviant TBA moment. Resonance over meaning. I wanted to be closer and standing.

The life stories of seniors, both speculative and real, were also featured. Mammalian Diving Reflex’s All the Sex I’ve Ever Had illuminated decades of true stories about intimacy, old age and life milestones revealed by a handful of willing Portland seniors. Cynthia Hopkins’s A Living Documentary took the form of a solo musical in which Hopkins played an elderly experimental performing artist reflecting on her lifetime creating art in a capitalist society. 

“It’s called show business, not show vacation!” Hopkins wailed. Her narrative about labor, resource, and occupation situated artists at the center of the festival, providing the lens of an elderly maker. She was a hobo. Ingredients of the lifestyle included vodka, birth control, and antidepressants. Hopkins brilliantly employed the palatable storytelling devices of the musical — an underdog who moved through adversity — to tell a depressing story audiences may not want to hear. Hopkins’s character mused about her “impulse to do something not about survival” but rather purpose, meaning and identity.

Costume and makeup changes occurred seamlessly onstage. She shined as a rousing motivational consultant telling artists to grow some “spiritual testicles” as they navigate their business. In the end Hopkins walked away from her art, however there are no clean breaks from trajectories lived for decades. 

The Works served as the site of Jennifer West’s PICA-commissioned Flashlight Filmstrip Projections installation. During the performances, which activated the work, a team of artists carrying flashlights illuminated the suspended filmstrips to Jesse Mejia’s live synthesizer soundscape. The flowing white dress worn by Connie Moore performing Loie Fuller’s Serpentine Dance in the center of the space served as an additional projection surface. A deep sense of ritual and archive emerged with the cinematic fragments and live re-performance of a historic choreographic work.

Also at the Works, San Francisco artist Larry/Laura Arrington instigated an iteration of SQUART! (Spontaneous Queer Art), which challenged community participants to rapidly create a work performed the same evening. Bay Area artists including Jesse Hewit, Jess Curtis and Rachael Dichter were among the participants. The routines, which included a jump rope, a small dog and plenty of other tasks and antics, were evaluated live by a team of judges from the art world.

Returning to my bike from Pepper Pepper’s glitterfied Critical Mascara “A Post-Realness Drag Ball” at the Works, I passed another warehouse, the Redd, with similar outdoor food vendors, twinkly lights, and a beer garden atmosphere. This hub belonged to the XOXO Festival. Now in its third year, the conference (Sept 11-14), founded by Andy Baio and Andy McMillan, bills itself as “An experimental festival celebrating independently-produced art and technology”.

Further up the street at Holocene I encountered XOXO attendees gathered for evening music programming. They flashed their orange badges to listen to a lineup of bands including Yacht, John Roderick and Sean Nelson, Nerf Herder, Vektroid, and DJ Magic Beans. XOXO is a closed affair, selling out tickets months prior. According to the Verge, “The number of people who experience XOXO in person is small: the festival is limited to 1,000 attendees, including 750 with all-access passes, and 250 who attend nighttime events but not the talks during the day.”

It was clear after speaking to several delegates at Holocene that few were aware they were blocks away from the dense batch of experimental artists at TBA. I can imagine these guys (and yes most of them were guys) enjoying sound artists like Tim Hecker presented by PICA this year. If XOXO is truly interested in cross field collaborations and self-identifies as an art and technology conference, I hope they consider how to work in conjunction with some of the risk-taking artists with wild imaginations at the simultaneous art festival, TBA, which has been running four times as long in Portland with an international reach.

Trendy food items like pork and the Negroni had moments in the spotlight at a third September festival, Feast Portland, presented by Bon Appetit Sept. 17-20. Founded in 2012 by Mike Thelin and Carrie Welch, Feast Portland highlights local culinary leaders and the bounty of the Pacific Northwest along with top chefs from across the country. And may your conscience be clear while you are possibly pigging out on pig – net proceeds of Feast go toward ending childhood hunger through Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Share Our Strength.

Talent came from as far as Dallas and Atlanta to compete among 14 top chefs facing the challenge of the Widmer Brothers Sandwich Invitational at downtown Portland’s Director Park. Before the lines got long, I visited local favorites including Lardo’s Rick Gencarelli and Salt & Straw’s Tyler Malek (who was making a PB and J with brioche, jelly, and peanut butter ice cream). With three festivals providing such a dense convergence of art, food and technology, one thing’s for sure: September in Portland was made for San Franciscans.

For another take on the 2014 TBA Festival, check out Robert Avila’s piece here.

Georgian rhapsody

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Spanning nine months of programs and a full century of cinema, “Discovering Georgian Cinema” is the kind of ambitious exhibition that reminds us how much of film history is yet to be written. The series, presented by the Pacific Film Archive, represents a remarkable feat of coordination: Its opening weeks feature prints from Toulouse, Berlin, New York, Tbilisi, and, most delicately given recent history, Moscow.

Building upon a core collection of Soviet-era Georgian films held by the PFA, curator Susan Oxtoby organized the program around three periods: the silent era, the art cinema explosion of the 1950s through the 1980s, and the contemporary scene. While many titles will be unfamiliar even to dyed-in-the-wool cinephiles, echoes and premonitions of broader trends in international cinema abound. To take only one example, series opener Blue Mountains (1984) seems to draw upon Jacques Tati while at the same time anticipating the New Romanian Cinema in its elegant formalist satire of state bureaucracy. But then perhaps the ultimate lesson of a series like “Discovering Georgian Cinema” is that every New Wave renews some earlier illumination.

SF Bay Guardian What was the genesis of your work on “Discovering Georgian Cinema”?

Susan Oxtoby The genesis for the project really comes from the fact that BAM/PFA holds an important collection of Soviet Georgian films — 37 prints in total. Individual films have shown in different contexts, but we haven’t done a major Georgian series in many years. In 2011 I received a curatorial research grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to travel to other archives with significant holdings, and then we raised funds for a touring series from the National Endowment for the Arts. We invited Nino Dzandzava, who is currently working at the National Archives of Georgia, to visit Berkeley to examine our collection. Viewing prints with her was a wonderful experience because she could supply me a sense of the history behind these films and the connections between them. There was also my visit to the Tbilisi International Film Festival, which was extraordinary in terms of getting a sense of the current film scene in Georgia and having an opportunity to meet with contemporary filmmakers.

SFBG Was it always your intention to be linking the historical films to more contemporary work?

Oxtoby Absolutely, I think it is very important to see the contemporary era in light of the history of Georgian cinema. It’s quite evident that young filmmakers working in Georgia today are aware of their country’s film heritage.

SFBG Can you talk about some of your priorities in trying to create a context for a national cinema?

Oxtoby My priority is to show strong examples of what has been created in Georgia within an art cinema tradition. Over the course of the retrospective we will spotlight numerous directors and have a chance to examine their individual film styles. We launch the series with two guests from Tbilisi, veteran filmmaker Eldar Shengelaia (The Blue Mountains, 1963’s The White Caravan, 1968’s An Unusual Exhibition), who will present his own films plus his father Nikoloz Shengelaia’s Twenty-Six Commissars (1928); and Nana Janelidze, the executive director of the Georgian National Film Center, who is herself a filmmaker (2011’s Will There Be A Theater Up There?!, 1985’s The Family) and screenwriter (1984/1987’s Repentance). In October, film historian Peter Rollberg will join us to speak about Georgian films from the silent era, and archivist Nino Dzandzava will present a program of Georgian Kulturfilms from the early 1930s. In mid-November, Levan Koguashvili (2010’s Street Days, 2013’s Blind Dates) will be our guest.

SFBG The silent films in the series that I’ve seen are quite striking in the way they refigure elements of Soviet filmmaking. A film like Eliso (1928) has such strong elements of montage.

Oxtoby Yes, that’s true. We will present Eliso with a newly commissioned score adapted from traditional Georgian folk songs by Carl Linich and performed by Trio Kavkasia on October 25 and 26; this will be a truly unique way to experience this beautiful silent era classic presented with choral accompaniment. The silent era films by Ivan Perestiani, Mikhail Kalatozov, Nikoloz Shengelaia, Lev Push, and others are absolutely wonderful. There’s also an interesting short 40-minute silent film called Buba (1930) by Noutsa Gogoberidze, which we will screen on November 8. She was traveling in the same circles with Dovzhenko and Eisenstein and collaborated with the avant-garde painter David Kakabadze, but her work was not endorsed by the Stalin regime and so she was more or less written out of film history. Her film is a bit like Buñuel’s Las Hurdes (1933), made a few years later.

SFBG Were there any other films that were especially surprising to you in terms of style or theme?

Oxtoby Oh yes, many. Little Red Devils (1923) could be a Douglas Fairbanks film; My Grandmother (1929) is Dadaist in character and very fresh stylistically. Then there’s a film like Nikolai Shengelaia’s Twenty Six Commissars (1932), which deals with the geopolitics of the oil fields in Baku — its political concerns might have been pulled out of today’s news headlines. I’m intrigued to see the influence of Italian neorealism on such films as Magdana’s Donkey (1955), Our Courtyard (1956) or even the contemporary work Susa (2010), as well as the influence of the French New Wave on Otar Iosseliani’s films from the 1960s. I want to hear more from the filmmakers and historians as to how much back and forth there was during the Soviet era. How much world cinema was being seen in Tbilisi? How much were filmmakers traveling abroad and seeing things at festivals? One definitely senses a strong connection with international cinema when you watch these films from Georgia. *

DISCOVERING GEORGIAN CINEMA

Sept 26-April 19

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk

bampfa.berkeley.edu

 

Locals only: Split Screens

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There’s something overwhelmingly dreamlike about Jessie Cafiero’s songwriting, to the point that it makes a listener feel like they’re sleepwalking: The ebbs and flows of cinematic, orchestral pop conjure a surreal sense of nearly floating around one’s city. It’s not surprising, then, to hear that the singer-guitarist often draws inspiration from walking around these foggy hills of ours.

Though Cafiero released a debut EP as Split Screens two years ago, Before The Storm, out Sept. 9, showcases a fuller band, a more confident, brighter sound, and a more lush dreamscape in which Cafiero’s words create an airtight, contemplative mood; this is the perfect sonic accompaniment for a Sunday afternoon, cruising around the city in the early fall air, seeing where the day takes you.

Cafiero released an accordingly pretty, otherworldly video for the LP’s first horn-punctuated single, “Stand Alone.” Check it below, and catch the band’s record release show at Bottom of the Hill Sat/20.

San Francisco Bay Guardian How and when did the band form? I understand it was mostly a solo project to begin with — how is this new record different, and what made you decide to bring in more members of the live band?

Jesse Cafiero The band formed a little over two years ago. I had already written and recorded my self-titled EP under the name Split Screens, but when I got my first show it was time to move the studio solo project into a live setting. With the new record, Before The Storm, I had already started playing a few shows in the area so I could bring members of the band into the studio, which was great!

SFBG What’s your songwriting process like?

JC It depends, I play guitar and piano so I like to write on both to have a little more variety. Since I started writing Split Screens material I’ve always had my phone around to record ideas on the fly, that’s definitely helped. I also love writing in the studio, usually I’ll have the main form of the song together by that point but writing particular parts in that setting is an amazing feeling.

SFBG You’re from the East Coast originally, yeah? How did you wind up in the Bay Area? How do you think it shapes/affects your music?

JC Yeah, I’m from a small town in upstate NY called Pine Plains and I moved to the Bay Area five years ago. It was just a good time to move, I was just out of a long term relationship at that point and had fell in love with California the year before when I visited for the first time. If anything, the natural beauty of the city is inspiring and I’ve found myself coming up with some of my best lyrical ideas just taking walks up in the hills around Sutro Tower.

SFBG I love the “Stand Alone” video. What made you decide to go with stop-motion for this song?

JC I’ve always been a huge fan of animation and for “Stand Alone” the song has this lifting quality that seemed to be a great fit with the kind of movement stop-motion creates. Also the idea that I could create a piece of visual art on my own time on an incredibly small budget was really appealing to me. This was my first time attempting stop-motion so there was a freshness of creativity that I haven’t felt in a while!

SFBG Other Bay Area bands/artists you love?

JC Waterstrider, St. Tropez, Black Cobra Vipers, Doncat, Debbie Neigher, Guy Fox, Bells Atlas, Quinn Deveaux, Lee Gallagher & The Hallelujah…I know I’m leaving some people out. The list goes on.

SFBG Plans for the coming year after the record is released?

JC I’m gonna take a well-needed breather and start writing some new material. After that I’d love to do another little West Coast tour in 2015 and begin working on another music video!

SFBG Where in the Bay do you live? What’s the Bay Area food/meal you think you couldn’t live without?

JC I recently moved to the Castro. I had never had a Vietnamese sandwich until I moved to the West Coast, and the first one I ever had on Clement Street kind of changed my life. Thankfully I live around the corner from Dinosaurs so I’m pretty set on that front!

Split Screens LP Release
With Yassou Benedict and New Spell
Sat/20, 9:30pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF
www.bottomofthehill.com

Tenderloin upstart Book & Job aims to level the art-gallery playing field

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Carson Lancaster is tired of the bullshit. He’s tired of watching the same handful of mainstream galleries hang the same artists and shun a majority of San Francisco’s young, talented artists. “It’s like that scene in Scanners. You know, the one where the guy’s head explodes? That’s what it feels like every time I walk into one of those places,” he said.

Lancaster is the owner of Book & Job, an art gallery that seeks to do exactly the opposite: make San Francisco’s art market accessible to both artists and consumers. Located on Geary and Hyde Streets, Book & Job blends into the grit of the Tenderloin and in no way resembles the blue-chip megaliths huddled toward Union Square. The space is tiny. There’s no team of attractive sales people standing at the entrance, no bubbly event photographers milling around, no tuxedos, and no free champagne.

However, it isn’t uncommon to see a small throng of young people spilling from the entrance on a given Saturday night, or passers-by (likely coming from galleries down the street) stopping in their tracks to gander at the commotion — looking for something, anything, that slightly resembles uncharted territory: candid photographs from inside of a ramshackle San Francisco mosque, say, or a couple of naked male performers feeding each other wedding cake while dancing to Celine Dion. That, Lancaster feels, is an art scene.

Which is why Lancaster is all ears if an artist wants to show work at Book & Job. Though it began mainly for photographers, in the past couple of years the small gallery has broadened its horizons to include just about anything — paintings, zines, and performances. “People come in all the time and say, ‘I like this place because it’s pure, because it’s real, because it’s no bullshit,” he continued. “It’s known in the community as the no bullshit gallery.”

Sat/13, Lancaster’s walls will feature work from an analog photography club called Find Rangers, which sent out an open call to artists around the world. Lancaster and a group of colleagues started the club for many of the same reasons he opened his gallery. “It’s a grassroots affair,” he said. 

As a former photography student at Academy of Art University, Lancaster wondered why many of the best students would flee San Francisco after graduating, but he eventually came to a realization: “The San Francisco art scene sucks. It is very close-minded, unfriendly, not open to interpretation, set in the same ways. And for young artists at CCA [California College of the Arts], SFAI [San Francisco Art Institute], and Academy of Art, to go to an art gallery in the city [and inquire about showing their work], they’re going to be told to go fuck themselves in so many words.”

Lancaster spoke of a disconnect between San Francisco’s relatively insular gallery scene and the high number of art students in the area. From 2002 to 2012, San Francisco received more art funding per capita than any another city in the nation, according to a 2014 study released by the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago. And yet, the city’s abundance of talented artists cannot break in and are thus forced to seek greener pastures, usually in New York or Los Angeles.

Lancaster believes that this is largely because art galleries in San Francisco have tight business models, and that giving artists a chance just doesn’t allow them to stay afloat. These galleries, he said, would rather show artists they know can sell. “They have their roster of artists,” he explained. “December is Ferris Plock, or September is Jay Howell or Mike Giant, and it’s the same names over and over again. It’s more like a meat factory. It’s the meat aisle.”

This is especially prevalent nowadays, Lancaster explained, as many of the higher-end galleries are struggling themselves with out-of-control rents and the city’s shifting cultural values. In the past year, particularly downtown, a rash of galleries have either relocated or completely shuttered.

But Lancaster isn’t worried about Book & Job. His lease is written such that his rent stays fixed — and relatively low — until 2022. For next eight years, Book & Job cannot be priced out, even as the neighborhood continues to transform around it. “This is place is blowing up,” he said, pointing out the new cafés and restaurants that are now sprouting up around the Tenderloin. All the same, in the coming years Book & Job will serve as a small preservation of what remains of city’s DIY ethos, a channel through which local artists can be discovered without having to flee the city. 

“It’s a really nervy thing to do,” Sarah Barsness, one of Lancaster’s former Academy of Art teachers, says of the gallery. She explained that it’s extremely difficult to open a successful art gallery in the city, let alone one as “subversive” as Book & Job. “He’s doing the thing that you’re never supposed to do, which is having a lot of work that he sells for nothing, and spreading it out to a different, broader population — younger people and fellow students,” she explained. 

She even compared Lancaster to Andy Warhol and other pioneers of the pop art movement, who sought to strip art of its “preciousness” and “elitism” by selling prints for pennies on the dollar. Ultimately, Barsness explained, this made art more democratic. “It’s really important right now because we’re at a high point of elitists,” she said. “It’s over the top.”

By making art more democratic, she explained, galleries like Book & Job “bring artists back into the conversation,” making art more about art and less about business. But Barsness believes many San Francisco galleries have always operated this way. “San Francisco collectors are notorious for not buying San Francisco art,” she said, explaining that galleries have had to survive by bringing in work from other cities. 

While Barsness feels that the economic cards are not stacked in Lancaster’s favor, she feels that Book & Job embodies much of what art stands for. “Art is not supposed to preach. It’s supposed to show you an alternative way of thinking, so that questions emerge,” she said. “[Book & Job] is a little work of art, in that sense, making you ask: Do galleries have to operate this way? Is it wrong to have galleries operate this way? And why is it wrong?”

For Lancaster, however, Book & Job’s place in the art world isn’t so much subversive as it is deeply personal. In March, Lancaster found his close friend, renowned San Francisco artist Shawn Whisenant, dead from a health issue in the back room of the gallery, where he had been sleeping. Whisenant was a San Francisco street artist and photographer and one of the last “true” San Francisco artists, according to KQED’s Kristin Farr, who remembered him fondly after his passing.

And for Lancaster, Whisenant’s artistic ethos of “no B.S.” will always shape how Book & Job is run. A day doesn’t go by in which Lancaster doesn’t think about what Whisenant would have done. “He’s the angel and devil on my shoulder,” he said.

The room in which Whisenant died has been converted into a dark room, and for now Lancaster plans to share it with other like-minded photographers and use it to hone his own skills. “If someone is checking their phone and they see my open call [for a Find Rangers Camera Club exhibit], and they dust off their camera and buy a roll of film, I’m doing something right,” he said. “That’s not just me selling a booklet to help pay rent, that’s helping someone’s creativity … and that’s really cool.”

Find Rangers Camera Club exhibit

Sat/13, 7-11pm

Book & Job Gallery

838 Geary, SF

www.book-job.com

Joel Daniel Phillips illustrates the overlooked in ‘I Am Another Yourself’

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Joel Daniel Phillips draws people. He draws them with charcoal and pencil and is known for his life-sized renderings of eccentric, seemingly homeless men and women he meets on the corner of Sixth and Mission Streets in San Francisco.

His debut solo show with Hashimoto Contemporary, “I Am Another Yourself,” opens Sat/6 (opening reception 6-9pm; the show runs through Sept. 27). I met up with Phillips to talk about his work and to see his 14 pieces in person.

As we hung out in his roomy studio in East Oakland, the BART train lumbering by every so often, Phillips’s towering life-sized pieces captured my awe and attention. The details he emphasizes in his work  whether it’s a wrinkled pant leg, a takeout container, lines on a face, or a waning pack of Newport Lights  illustrate the attitude and honesty of his subjects. 

“I think of [my work as] a bit like journalism in that the goal is for me to honestly understand something else or someone else and then show it to my audience,” Phillips says. 

Phillips moved to San Francisco three years ago. Not knowing a whole lot about the city, he accepted a live-work studio space on Sixth and Mission. Once he arrived in the neighborhood, he realized it was — well, different. So he started his own artistic exploration of the street corner, which involved approaching people he found particularly intriguing, asking if he could take their photographs, and creating life-sized drawings of them.

When considering whom to approach for a photo, Phillips looks for “people who carry their story on their face” or demonstrate their story in the way they dress. These types of people embody the honesty and vulnerability he aims to capture in his pieces. 

 “I’m fascinated with vulnerability,” Phillips says. “If I approach most people in the street and ask them, ‘Can I take your photograph? I’m an artist,’ they’ll stand in a certain way, pose in a certain way, and have a projected sense of how they want to be perceived. But this particular subset of society doesn’t do that. They allow me into a deeper sense of who they are.”

While people may look at Phillips’s work and assume his drawings are of homeless men and women, that’s not necessarily the case. “A lot of people assume they are all homeless, but I have no idea if any of them are homeless,” Phillips says. 

And he doesn’t care to ask his subjects about their living situations, either. “Part of the reason I isolate my subjects from their backgrounds is because I want to remove certain information,” Phillips says. “I want you to take each person out of context and see them as an individual, rather than place them in a certain box.”

A unifying attitude that links Phillips’ subjects seems to be that “these people are in a place, for whatever reason, where they don’t really give a shit. They’ve gone through a lot of things  maybe hard, maybe just different than your average suburban white kid’s experiences  that have put them in a place where they are comfortable,” Phillips says.

He describes his goal as building an emotional and mental bridge between two disparate cultural groups and allowing people to see themselves in these individuals, who are often from a completely different world than their viewers.

Phillips motions toward Spaceman, who’s sporting Ugg boots, a motorcycle helmet, and a creatively tied tie, and is holding a broom in a way that makes it look like a badass accessory. “I’ve drawn Spaceman several times,” he says. Tinesha, another subject of a life-sized drawing, wears dramatic eye shadow along with a puka shell necklace and is holding a to-go container. Phillips speaks highly of Tinesha and says she is incredibly sweet. 

Then he shows me Billy, one of his smaller drawings. Billy has a long beard and contemplative eyes. His shirt is tucked into his baggy cargo sweatpants, the cuffs of his light button-down shirt are undone, and his crossed arms frame his layered beaded necklaces. “This is Billy the Prophet,” he says. “I’m not sure if anyone other than me calls him that, but he’s definitely a prophet.”

After perusing his pieces, you might think Phillips is trying to impart some type of social justice-driven message or a call to action against poverty or homelessness. But Phillips says his goal is more about perception than social change. His hope is that if you see these pieces and grapple with this idea of how and why you treat certain people a certain way, then “hopefully the next time you walk by someone on the street you might think about this work and say, ‘Hey, I might not be able to fix shit, but I can at least smile; I can at least say hi.’”

After spending almost three years living at the corner of Sixth and Mission, cheaper rent lured Phillips out to East Oakland in April. He still comes back to his street corner, though. Not just for the next photo, but to continue his friendships with the people he’s photographed. He routinely runs into his subjects – now friends – and buys them lunch or art supplies.

“They know who I am on the street corner now. I’m that guy who draws people. And sometimes people even ask me to draw them,” he says.

Being the guy who draws people has allowed Phillips to become a part of the community. “I’m no longer this gentrifying white presence; I’m not the person who’s trying to change Sixth and Mission from what it’s been. I’m somebody who’s trying to understand what Sixth and Mission is,” Phillips says.

 

“I Am Another Yourself”

Through Sept. 27

Opens Sat/6, 6-9 pm

Hashimoto Contemporary

804 Sutter, SF

www.hashimotocontemporary.com

For inquiries, contact Hashimoto Contemporary: hashimotocontemporary@gmail.com

Follow Phillips on Instagram here

No place like home

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Out at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, just after sunset, the darkness and the silence are real presences in themselves, not just a context for something else. They’re right now pressing their respective noses against the windowpanes of the large, beautifully-worn army barrack–turned–artist studio in which Saya Woolfalk is pouring some dark red concoction from a squat glass jug.

She begs her guests not to try to translate the hokey Portuguese label on the bottle, brought back from Brazil by her husband, an anthropologist, as she hands each of us a crimson thimbleful in a plastic dentist cup. Looking like NyQuil but tasting more like some berry-based moonshine, it gives me an almost instantaneous headache but is otherwise kind of nice. Anyway, it does the trick. We’re now prepped to enter the mandala.

Standing there with me are Marc Mayer and Annie Tsang, both of the Asian Art Museum, as well as Brian Karl, the Headlands’ program director. The mandala corresponds, for now, to a tape mockup on the floor next to us. It’s a circular shape about four feet in diameter, with concentric and crisscrossing lines. At four equidistant corners outside the circle are small freestanding pieces of heavy paper representing alcoves, on the outside of which a slide projector illuminates a colorful figure in exotic garb. Behind each alcove, Woolfalk explains, a dancer will be tucked away.

Also standing around are two department store mannequins, each draped in a careful clash of fabrics and traditions: a skirt of pink-and-gold-striped glitter cloth from the Mission, a tourist version of a Chinese vest from Grant Street, a batik shoulder wrap brought back from Africa.

It’s all just the smallest hint of the Brooklyn-based artist’s elaborately extensive portfolio and practice, which blends visual design, sculpture, textiles, film, live performance, original musical soundscapes, ethnographical narratives, and invented ritual into playful, extraordinarily vivid and enveloping explorations of the limits and promise of hybrid identity.

Woolfalk’s dance-performance installation — the scale model of which was still being toyed with and adjusted when I visited her temporary studio — has been developed during a residency at Headlands under a commission from the Asian Art Museum, where it will run Thu/4 in the AAM’s capacious upper chamber in conjunction with the exhibition Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism (ongoing through Oct. 26). The piece, called ChimaTEK: Hybridity Visualization Mandala, culminates a seven-year project by Woolfalk that has received exhibitions and rapt attention around the country.

It began in No Place, which Woolfalk describes as “a utopian paradise in which hybrid identities flourish in tolerant communities with elaborate cultural rituals.” Its alternative narratives and reconfigured systems of representation took multiple forms across an integrated set of media, an environment unto itself, including a six-chapter ethnographic film documenting No Place made in collaboration with anthropologist Rachel Lears.

In the second iteration of the project, the narrative of No Place advances in time. Now its inhabitants have evolved into beings called the Empathics, who have developed a way of sharing their hybrid consciousness with others, while conducting research through their own nonprofit, the Institute of Empathy.

In this third and final stage, the Empathics have redirected their technology into a for-profit model, namely a corporation called ChimaTEK, a virtual world enterprise in which customers buy access to different Chimeric identities and consciousness through their own personalized virtual avatars. The chimera (which here refers simultaneously to the mythological she-monster made up of different body parts and to an organism with two or more genetically distinct tissues) ends up the repository and agent of corrupted utopian impulses.

As a tool for spiritual guidance, the mandala represents the universe, while helping to train the mind on essential insights and untapped potentialities. Made in collaboration with four local dancer-choreographers working in disparate ethnic traditions — with essential input from DJ Dr. Sleep (Melissa Maristuen) and a “virtual” DJ (none other than Paul D. Miller, or DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, who composed the original score) — ChimaTEK will be a kind of contemporary mandala, manifesting a chimeric state of being in which participants remix identities through virtual avatars in a virtual space. Fact and fiction blend so freely here that the distinctions between them might be called into question. So might the degree to which this virtual space is coextensive with the universe itself, or at least our tangled and conflicted corner of it. *

CHIMATEK: HYBRIDITY VISUALIZATION MANDALA

Thu/4, 6-9pm, free with museum admission ($5 after 5pm)

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin, SF

www.asianart.org

 

Visual reaction

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arts@sfbg.com

FALL ARTS From retrospectives and installations tied to big names, to smaller but no less arresting gallery exhibitions, this fall’s visual art offerings will have a lot to say about political bodies, politicized bodies, and the body politic. It’s heartening that the “blockbuster” shows listed here by and large focus on artists whose work doesn’t shy away from politics or political activism. After a summer in which there was a palpable uptick in public conversations about the US’s role in humanitarian injustices — both home and abroad — I hope the following exhibitions encourage people to keep talking.

 

“Keith Haring: The Political Line”

de Young Museum, Nov. 8, 2014–Feb. 16, 2015

The posthumous ubiquity of Keith Haring’s art (on coffee mugs, T-shirts, postcards) has overshadowed the fact that he made work that was as committedly political as it was populist. His stances on antinuclear proliferation, apartheid, and the survival of sexual communities in the face of the AIDS epidemic were as clear as his trademark figures. This first major West Coast Haring show in over two decades is more importantly the first to explicitly focus on the political dimension of his work. https://deyoung.famsf.org

 

“@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz Island”

Sept. 27, 2014-April 26, 2015

The Chinese dissident artist’s installation on Alcatraz via the FOR-SITE Foundation has been greeted with equal parts hype and skepticism. Working remotely from his studio with a team that includes collaborators from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Ai has created new sculpture, sound, and mixed media works for four locations on the former federal penitentiary grounds (three of which are usually off-limits to the public). How these pieces will put the artist’s own experiences of detainment and censorship in conversation with the site’s history of discipline and insurrection remains to be seen. Here’s to hoping for as much heat as there is light. www.for-site.org/project/ai-weiwei-alcatraz

 

“American Wonder: Folk Art from the Collection”

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Oct. 1-Dec. 21

John Zurier/MATRIX 255

Sept. 12-Dec. 21

On paper, “early American folk art” as the subject for an exhibition might sound dry as toast. But a lot happened between the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the onset of the Civil War in 1861, the period during which the portraits, landscapes, commemorative mourning pictures, weather vanes, and decorative sculptures assembled here (and all from the BAM/PFA collection) were made. These artifacts of national self-fashioning reflect that history but also the quotidian aspects of daily life which often get left out of its telling. Also on view will be local Zurier’s first solo show at the museum, which features luminous, abstract paintings and watercolors inspired by his time in Iceland. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

 

“Nicolas Lobo: D.O.W.”

Gallery Wendi Norris, Sept. 4-Nov. 1

Transforming chemical elements into contemplative sculptural pieces is the MO of interdisciplinary artist Lobo for his first San Francisco solo show. Previously working with sound in varying capacities, he has now turned to food science, isolating the chemical substrates of consumer goods such as doughnut frosting and cough syrup, and incorporating them into napalm and Play-Doh structures that resemble day-glo colored Song dynasty scholar stones. Toxicity never looked so enticing. www.gallerywendinorris.com

 

Kota Ezawa

Haines Gallery, Nov. 6-Dec. 20

Throughout his career, Kota Ezawa has rendered iconic images as disparate as Patty Hearst and the SLA robbing the Hibernia Bank and Nan Goldin photographs in a clean, simple style reminiscent of cartoons. The result is at once highly personal and aesthetically flattening, locating Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” outside of the event photographed and in the photograph’s broader circulation across time. This collection of new work should provide another chapter in his ever-evolving history of the medium. www.hainesgallery.com

“Songs and Sorrows: Días de los Muertos 20th Anniversary”  

Oakland Museum of California, Oct. 8, 2014-Jan. 4, 2015

While the popularity of the Mission’s annual Días de los Muertos celebration grows in tandem with the dislocation of the community that originated it, Oakland Museum of California’s 20th anniversary celebration grounds the holiday in some much-needed historical perspective, while showcasing Latino and Latina artists who continue to innovate on the traditions and aesthetics the celebration has inspired. www.museumca.org  

“Something Completely Different”  

City Limits, Aug. 30-Sept. 13

You have to act fast on this one. If you want to see something completely new, head to this group show at one of Oakland’s strongest exhibition spaces. For this salon-style collection, each of the 60 participating artists was asked to go outside his or her comfort zone to create a piece that was truly new. The opening reception Sept. 5 doubles as a gallery fundraiser, so now is you chance to pick up something by one of the Bay Area’s best and brightest. http://citylimitsgallery.com *

Your official Hardly Strictly Bluegrass lineup is here

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Ah, fall in San Francisco. The kids go back to school, the pumpkin beers and lattes make their first appearances, the leaves…um, mostly stay the same color, and the weather usually gets a little warmer.

OK, so maybe we don’t really do fall the way most of the country does fall. You know which part we do really well, though? Music. Art. Festivals. Excuses to drink pumpkin beers outside while taking in a live performance. Pick up this week’s big Fall Arts preview issue (on stands now!) for a guide to the best the Bay Area has to offer these next few months in music, theater, film, dance, visual art, and more.

If you want an easy tip, though? The jewel in the Pumpkin IPA Excuse crown is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, now in its 14th year and free as ever, thanks to the legacy of one mister Warren Hellman. After a month of teaser medleys, the folks from the Slim’s/Great American Music Hall family (who book HSB) announced the full lineup today for this year’s party in Golden Gate Park, which runs Friday, Oct. 3 through Sunday, Oct. 5.

At first glance we’re seeing a lot of big-name veterans (Emmylou, of course, plus the irreplaceable Chris Isaak, Mavis Staples, and more) alongside a number of unexpected but very welcome newcomers, like Sun Kil Moon and LA punk legends X. Other top-shelf indie-folk young’uns adding fresh blood to the scene: Dawes, The Apache Relay, Sharon Van Etten, Waxahatchee. And we’ll never complain about seeing Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, Yo La Tengo, or Deltron for free.

We’ll have more to come in the weeks leading up to the fest, but for now — make sure you know where that cooler is. We’re gonna put on some Lucinda Williams. See you in the park.

HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS 2014

Emmylou Harris

Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

The Apache Relay

The Time Jumpers Featuring Vince Gill

Kenny Sears

Dawn Sears and Ranger Doug Green

Blackie and The Rodeo Kings

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

X Acoustic

Mavis Staples

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Whograss

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

Reckless Kelly

Willie Watso

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Carlene Carter

The Go To Hell Man Clan

Kevin Welch

Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin

Sarah Jarosz

Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin with The Guilty Ones

Chris Smither

Justin Townes Earle

Lake Street Dive

Dave Rawlings Machine

Buddy Miller’s Cavalcade of Stars: Kate York

Striking Matches

Nikki Lane

Shawn Colvin

Tony Joe White

Buddy Miller & Friends

Poor Man’s Whiskey (Friday morning middle school program)

Chris Isaak

Robert Earl Keen

Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

Holler Down The Hollow: A Hardly Strictly Salute To the Masters (Dickens, Hellman, Reed, Scruggs, Seeger, Watson & Winchester)

Built To Spill

John Prine

Ryan Adams

Buckwheat Zydeco

Dry Branch Fire Squad

The McCrary Sisters

Moonalice

Johnnyswim

Hot Rize Featuring Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers

Jerry Douglas Presents Earls of Leicester

The Flatlanders Featuring Joe Ely

Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock

Rising Appalachia

The Mastersons

Peter Rowan’s Twang An’ Groove

Dwight Yoakam

Red Baraat

Bad Luck Jonathan

Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express ‘Strings In The Temple’

Jesse DeNatale

The Waybacks

The Felice Brothers

Caitlin Rose

Shelly Colvin

Bruce Cockburn

Alison Brown Quintet

Hurray For The Riff Raff

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Blue Rodeo

Lucinda Williams

The Lone Bellow

Steve Earle & The Dukes

Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun

Malawi Mouse Boys

Parker Millsap

Rosanne Cash

Deltron 3030 with The 3030 Orchestra

Conor Brings Friends For Friday Featuring: Waxahatchee

The Good Life

Jonathan Wilson

Sharon Van Etten

Dawes

Conor Oberst

Sun Kil Moon

Chuck Cannon

Tweedy

Rose’s Pawn Shop

The Sam Chase

T Bone Burnett

Social Distortion

The High Bar Gang

The Aquabats! (Friday morning middle school program)

Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands

Cibo Matto

Jason Isbell

Robbie Fulks

Yo La Tengo

Evolfo Doofeht

 

Not just an Animal Collective side project: Entering the Slasher House with Avery Tare

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In spite of music videos that are more than vaguely reminiscent of the horror film genre — not to mention the band’s name — the “jazz power trio” of Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks are far more than some campy side project.

Comprised of multi-instrumentalist and founding Animal Collective member Avey Tare, Angel Deradoorian (of Dirty Projectors, Deradoorian) on keyboard, and drummer Jeremy Hyman (of Ponytail, Dan Deacon), Slasher Flicks aim to make sounds that “come from a place that’s not human.” Live music fans will be happy to hear that the group used only minimal overdubs while recording their debut album Enter the Slasher House (out this past April), which is somewhat of a rarity amongst many of today’s crispy jams — and also something that’s immediately evident when Slasher Flicks take the stage.

Avey Tare, aka Dave Portner, spoke to the SFBG about one of his favorite places to play, letting each band member’s personality shine through, and creating an experience for the audience where they can synonymously get lost in something and feel like part of a collective. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks will be playing LA’s FYF fest this weekend before making their second visit to the Great American Music Hall this Sunday the 24th.

San Francisco Bay Guardian You’re clearly a person who likes to stay busy, considering the Slasher Flicks tour and the Animal Collective DJ sets that have been popping up recently. As far as live performances go, do your various projects satisfy different creative needs? I’m thinking about the elaborate stage set up for the Centipede Hz tour, which makes anything else seem minimal, really. Or are the props irrelevant and it’s more about the kind of work you get to produce?

Avey Tare I think the longer I play with Animal Collective or even just make music in the live realm the more interested I become with creating some all encompassing submersible experience. Who knows where this will go next. I’ve reached a point personally and creatively where I want to go beyond just showing up at clubs and playing live. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that my interests are deep in the visual art and film world. That said I have been enjoying the more minimal set up with Slasher Flicks. It’s nice to just set up and jam and have that be that. As long as our fans can get lost in something or feel like they had some unique experience then I’m happy.

SFBG How was it that Jeremy, Angel, and yourself came together to form Slasher Flicks? You’ve been cited as the main songwriter for most of the Animal Collective albums, but for Enter the Slasher House you crafted an outline of sorts for the songs on acoustic guitar, and let Angel create melodic lines to flesh them out.

AT Sort of. All of my songs do start on on a skeletal level.  It really depends on what is needed after that or how I want them to be produced. Each song requires its own place and sounds and atmosphere.  A lot of the melodic lines for Slasher Flicks were actually written by me but when it comes down to playing something with other people, you don’t really know what its going to be like til everyone is playing it. For me it’s crucial that Jeremy’s and Angel’s personality gets to shine through so a lot of the rhythms and melodies are sort of loosely placed and left open for their embellishments or reworking etc. You just sort of know when everything clicks. It’s more of a feeling. That’s what playing music with people is about for me. It’s definitely a collective experience, and when you can make your audience feel a part of that collective, then it’s even more rewarding.

Angel and I have been a couple for awhile now. Because we are around each other in creative situations and so aware of how each of us operate it has always just seemed natural that we would work on something together especially ’cause of the respect we have for each other’s talents. I met Jeremy through Angel, actually, but was immediately into his drumming after seeing him play a bunch over the last few years.  For some reason I just got it in my head that I wanted to do a collection of songs for a three-piece. Once the songs were written it seemed logical to ask Jeremy and Angel to play them. I guess we are lucky in that we melded very easily.

SFBG Last year Slasher Flicks opened up for Deerhunter at the GAMH before Enter the Slasher House was released. Are you looking forward to returning to the venue and headlining this time? I was fortunate enough to attend that first show, but after being able to listen to the album at home I realize all the more how fitting the GAHM is for the music — especially the bouncy, funhouse-feel of “Little Fang.”

AT I love Great American. It’s definitely my favorite place to play in SF and one of my favorite places anywhere. I have great memories from playing shows there. I think this size venue is probably my favorite to play.

SFBG Speaking of “Little Fang,” the video for the song was directed by your sister (Abby Portner) yet it still has that undeniable Animal Collective hallmark — sharing similar aesthetic qualities to ODDSAC (a visual album collaboration between AC and Danny Perez). I know that ODDSAC took over four years to complete. How has the process of marrying the audio and visual changed for you since working on that project?  

AT ODDSAC was unique in that we were trying to write the music and make the sounds as the videos were being created and attempting to piece it together as a whole while we worked. It also took awhile because we were working on other records during the process, as well. It’s always tough putting visuals to my/the groups music because I always have such intense feelings and visuals attached to it that are inside of me.  There is often a moment where I have to just give up the resistance to someone else’s vision of the music. It can be tough, but it’s been really rewarding so far and taught me a lot about what I like and don’t like. 

AVEY TARE’S SLASHER FLICKS

Sun/24, 8pm, $16

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

www.slimspresents.com

Sm/Art car

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Once the image of the highway-bound pioneer, the camper van has been reborn on the plains of the Wild West of arts programming, just off 51st Street in Oakland. It’s been sighted here and there since May, greeted with honking and cheering by fans of the tiny house movement, idle curiosity by idling bystanders, and mild frustration by those anticipating a sidewalk taco or crème brûlée.

Something like the sloped cross-section of a survivalist’s shack, the trail-able cabin, with a pair of wide windows set in its redwood-plank sidewalls, looks modest enough if a little odd. But husband-and-wife artists and Range Studio founders David Szlasa and Katrina Rodabaugh see it as the beginning of a convoy, and endless possibilities.

The idea was born shortly after the couple’s son was born, about three years ago. Szlasa had just left his position as programming director at Z Space to pursue life as a stay-at-home artist and dad, and was quickly finding room to work at more of a premium than ever. Already a fan of the tiny house movement, he applied to the Center for Cultural Innovation for a material-support grant, with the idea of building a small studio in the parking space beside his house.

“In the process of designing it and talking to people about what it would take, a lot more people became interested in it,” recalls Szlasa. “I started thinking more broadly that this is a significant need across the Bay Area and, after talking to people outside the Bay Area, a significant need all around.”

One of the needs he had hit on was a way of leveraging project-based support to artists for capital improvements that they could get further use out of.

“We as artists get in this pattern of raising money to do this show or do that show,” he explains. “This was re-thinking that and reapplying those funds to something that could give and keep giving. So with that I began to see the bigger opportunities in it, and pretty quickly realized this would be a prototype and model for a larger effort.”

Having built it over the course of about six months beginning last December — with crucial help from a few friends with specialized skills — Szlasa is now tooling around with his new mobile artist studio, hitched to the back of his old white pickup, in the hope of attracting support for the larger venture. Formalized as the Range Studio project, and co-directed with Rodabaugh, the former program director of artists resources at Intersection for the Arts, the idea is to replicate the prototype, christened Studio 1, and create a small fleet of deliverable art spaces and platforms that can be used individually, in tandem, or in remote coordination across a wide geographical area as a scalable artist residency program. Made of reclaimed and sustainable materials and entirely solar powered, the flatbed studio offers arts makers and programmers a real-world solution to the increasingly challenging problem of space in the Bay Area’s punishing real estate market, while embracing an ethic of conserving and maximizing material resources.

“And it’s all working!” says Szlasa, still a little surprised by the whole thing.

Studio 1 makes its formal debut this week as part of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Bay Area Now 7 exhibition, which this year assumes an art fair format to showcase a wide range of practices and strategies among the Bay Area’s small to mid-size visual arts organizations. Parked outside YBCA’s downtown edifice, Studio 1 will house a series of micro residencies — with its guest artists on display to, and in various degrees of contact with, the general public. Artists-in-residence temporarily ensconced in the tech’d out trailer include Aaron Landsman (co-creator of last week’s City Council Meeting at Z Space); Dohee Lee; YBCA’s own Marc Bamuthi Joseph; and Keith Hennessy.

It promises to be almost as much of a spectacle as anything an artist inside might be working on. And Szlasa (who’ll be editing video there himself ahead of the Coup’s Shadowbox at YBCA on Aug. 16) readily admits, “It’ll be a hard day’s work to stay focused in there.” Still, with the amenities and accessibility Studio 1 offers, not to mention the spur to the imagination, it’s fair to assume its maker-residents will be happy campers. *

BAY AREA NOW 7

Through Oct. 5

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

www.ybca.org

 

This Week’s Picks: July 30 – August 5, 2014

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WEDNESDAY 30

 

 

The Budos Band

If you ever hear someone say they find instrumental music boring, all you need to do is point them in the direction of the Budos Band, a 10- to 13-member (depending on the year) Afro-soul group that collectively, with its energetic meanderings through jazz and deep-pocket funk with just the right smattering of pop sweetness, commands more attention on stage than many a lead singer I’ve seen. Daptone Records labelmate Sharon Jones is having a banner year — and with the Budos’ first album since 2010, Burnt Offering, due out Oct. 21, we imagine the record company is too. Head to the Independent prepared to get sweaty. (Emma Silvers)

8pm, $25

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

www.theindependentsf.com

 

 

THURSDAY 31

 

 

 

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry may only be 19, but the burgeoning blues guitarist has already had a career that many musicians spend their entire lives trying to accumulate. The Normal, Illinois native recently came off of a summer tour with Bay Area legends the Steve Miller Band and has already released an acclaimed album made up entirely of originals. His music isn’t just Stevie Ray Vaughan rehashing either — his first disk, Electric Religion, is made up of tracks that explore dynamics, confessional lyricism, and modern production. “Bad Bad Day,” an almost seven-minute jam with prolonged solos by all members of the band, is exhilarating: When Curry comes in on vocals four minutes in, he sounds like a gruff and aged Southern bluesman of the ’50s; he’s that throwback and that mature. Along with his band, The Fury (which is made up of equally talented players who are, on average, about twice Curry’s age), the group is in the midst of a cross-country odyssey that sees them opening for the Doobie Brothers and Peter Frampton. Yoshi’s will provide a break from larger venues and a chance to see Curry’s intricate guitar work up close. (David Kurlander)

8pm, $12-14

Yoshi’s

1330 Fillmore, SF

(415) 655-5600

www.yoshis.com

 

 

Pretty In Ink

Featuring highlights from the personal archives of comics historian Trina Robbins, Pretty In Ink (Fantagraphic Books) looks at the work of some of the top women cartoonists from the early 20th century, including Ethel Hays, Edwina Dumm, Nell Brinkley, and Ramona Fradon. An exhibit of the same name is currently on display at the Cartoon Art Museum, with original artwork, photographs, and other rare items featuring characters such as Miss Fury and Flapper Fanny — don’t miss your chance to head down tonight for a reception and party celebrating both, where Robbins will be on hand to autograph the toon-filled tome. (Sean McCourt)

6-8pm, free

Cartoon Art Museum

655 Mission, SF

(415) CAR-TOON

www.cartoonart.org

 

 

FRIDAY 1

 

 

 

Omar Souleyman

Though Syrian singer Omar Souleyman’s been performing for two decades and allegedly has over 500 releases to his name, you may not have heard of him until recently. Formerly a regular performer at weddings in Syria, Souleyman performs dabke music, meant to accompany the traditional line dance of the same name. Wild videos of these dances and performances found their way onto YouTube and attracted the attention of Seattle label Sublime Frequencies, which released several compilations of his work and brought him to the attention of the world’s music cognoscenti. A Four Tet-produced album and a few inexplicable Bjork remixes later, he’s become something of an underground star, performing for audiences across the world — including in San Francisco, where he’s set to most likely fill The Independent tonight. (Daniel Bromfield)

9pm, $20

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421

www.theindependentsf.com

 

 

 

Xiu Xiu

Twelve albums and 15 years in, Xiu Xiu remains one of the most fearless and uncompromising bands in the American rock underground. Bandleader and songwriter Jamie Stewart speaks to the part of the brain that craves the twisted and taboo, but doesn’t dare make itself known. At best, he’s like that friend you can talk to about just about anything; at worst, he’s like your own fears, screaming in your ears and telling you everything you’re thinking is sick and wrong. Approaching Xiu Xiu’s music takes mental preparation and a certain mindset. But if you think you’re ready, put on one of their records (I’d recommend Knife Play or Fabulous Muscles, but they’re all good) and trek out to see them at Bottom of the Hill. (Daniel Bromfield)

9:30pm, $14

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 626-4455

www.bottomofthehill.com

 

 

 

Real Estate

As members try to shrug off the stereotype of a “beach band,” there’s something about Real Estate’s mellow guitar pop that resonates with listeners, telling them the band definitely isn’t the modern Jersey equivalent of the Beach Boys. Shaking off a reliance on overdubs, the band recorded almost each take on its newest album, Atlas, live, which bodes well for the Fillmore’s audience tonight. Grab a friend who doesn’t babble about housing prices when you ask if they like Real Estate and prepare for a musical journey of sorts, as the tracks on Atlas are meant to compose a personal road map for the listener. (Amy Char)

With Kevin Morby, Corey Cunningham

9pm, $22.50

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-3000

www.thefillmore.com

 

 

Brainwashing The Ride

Seldom has there been a more romantic musical coupling than that of Katie Ann and MC Zill. Ann, an indie singer who recently recorded her debut album, the heart-wrenching The Ride, at Goo Goo Dolls frontman Robbie Takac’s studio in New York, met the socially conscious Zill (his website is mcofpositivity.com) during her recording process, when she hit his car during a stressful day of outtakes. Their friendship morphed into an engagement, and the duo took to the road to spread their music together. The juxtaposition of Ann’s redemptive lyrics and Zill’s existential queries evoke the power pop/hip-hop mashup of later Eminem. The artists have fused the songs from their debuts into alternately sung and rapped tracks that promise an evening of emotional and stylistic fluctuation. (David Kurlander)

8pm, $10

50 Mason Social House

50 Mason, SF

(415) 433-5050

www.50masonsocialhouse.com

 

 

 

SATURDAY 2

 

 

Film Night in the park: Clueless

Watch a movie alone on your couch Saturday night? As if! This week’s free film screening, 1995’s Clueless, is timeless. Way timeless. Forget about feeling like a heifer and happily gorge on ice cream from Bi-Rite, a community partner of the outdoor film series, before the movie begins — don’t forget to bring some herbal refreshments. Tonight’s selection is this summer’s third movie in the series, following mid-July’s Frozen, and let’s be real, Coolio’s “Rollin’ With My Homies” totally has more musical merit than that annoying song about a snowman. And sure, this isn’t LA, but the event still offers valet — bicycle valet, that is. So it’s totally okay if you’re a virgin who can’t drive. (Amy Char)

Dusk, free

Dolores Park

19th St. & Dolores, SF

(415) 554-9521

www.sfntf.squarespace.com

 

 

 

Art + Soul Blues & BBQ Blowout

Live blues music all day in the sunshine, paired with barbecue cooked up by 40 top “pitmasters” from all over California. Need I say more? Oakland’s Art + Soul festival has long been a gem in the city’s cultural crown, with visual art, kids’ activities, and killer musical lineups, this year drawing old-school local favorites like Tommy Castro and the Painkillers and “Oakland Blues Divas” Margie Turner, Ella Pennewell, and more for a showcase presented by the Bay Area Blues Society. How good will the barbecue be? Mayor Jean Quan is presenting California “Chef of the Year” Tanya Holland of Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ with a key to the city. So, you know: Officially, city-decreed, smokin.’ (Emma Silvers)

Through Sun/3, noon to 6pm

$10 adults, $7 seniors and youth, kids 12 and under free

14th and Broadway, Oakl.

www.artandsouloakland.com

 

 

SUNDAY 3


The Sturgeon Queens

This quick documentary, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of iconic Jewish fishmongers/New York deli nosh-purveyors Russ & Daughters, is a must-see for delicatessen aficionados, or food history buffs, or, you know, anyone who likes to get really hungry while watching movies. At the film’s center are 100-year-old Hattie Russ Gold and 92-year-old Anne Russ Federman, the daughters after which the store was named and the heirs to their family’s culinary Lower East Side legacy; guest appearances by loyal celebrity fans of the store include Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mario Batali, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. (Emma Silvers)

12:15pm, $14 (as part of SFJFF)

The Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

www.sfjff.org

 

MONDAY 4

 

Bad Suns

The 2012 release of “Cardiac Arrest” was supposed to be a one-time deal from Bad Suns — the band planned to have only one song to its name. But not surprisingly, the catchy, sleek track caught people’s attention and blew up on the radio. Opening for groups such as Geographer and The 1975 in the past year or so, the LA-based band finally sets out on its own tour to promote its debut LP, Language & Perspective. With a more impressive repertoire than the members might’ve imagined, the album is comprised of sunshine-infused ’80s-tastic New Wave tunes. Fellow Southern California musical compadres Klev and Hunny join Bad Suns tonight. (Amy Char)

With Klev, Hunny

8pm, $15

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421

www.theindependentsf.com


TUESDAY 5


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Even Clap Your Hands Say Yeah couldn’t have predicted the impact the unassuming Philly band’s self-titled debut had on the music world when it dropped in 2005. First blogs hopped on the hype, then Bowie and Byrne, then The Office. Seemingly overnight, the band and its leader Alec Ounsworth became one of the most polarizing entities in the indie world, at once beloved and derided for their off-kilter vocals and bizarro art-pop. Their second album, Some Loud Thunder, helped members shake off some of the buzzband backlash they’d accumulated, but now that they’re practically elder statesmen, their fan reputation is only growing. Catch the band at The Independent — before music critics decide they were the Talking Heads of their time in 10 years. (Daniel Bromfield)

9pm, $20

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421

www.theindependentsf.com

 

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Blurry portrait

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Time is money, making both things usually in short supply when it comes to moviemaking. Ergo, a movie that takes forever to make is often a novelty — an extreme conceptual luxury. (On the other hand, movies that never actually get finished are probably more common than you’d expect; there’s a whole invisible history of films abandoned mid-production, usually because the money ran out.) This week sees the theatrical release of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, an unusual and by all accounts wonderful experiment shot over a 12-year course, so its actors (particularly Ellar Coltrane’s titular youth) could grow older naturally within the story’s time span.

Unfortunately, the by-all-accounts wonderfulness of Boyhood didn’t screen in time for this particular column — necessitating an attention shift to the Roxie, which just happens to be opening a movie also shot over several years’ course. If Boyhood is obviously about life’s formative early years, Tamar Halpern and Chris Quilty’s Llyn Foulkes One Man Band leaps forward decades to that point where an individual life no longer seems to change very much. Not nearly as much as they’d like, in this case. Foulkes is a veteran of that fabled Los Angeles art scene briefly and famously (albeit mostly in retrospect) centered around the Ferus Gallery. He was such a prodigy he dropped out of the Chouinard Art Institute (now known as CalArts) to go professional, then got kicked out of Ferus for (he says) dissing another, better-entrenched resident “rebel,” Bob Irwin.

Of course, no one since approximately 1900 has ever met a “serious” painter who wasn’t also a “rebel.” After that parting of ways, Foulkes became quite a popular artist for a while via large paintings derived from vintage landscape (in particular, rocks) photography. Such popularity chafed, so he turned toward what he calls his “bloody heads” period, gory portraiture that made his “macabre edge” very plain to anyone who somehow hadn’t sussed it already. Suddenly he was no longer the US artist invited to international biennales and handed prestigious prizes. One Man Band follows him some time later (2004-2012, to be exact), when he passes age 70 with no ebbing of lust — for acclaim, that is, for the sales and exhibitions and critical raves he possibly bypassed in “going out of his way to turn his back on the proprieties of the art world,” as one bemused observer notes.

We see him prepping for shows that force him into the position he most resists: actually finishing a work. At least that’s his problem with two notable pieces. Intense surreal landscape The Lost Frontier was started in 1997. It has grown so thick in places that he’s periodically used saw and hammer to excise a section he wants to rework. It duly includes a representation of Mickey Mouse, the pop culture icon he worshipped early on (in high school he’d aimed at working for Disney), then increasingly used as the perfect symbol of all things corrupt, exploitative, and American. A gallery deadline finally forces him to sign off on it, following a typical final frenzy of tinkering all-nighters.

There’s no similar happy ending for The Bedroom Painting, aka The Awakening, which depicts himself and his second ex-wife (she wasn’t “ex” when he started it) in bed — she in a near-fetal position, alone, the very definition of neglect. “The one thing I’ve failed at in my life is being a good husband. I’m too self-centered. My marriage was falling apart, I was trying to solve it in the painting,” Foulkes says here. We hear from this wife, and the prior one — albeit so briefly and tactfully it’s as if the subject forbade the filmmakers from digging into the psychological truths his art so often bares nakedly. (That second wife mentions realizing he could “not be a nurturing partner,” a terribly polite way of describing what must have been a colossal disappointment.) His grown children also appear, fleetingly. Why does their tone invariably hit the “long-suffering” note? Viewers would like to know.

Foulkes himself is spry, petulant (“If something doesn’t happen with this show, I feel like quitting art”), quite possibly brilliant, admittedly obsessive (“My process is kind of make and destroy and make again”), random (“I think vegetables are overrated”), and self-indulgently juvenile in that way of men who once got away with it by being very handsome. (When we see an archival clip of him clowning on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1974 as part of a joke band, he looks like a delighted prankster passing among actual misfits.)

Foulkes’ proclaimed alternative second career is as a “one-man band” whose bizarre stream-of-consciousness autobiographical lyrics (sum: he’s bad with women) are accompanied by the often delightful racket of his “monkey on my back” — a massive sculptural whatzit composed of myriad cowbells, bicycle horns, and other gizmos. He’s the ultimate Incredibly Strange Music ironicist, goin’ all primitive as an art project. You can exit One Man Band thoroughly intrigued, yet still so puzzling over its subject’s overall personal history or impact on contemporary art. *

 

LLYN FOULKES ONE MAN BAND opens Fri/18 at the Roxie.

A benefit series aims to keep the unique Meridian Gallery afloat

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In 2001, interns at Powell Street’s Meridian Gallery planned and painted a 13×48 foot mural on the wall of the SRO Hartland Hotel, a few blocks away in the Tenderloin. The mural, a colorful and sunny street scene showcasing the multiculturalism of the neighborhood, was revered by residents and and left untouched for 10 years until it was vandalized by graffiti. In response, former interns who had worked on the project came back together and, alongside the current kids in the program, repainted the piece. The artists’ lasting willingness to help Meridian in times of need reemerges in a broader sense this week, which marks the climax of the gallery’s June Benefit Series (tonight’s entry: “16 Years of Meridian Music,” a diverse program of new music). 

Meridian Gallery, whose name comes from its mission to focus on hemispheric and cross-cultural interactions, is facing eviction. As rent around Union Square has skyrocketed, from $400 per square foot in 2007 to up to $3,000 today (according to retail consultant Helen Bulwik, quoted in a KQED report), many galleries have been forced to close their doors. The stately Perine Mansion, the three-story French Second Empire brick building where Meridian makes its home, is an especially attractive and lucrative piece of property. Instead of throwing in the towel, Anne Brodzsky, the dynamic co-founder of the gallery who has overseen its operations for over 25 years, has reached out to her friends. 

The original eviction notice was handed down in April. Some close to the gallery are convinced that despite any efforts, the rent will be impossible to pay. Others, Brodzky chief among them, think that the response to the bad news suggests a potential long-term rally from Meridian. Her optimism is fueled by two forces. First, on May 13, the SF Board of Supervisors beefed up affordability programs, including supplemental displacement funds and health benefits, for struggling art non-profits in the city. “I’m amazed by how they’ve managed to come together to help arts programs,” Brodzky exclaimed. 

More effective and instantly helpful than any bureaucratic assistance, however, have been the programs put together by artists affiliated with Meridian. Around the time of the Supervisors’ decision, Brodzky asked her gallery-mates if they were willing to stage an auction. The response was staggering; over 60 artists put up works. More astonishing to Brodzky, though, was the kind of excitement many of the participants exhibited for further events. “Bob Marsh, among many others, approached me and asked if they could stage fundraisers.” 

 Tonight, Marsh is one of the main attractions at the “16 Years of Meridian Music” showcase. An avant-garde visual artist and musician, Marsh discovered Meridian shortly after his arrival in San Francisco 14 years ago. “I started visiting galleries and found that Meridian had a wonderful monthly music series,” he says.

Marsh was inspired by the political sharpness of the organization. “I thought early on, ‘They’re not purveyors of bourgeois wallpaper,’ like so many galleries can be.” For Marsh’s offering, “The Visitor,” he’ll don his Sonic Suit #9, a wearable sculpture made from empty water bottles and other modern detritus, and engage in narrative movement to a musical accompaniment.

“He’s a visitor from another dimension,” Marsh says. “He arrives here, looks around, and has different reactions to the confusing environment that is our world.” Marsh debuted the ever-changing character at the Meridian and feels that its a fitting tribute to the openness and experimentation that the gallery fosters. 

Despite his excitement about the benefit, Marsh turns somber when discussing its necessity. “They have given so much with such passion,” he says. “It’s sad to see them persecuted by blind greed … I don’t think its personal, but everyone just wants a lot of money. Everybody thinks that’s some kind of virtue.”

Neither Brodzky, Marsh, nor other performers and Meridian affiliates with whom I talked  were quick to link the gallery’s financial troubles to a larger ill in San Francisco. They seemingly eschew that brand of macrocosmic victimhood and instead zoom in on what they can do to stay open, one step at a time. Their optimism may be healthier, but it does not mask the sad fact that rising rents are making grassroots galleries a thing of the past. If the artists continue to come together with the intensity of the mural renovation, auction, and benefit series, however, Meridian may just buck the trend.  

 

16 Years of Meridian Music: Composers in Performance

With Bob Marsh, Andrea Williams, Bryan Day, Phillip Greenlief and Jon Raskin’s 1+1, David Samas, Tom Bickley, and the Cornelius Cardew Choir

Thu/26, 7-10pm, $35

Meridian Gallery

535 Powell, SF

meridiangallery.org


The shaman, the oracle, and the engineer

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Two bra-clad figures peek through a shroud of fog onstage that’s every bit as thick as the shrieking white noise at Oakland’s Night Light. The sound is a perfect accompaniment for the sadomasochistic display before the audience. One woman’s lips press against another’s flesh, but if you lower your glance, you’ll notice among the chaos that one is slicing a blade across the other’s stomach like a ritualistic-looking sacrifice. Blood is drawn, even though they seem to be intimately embraced.

This was how Replicant, the live music/performance/visual art series with a penchant for the weird, chose to kick off the new year at their January showcase; Bad News, an industrial duo consisting of Sarah Bernat and Alex Lukas from Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, headlined. On this night, they had also invited experimental conspirators Greer McGettrick (formerly of The Mallard) and Shannon Madden (Chasms) to join them during the performance. Madden said just a day before this gig that her relationship with Bernat had ended.

So was this arousal, anguish, or both? The audience, mostly in frozen silence by this point, was left to their own devices and had to interpret the definitive sensory overload for themselves. “We were bouncing a lot of ideas off each other, like ‘What can you do besides karaoke to your own music; make it transformative?'” said Madden, referring to conversations with Bernat, during a recent interview.

Bernat writes lyrics and plays guitar in her band and is usually tethered by her instrument, but she seemed possessed enough to become unleashed during this set. Somehow she maintained a straight-faced gaze throughout the cutting, even if she trembled a bit.

“It was totally emotional. We both knew that the only way to say goodbye was to do it on stage. I think there’s a reason why Chasms and Bad News are connected and I think it has something to do with suffering.”

pMadden said this was her last real interaction with her ex, but the two bands (who are on the same labels) will share a bill May 10 at Thee Parkside when Sleep Genius, the independent record label “born of the San Francisco fog” throws a showcase of its acts: Five mostly-local bands will give their own intimate and brooding examples of how new music is emerging from the underground — and what they’re doing to manifest a new direction.

There was nothing subtle about the bodies on stage that night in Oakland, nor the heavily-processed sound that came with it. Along with her collaborator, Jess Labrador, Chasms has a new LP, Subtle Bodies, due this June. Their live show is taking on a slightly different direction, sounding more blown-out and less concerned with pop-song sensibility time constraints. They’ve upped the ante on noise elements and are beefing up on drone.

“I’m using Alex [Lukas]’s gear. There’s a reason,” Madden said. “Alex is my shaman, oracle, and engineer.” She explained that the pedals she’s been using are not meant for her bass guitar. “It’s the first time Jess has ever kept a live take of mine and not edited it.” Labrador is the songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, and sometime drum programmer in this dark duo. “I could never do any of that without experiencing Alex or Sarah.”

Alongside a DX7ii synthesizer and other assorted gear, we’re huddled — Lukas, Madden, and I — inside his tidy Bayview District trailer. Other like-minded artists reside on the property, but his studio hasn’t been completely set up since he was priced out of his old 18th and Mission space, after his landlord raised the rent by 40 percent.

“The cost of living here is so high. People funnel so much of their money into rent,” he said. Having weathered two tech booms as an artist in the Bay Area — he’s been here since 1998 — Lukas knows what it’s like to sell CDs at Amoeba for “a brick of cheese.”

His dwelling is, nevertheless, a cozy hideaway, well-stocked with cassettes and a pretty chill black cat. We chat about how his ties with Madden run deeper than just his influence over how she plays. For one, they spent much of 2013 together at the helm of The Lab, a long-standing visual and performance art space near 16th & Mission that has seen many incarnations over the years.

“There aren’t a lot of spaces like [The Lab] in San Francisco anymore. When Sarah and then [Shannon] kept it active with shows and performances, it sort of compromised The Lab’s role as a venue for visual art, but made it more important than ever as a performance space,” he said.

Under their collective watch, The Lab hosted a variety of underground or emerging acts, like Wreck & Reference, Some Ember, Austin Cesear, Marshstepper, Disappearing People, and Dorian Wood.

Madden claimed the types of shows she was booking weren’t “artsy enough” for a visual arts space to be left alone by the city’s Entertainment Commission. Finding a platform for these types of acts is, she says, the bigger concern in the current “cultural economy” in San Francisco.

“People work high-paying jobs that require their brain. When they get off work, they wanna get shitfaced and hear Toro Y Moi. They don’t wanna go deep in some experimental avant, industrial shit. They want their brains to be massaged and they want to go to sleep, wake up, do it again and eat some fuckin’ food-truck food.”

She notes Oakland is sustaining as an impressive platform for the underbelly of electronic music. “They have a fortified interest in outsider stuff.” She hopes the culture in San Francisco shifts underground again, but in the meantime is happy to book at more traditional venues including Brick & Mortar, The Night Light and Elbo Room.

“It’s not about the space, even as intimate as it was. I want to give the local bands the best deal that I can and not risk it getting broken up. Lots of rad shit’s going to have to happen in a bar space.”

Sleep Genius Presents: Ringo Deathstarr with Sleep Genius artists Bad News, Chasms, Never Knows, and Cry

May 10, 9pm, $10-12

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St, SF

www.theeparkside.com

Saving Yosemite

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Long before Teddy Roosevelt and Ansel Adams swooned at the beauty of the place, ex-49er and early photographer Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) captured monumental Yosemite Valley for the public’s eyes. His stunning 1860s wet-plate negative photos — on view at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Gallery April 23-Aug. 17 (328 Lomita Way, Stanford, museum.stanford.edu) — convinced Abraham Lincoln to support the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, the land-preservation precedent for the National Park System. Watkins set up a shop on Montgomery Street in San Francisco, but it and most of his work were destroyed in the Great Quake of 1906.