Mussel systems



When last we looked in on Aqua, the prospect seemed rather marbly and banklike, and the menu included paella. Paella is not a dish you should order even at most Spanish restaurants, let alone at a high-end seafood house, but a member of my party went ahead and ordered it anyway — in the heedlessness of youth — and was afterwards disappointed. "What did you expect?" I asked, from the unassailable position of someone who’d opted for Pacific swordfish grilled in a sheath of prosciutto, the sort of dish you’d expect to find, and enjoy, at a place like Aqua. "I don’t know," was the glum rejoinder.

Years passed, youth faded, and we did not return. The meteoric George Morrone, who’d been in the kitchen when Aqua opened in 1991 and was the chef during our visit — which is what tells me it was in ’91 or ’92 — gave way after a few years to Michael Mina, who ran the show for more than a decade until he left to open his eponymous Union Square restaurant in 2004. His successor was Laurent Manrique, he of the recent foie gras kerfuffle. Manrique does offer foie gras on his Aqua menu, but the offer is a muted one: there is no foie gras cart plying the dining room (whose look, incidentally, seems to have been softened to tones of a summer twilight). There had been such a cart at Campton Place, Manrique’s previous gig. When the foie gras cart and the cheese cart were simultaneously at large in that rather snug dining room, one had a brief vision of dandified bumper cars.

You (which is to say, I) would not necessarily expect a chef renowned for his treatments of foie gras to be the ideal head of a kitchen largely devoted to the cooking of seafood. And yet if this is a paradox, it is a spectacularly successful one; for much (and maybe most) seafood needs a certain amount of dressing up to show well, and at Aqua, Manrique’s instinct for meatiness results in plates of fish neatly balanced between elegance and muscularity.

Part of the Manrique magic has to do with bold spicing. Ahi tuna tartare, for instance, has become something of a commonplace in the past decade. The fish’s reddish purple flesh looks a lot like beef and has its own sort of intensity. But the dish becomes special at Aqua when the cubes are mixed with Moroccan spices (these weren’t specified but had a currylike aura) and a quail egg yolk as a binding agent. (Aqua’s à la carte menu is, like the paella, a thing of the past; today you choose three courses for $72 or a more elaborate tasting menu, with optional wine pairings, for $109.) Across the table, meanwhile, a plate of albacore carpaccio — tissue-thin bolts of flesh looking almost like ice shavings — arrived under a colorful bloom of Fresno chile rings, slivers of daikon radish, and bits of fried shallot: springtime on the tundra.

A whiff of curry subtly recurred in the buttery chardonnay jus our server poured around a grilled filet of walu, one of those marvelously meaty white fish from the deep waters around the Hawaiian Islands. The fish wore a straw hat of pommes alumettes (crispy filaments of potato), while a few quartered baby artichokes lurked at the bottom of the plate. Even meatier was sturgeon, cooked en papillote (in a paper bag) and presented as three cylinders — a kind of faux roulade hedged with braised baby spinach and finished with a rich duck jus, also poured by the server from a small pitcher.

Even if you confine yourself to the more modest prix fixe — and we found three courses to be just the right amount of food — you will be given a few extra treats. There are the warm breads — olive, sourdough, multigrain — in constant circulation through the dining room. There is the amuse-bouche, for us a tripartite presentation on a handsome rack: a lemon oil–slicked sliver of Monterey Bay sardine on celery coins, a profound wild-mushroom soup capped with gratinlike pine-nut pesto, and a smoked-ahi croquette with a perfect and crispy golden crust, despite its fingernail size. And there are the postprandial petits fours, tiny tarts, macaroons, and meringues (including a purplish gray one of taro root) that reach the table as a final bit of punctuation (not counting the bill, of course), at the end of dessert.

You could, if you wanted, dispense with dessert and just double-dip from the list of first courses. But if you do need a sweet fix beyond and before the petits fours, Aqua’s choices won’t disappoint. For the most part they don’t sound spectacular, nor do they have much to do with the restaurant’s aqueous theme. But they are exemplars of their kind, among them the chocolate tart, like a round of bittersweet fudge nested in a butter crust and ringed by a salad of blood orange and mandarin segments, and the Meyer lemon soufflé, lanced with a spoonful of pomegranate seeds and redolent of the citrus’s unmistakable orangey acidity.

I was saddened to find both Maine skate and Atlantic cod on the menu. The latter, in particular, is a decimated species, as the British journalist Charles Clover indicated recently in his book The End of the Line; surely there is something comparable to be had from the better-managed and far nearer Pacific fisheries. For all the hullabaloo about Manrique and his beloved foie gras, no one has suggested that duck and geese are in danger of extinction. But he and Aqua, given their international stature, have a special role to play in ensuring that today’s seafood houses will have seafood to serve tomorrow. *


Lunch: Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Dinner: Mon.–Sat., 5:30–10:30 p.m.; Sun., 5:30–9:30 p.m.

252 California, SF

(415) 956-9662

Full bar

Not noisy


Wheelchair accessible


Fox reports, Fox decides


by Amanda Witherell

Last week we ran a story about a comic book called Addicted to War that’s been donated to San Francisco high schools. The book was written by a Johns Hopkins professor named Joel Andreas, and illustrates some of the less understood international conflicts the US has perpetrated. It’s completely unlike anything I studied in high school. (I went to one of the best high schools in the state of New Hampshire, was an honors history student, had 14 Bosnians as my peers when our school district offered them refuge from their war-torn country, and our approved texts barely mentioned the Cold War.)

Since Fox News ran a story about the book, the publisher, Frank Dorrel, has been getting some great mail recently, which he shared with us. One of my personal favorites: “It would [sic] a wonderful thing to see all of you Left Wing San Francisco whackos go up in one big mushroom cloud delivered by one of your terrorist friends. Hell, I would hang a medal on the terrorist bastard who nuked your ass.”

Yes, maybe the kids need more vitriol in the classrooms.

Or maybe not. On Feb. 15, the Lowell High School chapter of Revolution Youth staged an anti-war rally during school hours. Fox News, which already ran a segment questioning the validity of Addicted to War as an educational tool, was there to film the rally and aired the footage while discussing the comic book, seeming to subtly suggest its content was having immediate effects even though students have yet to receive the book. Bryan Ritter, adviser to the school’s newspaper The Lowell, which was also covering the rally, said one student reporter polled 74 other kids at the event on whether they’d heard about the comic book. Two had, and one had found out about it that day from Fox.

Fox’s coverage of the rally is a little tamer and more balanced than the original clip they aired on Feb. 14, which suggested the comic book had “ignited a firestorm.” The only evidence provided of said “firestorm” was a diatribe from Leo Lacayo, vice chair of the local Republican Party. The news anchor made mention that representatives from San Francisco’s School District had declined to appear on the show, but wouldn’t say why. Gentle Blythe, spokesperson for SFUSD, told us it was because “we decided we didn’t want to debate in that forum.”

Dorrel said he’s received 20 PayPal orders for the book as well as some requests for the DVDs he also publishes.

Fox reports, Fox decides


by Amanda Witherell

Last week we ran a story about a comic book called Addicted to War that’s been donated to San Francisco high schools. The book was written by a Johns Hopkins professor named Joel Andreas, and illustrates some of the less understood international conflicts the US has perpetrated. It’s completely unlike anything I studied in high school. (I went to one of the best high schools in the state of New Hampshire, was an honors history student, had 14 Bosnians as my peers when our school district offered them refuge from their war-torn country, and our approved texts barely mentioned the Cold War.)

Since Fox News ran a story about the book, the publisher, Frank Dorrel, has been getting some great mail recently, which he shared with us. One of my personal favorites: “It would [sic] a wonderful thing to see all of you Left Wing San Francisco whackos go up in one big mushroom cloud delivered by one of your terrorist friends. Hell, I would hang a medal on the terrorist bastard who nuked your ass.”

Yes, maybe the kids need more vitriol in the classrooms.

Or maybe not. On Feb. 15, the Lowell High School chapter of Revolution Youth staged an anti-war rally during school hours. Fox News, which already ran a segment questioning the validity of Addicted to War as an educational tool, was there to film the rally and aired the footage while discussing the comic book, seeming to subtly suggest its content was having immediate effects even though students have yet to receive the book. Bryan Ritter, adviser to the school’s newspaper The Lowell, which was also covering the rally, said one student reporter polled 74 other kids at the event on whether they’d heard about the comic book. Two had, and one had found out about it that day from Fox.

Fox’s coverage of the rally is a little tamer and more balanced than the original clip they aired on Feb. 14, which suggested the comic book had “ignited a firestorm.” The only evidence provided of said “firestorm” was a diatribe from Leo Lacayo, vice chair of the local Republican Party. The news anchor made mention that representatives from San Francisco’s School District had declined to appear on the show, but wouldn’t say why. Gentle Blythe, spokesperson for SFUSD, told us it was because “we decided we didn’t want to debate in that forum.”

Dorrel said he’s received 20 PayPal orders for the book as well as some requests for the DVDs he also publishes.

The new woof



SUPER EGO "If you’re snorting coke out of the hollow end of a Parliament filter, you just don’t care anymore," quoth supervixen Beccalicious, standing outside Madrone Lounge, spattered by a light drizzle. But I did care — I do care. The night’s a mosaic of throbbing subbacultchas, and there’re far too many amateur jibber-jabberers hopped up on Bolivian marching powder out there already, waxing the floor with their tongues. Shut up and dance, say I. There’s spittle dripping from your numb mustache.

Thus concludes the soapbox moment portion of our broadcast. Anybody got a smoky bump?

I was heading to Basket, the monthly bear party at the Transfer. It was its last night there before moving to Eight in SoMa. The Transfer was suddenly sold three weeks ago under curious circumstances — its future is still in doubt — but Basket’s promoters, Kuma SF, had already planned a move because the place was too darn small and hot for them. (Old bear joke: "How was the bear bar?" "It was packed! There must have been 10 guys there!") My experience bore that out. There were a lot more than 10 hirsute revelers in attendance, and I couldn’t even squeeze in, let alone see in — the windows were steamier than Eros with a pipe leak. But from all the rumbling of the sidewalk to the boom of techno-lite beats, I knew it was a jammin’ jamboree.

What the heck happened to the bear community? Last time I looked — and, being the desirable cub that I am, I did a lot of looking — it was all flannel shirts, hairy backs, classic rock and country tunes, and an aversion to hip-hop and house that often bordered on racism. Bear with a capital "B" has been around for more than 15 years now — once an important corrective to mainstream images of gay men in the ’90s, it’s still going strong. (This weekend’s International Bear Rendezvous, hosted by Bears of SF, will flood the streets with yee-hawin’ roly-polies.) But any movement that fronted a chubby Marlboro Man masculinity — one composed, in reality, of screaming queens elated at the prospect of unselfconsciousness — was bound to warp into parody.

"It all started out with a philosophy of inclusion," says Orme Dominique of Kuma, which is hosting a giant glamourama IBR after-party, Kavity. "But there was all this rejection of youth culture that second-generation bears found too restrictive. We wanted to dance and be really creative outside the flannel-and-boots thing. A lot of the older bears became the pigs in Animal Farm."

There’s been some kicking against the C&W aesthetic for a while. Cute cub DJ Jew-C hosted a pumping bear-oriented house party at the Powerhouse in the early ’00s, and hairy dreamboat DJ Jonathan’s been swathing bars like 440 Castro (formerly Daddy’s) with hard techno for what seems like forever. The disco-tinged, mess o’ fun biweekly Planet Big at the Stud is almost two years old — and is throwing two big parties during the IBR. And then there’s Sweat, the giant bear monthly event from Gus Presents and Castro Bear (happening twice during the IBR), which many new bear promoters view as the standard their parties play against.

Kuma, which started out, according to Dominique, as the "Burning Man camp of Lazy Bear Weekend," now has several bear shindig-throwing chapters around the US. The success of its SF parties and the twice monthly, bass-heavy after-hours Bearracuda at Deco — thrown by notorious drag queen Rentecca and her luscious bf, Rob, and also hosting an IBR after-party — confirm the emergence of a new ursine outlook: bears don’t need to be line dancers to hit the floor. Just make sure there’re snacks.

Of course, with all the up-and-coming bear name DJs, shirtless stomping, and up-till-dawn antics, the new gen may be in danger of becoming the circuit queens their forebears railed against, but the promoters seem to be doing their best to prevent that by keeping in mind the prime reason for partying: wild fun. It’s Bear 2.0, and I think I’m absolutely intrigued. *




Fri/16, 9 p.m.–4 a.m., $18 presale, $35 door


1015 Folsom, SF

(415) 431-7444


Fri/16, 9 p.m.–2 a.m.; Sun/17, 6 p.m.–2 a.m.; $5


399 Ninth St., SF

(415) 863-6623



First and third Sat., 9 p.m.–3 a.m., $5


510 Larkin, SF

(415) 346-2025


Chasing my stolen bicycle



I stalked across the parking lot of the Mission District’s Best Buy. Like the hordes of people that streamed into the store, I was there to do a little shopping, but it wasn’t for a flat-screen TV or an iPod. I was in the market for a stolen bike.

I bypassed the aisles of buzzing electronics and headed around the back of the store to a trash-strewn alley. It was empty except for a beat-up white van with its side door ajar. I took a nervous breath and knocked on the side.

A blond man in a sweat-stained undershirt threw open the door to reveal what looked like an upended Tour de France chase car: piles of tire rims, gears, and bike frames were scattered everywhere. The powerful stink of unwashed bodies stung my nostrils. A man in a tracksuit slumbered on a seat. The blond man looked sleepy and annoyed but waited for me to speak.

My $600 bike was stolen — the third in five years — from my Mission garage the night before, and it’s here I was told by a bike messenger that I might find it. These guys were rumored to be bike thieves operating in the Mission.

"Hey man, have you seen a black and gray Fuji Touring?" I asked, employing a euphemism.

"No, we don’t steal bikes," the man said, catching my drift. "We collect bikes off the street, repair them, and then sell them. We’re like independent businessmen."

Interesting way of putting it, I thought, as I glanced at the "businessman" slumbering on a van seat. I glanced around the van half expecting to see my Fuji, but it wasn’t there, so I left.

As I trudged home I stewed. I had lost more than $1,000 worth of bikes in San Francisco. Bike theft is a virtual right of passage for most cyclists in the city, and the city’s thieves seem to operate with ninjalike stealth and efficiency. One cyclist told me how a thief stole his locked ride while he picked up a burrito from a taquería. He wasn’t away from the bike for more than five minutes.

The city’s thieves have even won a silver medal for their efforts: in 2006 the lockmaker Kryptonite ranked San Francisco as the nation’s second worst city for bike theft, behind New York.

Gradually, my anger hardened into resolve, or more precisely, a mission. It would be virtually impossible, but I would set out to find my bike. The thought that my life would mirror the plot of a Pee-wee Herman movie was more than a little amusing, but I had a job to do.

In my months-long quest I crisscrossed the city, chasing down Dickensian thieves, exploring the city’s largest open-air market for stolen goods, and finally landing in the surprising place where hundreds of stolen bikes — perhaps yours — end up. Unwittingly, I pedaled right into San Francisco’s underworld.


Bike theft may seem like petty street crime, but it’s actually a humming illegal industry. Consider this: thieves steal nearly $50 million worth of bikes each year in the United States, far outstripping the take of bank robbers, according to the FBI. And in San Francisco’s rich bicycling culture, thieves have found a gold mine. About 1,000 bikes are reported stolen in the city each year, but the police say the actual number is probably closer to 2,000 or 3,000, since most people don’t file reports.

"It’s rampant," Sgt. Joe McCloskey of the San Francisco Police Department told the Guardian.

I sought out McCloskey, the SFPD’s resident expert on bike theft, and another man, Victor Veysey, to give me a wider view of San Francisco’s world of bike thieves and possibly a lead on where I might find my bike. Several cyclists had recommended Veysey, saying he could provide a "street level" view of bike theft.

Veysey is the Yoda of San Francisco’s bike world. For more than a decade, the 39-year-old has worked on and off as a bike messenger, mechanic, and member of the city’s Bike Advisory Committee. He also ran the Bike Hut, which teaches at-risk youth how to repair bikes. And he’s in a band that plays a tune called "Schwinn Cruiser."

Despite their different perspectives (the city’s police and biking communities are not the best of friends), McCloskey and Veysey painted remarkably similar pictures of San Francisco’s black market for bikes.

In the wide world of illegal activity, bike thievery seems to occupy a criminal sweet spot. It is a relatively painless crime to commit, and city officials do little to stop it. As McCloskey readily admitted, bike theft is not a priority for law enforcement, which he said has its hands full with more serious crimes.

"We make it easy for them," McCloskey said of bike thieves. "The DA doesn’t do tough prosecutions. All the thieves we’ve busted have got probation. They treat it like a petty crime."

Debbie Mesloh, a spokesperson for District Attorney Kamala Harris, said most bike thieves are not prosecuted, but that’s because they are juveniles or they qualify for the city’s pretrial diversion program. The diversion program offers counseling in lieu of prosecution for first-time nonviolent offenders. Bike thieves qualify for it if they steal a bike worth $400 or less. Mesloh said the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes felony bike thefts, but it doesn’t get very many of those cases.

"The DA takes all cases of theft seriously," Mesloh wrote in an e-mail.

As for the police, McCloskey was equally blunt. "You can’t take six people off a murder to investigate a bike theft. [Bike theft investigations] are not an everyday thing. No one is full-time on bike theft. As far as going out on stings and operations, I haven’t heard of one in the last year. Bike theft has gone to the bottom of the list."

McCloskey’s comments were particularly interesting in light of the conversation I had with Veysey, whom I met at the Bike Hut, an off-kilter wood shack near AT&T Park that appears as if it might collapse under the weight of the bicycle parts hanging on its walls. Veysey has a loose blond ponytail and greasy hands. He wields a wrench and apocalyptic environmental rhetoric equally well.

"Bikes are one of the four commodities of the street — cash, drugs, sex, and bikes," Veysey told me. "You can virtually exchange one for another."

Veysey believes bike thefts are helping prop up the local drug market. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s a notion McCloskey and other bike theft experts echoed. The National Bike Registry, a company that runs the nation’s largest database for stolen bikes, says on its Web site, "Within the drug trade, stolen bicycles are so common they can almost be used as currency." Veysey believes the police could actually take a bite out of crime in general by making bike theft a bigger priority in the city.

Perhaps bikes are so ubiquitous in the drug trade because they are so easy to steal. McCloskey and Veysey said thieves often employ bolt cutters to snap cable locks or a certain brand of foreign car jack to defeat some U-locks. The jack slips between the arms of the U-lock and, as it is cranked open, pushes the arms apart until the lock breaks. A bike-lock maker later showed me a video demonstrating the technique. It took a man posing as a thief less than six seconds to do in the U-lock.

As with any other trade, McCloskey and Veysey said there is a hierarchy in the world of San Francisco bike thieves. At the bottom, drug addicts (like the one Veysey believes stole my bike) engage in crimes of opportunity: snatching single bikes. At a more sophisticated level, McCloskey said, a small number of thieves target high-end bikes, which can top $5,000 apiece. In 2005 police busted a bike thief who was specifically targeting Pacific Heights because of its expensive bikes. The thief said he wore natty golf shirts and khaki pants to blend into the neighborhood.

The Internet has revolutionized bike theft, just as it has done for dating, porn, and cat videos. McCloskey said thieves regularly fence bikes on eBay and Craigslist. In August 2004 police busted a thief after a Richmond District man discovered his bike for sale on eBay. Police discovered more than 20 auctions for stolen bikes in the man’s eBay account and an additional 20 stolen bikes in a storage space and at his residence.

When bikes aren’t sold outright, they are stripped, or in street vernacular, chopped, and sold piece by piece or combined with the parts of other bikes, Veysey said. He said people occasionally showed up at the Bike Hut trying to sell him these Frankenstein bikes. But by and large, McCloskey and Veysey said, bike stores are not involved in fencing stolen bikes. However, McCloskey said bikes stolen in the city often are recovered at flea markets around the Bay Area. He believes thieves ship them out of the city to decrease the chance of being caught. The National Bike Registry reports bikes are often moved to other cities or even other states for sale.

The idea of Frankenstein bikes was intriguing, so I told Veysey I was going to look into it. He suggested I make a stop first: Carl’s Jr. near the Civic Center. I was slightly perplexed by his suggestion, but I agreed to check it out.


"Welcome to the San Francisco Zoo — the human version," said Dalibor Lawrence, a homeless man whose last two teeth acted as goalposts for his flitting tongue. His description of the place was brutally apt: a homeless man banged on one of those green public toilets, shouting obscenities; a woman washed her clothes in a fountain; and several crackheads lounged on a wall with vacant stares.

I was at the corner of Seventh and Market streets. City Hall’s stately gold dome rose a short distance away, but here a whole different San Francisco thrived. Men slowly circulated around the stretch of concrete that abuts UN Plaza. Every so often one would furtively pull out a laptop, a brand new pair of sneakers, or even — improbably enough — bagged collard greens to try to sell to someone hustling by.

Seventh and Market is where the city’s underground economy bubbles to the surface. It’s a Wal-Mart of stolen goods — nearly anything can be bought or, as I would soon find out, stolen to order. McCloskey estimated as many as three in seven bikes stolen in San Francisco end up here. The police periodically conduct stings in the area, but the scene seemed to continue unabated.

I made my way to the front of the Carl’s Jr. that overlooks an entrance to the Civic Center BART station. I didn’t know what to expect or do, so I apprehensively approached three men who were lounging against the side of the restaurant — they clearly weren’t there for lunch. I asked them if they knew where I could get a bike. To my surprise, the man in the center rattled off a menu.

"I’ve got a really nice $5,300 road bike I will sell you for $1,000. I’ve got another for $500 and two Bianchis for $150 each," he said.

I told him the prices he listed seemed too good to be true and asked him if the bikes were stolen. People gave them to him, he explained dubiously, because they owed him money. I asked him about my Fuji, but he said he didn’t have it.

I walked around until I bumped into a woman who called herself Marina. She had a hollow look in her eyes, but I told her my story, and she seemed sympathetic. She sealed a hand-rolled cigarette with a lick, lit it, and made the following proposition: "I have a couple of friends that will steal to order — bicycles, cosmetics, whatever — give me a couple of days, and I will set something up."

I politely declined. McCloskey said steal-to-order rings are a common criminal racket in the city. Police have busted thieves with shopping lists for everything from Victoria’s Secret underwear to the antiallergy drug Claritin. In one case, McCloskey said, police traced a ring smuggling goods to Mexico.

A short time later a man rode through the plaza on a beat-up yellow Schwinn. He tried to sell the 12-speed to another man, so I approached him and asked how much he wanted for it. He told me $20. With a modest amount of bargaining, I got him down to $5 before telling him I wasn’t interested.

Just before I left, two police officers on a beat patrol walked through the plaza. Sales stopped briefly. As soon as the officers passed out of earshot, a man came up to me. "Flashlights," he said, "real cheap."


After striking out at Seventh and Market, I figured it was time to investigate the chop shops Veysey mentioned. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) reports bicycle chop shops operate all over the city. Thieves strip bikes because the parts (unlike the frames) don’t have serial numbers and can’t be traced as stolen once they are removed from a bike. The parts can be sold individually or put on another stolen bike to disguise it, hence the Frankenstein bikes that show up at the Bike Hut.

When Veysey told me about bicycle chop shops, I pictured something from a ’70s cop movie — a warehouse in an industrial district populated with burly men wielding blowtorches. But the trail led me somewhere else entirely: Golden Gate Park.

SFBC officials said they had received reports from a gardener about chop shops in the park. When I called Maggie Cleveland, a Recreation and Park Department employee responsible for cleaning up the park, she said they do exist and would show me what she thought was one if I threw on a pair of gloves, grabbed a trash bag, and joined one of her cleanup crews. I agreed.

Shortly before 8 a.m. on a foggy, chilly morning, the crew and I picked up mechanical grabbers and industrial-size trash bags and then climbed a steep hill near 25th Avenue and Fulton Street on the Richmond District side of the park. We plunged into a large camp in the middle of a hollowed-out grove of acacia bushes.

The camp looked like a sidewalk after an eviction. Books and papers vomited from the mouth of a tent. Rain-soaked junk littered the camp, including a golf bag filled with oars, an algebra textbook, a telescope, and a portable toilet. A hypodermic needle stuck in a stump like a dart and a gaudy brass chandelier swung from a branch. Amid the clutter was one constant: bicycles and their parts.

A half dozen bikes leaned against bushes in various states of repair. There were piles of tires and gears scattered around. The noise of the crew had awoken the residents of the camp. A man and two women sprung up and immediately tried to grab things as the crew stuffed the contents of the camp into trash bags. They grew more and more agitated as two dozen bags were filled.

Cleveland said the group may have been operating a chop shop, but she didn’t have definitive proof, so they were let go with camping citations. I asked one of the campers if their bikes were stolen.

"We find this stuff in the trash. There’s an economy here. We exchange stuff for other stuff," he said.

Cleveland said the camp was typical of what the crews find around the park. One of the most notorious campers goes by the name Bicycle Robert. Cleveland said park officials have found a handful of his camps over the past couple years. One contained more than two dozen bikes, but Robert himself has never turned up.

Occasionally, cyclists will get lucky and find their bikes at a chop shop. Max Chen was eating dinner in North Beach one night when his Xtracycle, a bicycle with an elongated back for supporting saddlebags, was stolen. Chen didn’t hold out much hope of getting it back, but he put up flyers around the neighborhood anyway.

The next day Chen got a call from a friend who said he saw a portion of the distinctive bike behind the Safeway at Potrero and 16th streets. Chen went down to the spot and found a group of guys with an RV, a handful of bicycles, and a pile of bike parts. His bike was there — sort of.

"The frame was in one place, and the pedals were on another bike. Other parts were on other bikes. I pointed to all the stuff that was mine and had them strip it. My frame had already been painted silver," Chen told me.

Not surprisingly, one of the men said he had bought Chen’s bike from someone in the Civic Center. Chen just wanted his bike back, so he forked over $60. The guys handed him a pile of parts in return.


A few days after the trip to Golden Gate Park, I finally got around to doing what I should have done when my bike was stolen: file a police report. Frankly, I waited because I held out little hope the police would be of any help.

It’s true few people get their bikes back through the police, but that’s in part because most people don’t try. In fact, the police are sitting on a cache of stolen bikes so big that it dwarfs the stock of any bike store in the city.

SFPD Lt. Tom Feney agreed to show it to me, so I trekked out to Hunters Point. The police stolen property room is located in an anonymous-looking warehouse in the Naval Shipyard. Feney ushered me through a metal door to the warehouse and then swept his hand through the air as if pointing out a beautiful panorama.

"There it is," he said.

Behind a 10-foot chain-link fence topped with razor wire, row upon row of bikes stretched along the floor of the warehouse. There were children’s bikes with hot pink paint, $2,000 road bikes, and everything in between. In all, the police had about 500 stolen bikes in the warehouse. The bikes are found abandoned on the street, recovered from stings on drug houses, and removed from bike thieves when they are busted. Many of the bikes aren’t stolen — they’ve been confiscated during arrests or are evidence in various cases. The department can’t return the stolen bikes because the owners haven’t reported them stolen. After holding them for 18 months, the police donate the bikes to charity.

I intently scanned up and down the rows looking for my bike. I didn’t see it. My last, best chance for finding it had disappeared. My heart dropped knowing my Fuji Touring was gone. Feney ushered me out the door, and I began the long, slow walk back to the bus stop.

The most frustrating part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Police and bicycle groups said there are some simple steps city officials could take to cut down on bike theft, but the issue has long slipped through the cracks.

Officer Romeo de la Vega, who works the SFPD’s Fencing Unit, said he proposed a bike registration system a few months ago, but it was shot down by the police brass. De la Vega said he was told there simply weren’t enough officers available to staff the system. Under his plan cyclists would register their bike serial numbers with police. In return the cyclists would get a permanent decal to place on their bikes. De la Vega said this would discourage thieves from stealing bikes since it would be clear they were registered, and it would speed bike returns.

With police officials claiming there are few resources to combat bike theft, it seems logical they might reach out to the community for help. But officials with the SFBC report just the opposite.

"In the past we’ve tried to connect with the police to jointly tackle the problem, but we haven’t had much luck. We don’t even know who is handling bike thefts," Andy Thornley, the SFBC program director, said.

Thornley said the coalition is willing to use its membership to help police identify chop shops and fencing rings around the city. He said the police need to do a better job of going after the larger players in the bike theft world and the District Attorney’s Office needs to take a tougher stance on prosecution.

Ultimately, Thornley said, enforcement is not the key to reducing bike theft. He said the city must make it easier for cyclists to park their bikes safely. The coalition is crafting legislation that would require all commercial buildings to allow cyclists to bring their bikes inside — something many currently prohibit. The coalition would also like to see bike parking lots spring up around the city, with attendants to monitor them.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who is an avid cyclist and has had six bikes stolen, said he is willing to help.

"It’s clear we are not doing very much," Daly said. "I think if there were a push from bicyclists to do a better job, I would certainly work toward making theft more of a priority." *

Where’s the beef on LGBT issues?


OPINION Common wisdom says that Mayor Gavin Newsom has forever endeared himself to the LGBT community by issuing marriage licenses to queer couples shortly after coming into office in 2004. Even though a state court later declared those licenses invalid (the city is appealing), Newsom’s popularity among queers doesn’t appear to have diminished. This is despite the fact that the Newsom administration has actually done little in terms of some of the major issues facing the community.

Let’s take a look at a few of those issues:

Housing for people with AIDS. A couple months after the "winter of love" at City Hall, Newsom appointed Jeff Sheehy as AIDS czar. An AIDS activist and former hate-crime-victim advocate in the District Attorney’s Office, Sheehy was supposed to help the mayor formulate AIDS policies. But it was a volunteer position, and the major concern of people with AIDS — affordable housing — was never addressed. Two years later Sheehy resigned the post. Meanwhile, the city’s affordable housing crisis still leaves many low-income people with AIDS desperately scrambling for a place to live after they are evicted by real estate speculators looking for a quick buck in the tenancy-in-common market. The situation is so bad that the AIDS Housing Alliance dubbed the Castro "the AIDS eviction capital of the world."

Liaison to the LGBT community. Apparently, former mayor Joe Alioto initiated this position in 1973. Newsom’s appointment was not a community activist but someone who worked in advertising. Founder of Gays for Gavin in the 2003 mayoral election campaign, James "Jimmer" Cassiol served for almost two years before he too resigned. His major duty seemed to be representing the mayor at LGBT functions.

Homelessness among queer youth. While Newsom is quick to tout his Care Not Cash and Operation Homeless Connect programs as solutions to one of the city’s most enduring and heartbreaking problems, he failed to mention youth in general and queer youth in particular in his recent state of homelessness address. To date, only a handful of queer youth have received city-sponsored housing — in a hotel on Market Street, which Castro supervisor Bevan Dufty secured. More hotel rooms are supposedly on the way.

Affordable housing for seniors. A proposed Market-Octavia Openhouse project for queer seniors won’t actually provide housing for those who need it the most: people with incomes below 50 percent of the area median income. The Newsom administration has done little to alleviate the lack of affordable housing for seniors, especially queer ones.

As the old woman in the ’70s commercials used to ask, where’s the beef? When it comes to queer issues, there is none. There’s certainly a lot of talk, many public appearances by the mayor and his representatives at queer functions, and the general promotion by Newsom and his staff of the idea that in San Francisco the LGBT community matters.

But if you’re poor, a senior, or homeless, it’s a different story altogether. *

Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, working-class queer performer, writer, and activist whose work can be seen at

NOISE: Bhangra for cause, just ’cause…


No bucks but eager to get it on, bhangra stylee? BBC Radio 1’s Bobby Friction is bringing the Project Ahimsa British Invasion tour to 111 Minna Gallery, SF, on Feb. 2.

The face of Bobby Friction

The rarely seen-stateside DJ – known as the “Casey Kasem of the global bhangra scene” – is passing through NYC and LA as well – all in the name of charity. (He hosts Bobby & Nihal Radio Show on BBC Radio 1 as well as BBC Radio 1 Sirius Satellite Channel.) Consider the fact that when Friction appears he’ll likely be bringing music that rarely gets heard around these parts, apart from his own Net stream.

Also all funds go to SF’s Project Ahimsa, one of the first desi-founded US youth-music education charities. The group, known for its “Tablas + Turntables” program, provides instruments and teacher salaries to help disadvantaged youth in the US and the developing world. Behold the current TV video on the T+T project.

The kicker: the event is free to the first 500 who sign up here.

Now you have no excuses. Go bhangra.



JAN. 22


Tall Firs

Quiet is the new loud — all the cool kids are saying
so! Take New York’s Tall Firs. Evoking visions of
Sonic Youth road-tripping through the most sorrowful
of rustic landscapes, this three-piece fashions a
narcotic folk blues out of dazzlingly haunting
twin-guitar interplay and broodingly languid vocals.
(Todd Lavoie)

With Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton
8 p.m., $18
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750


Roe v. Wade anniversary party

Celebrate with Planned Parenthood the 34th anniversary
of Roe v. Wade with a discussion on the status of
reproductive rights in the United States,
multigenerational and multicultural reports on
abortion experiences, and performances by local
artists. (Deborah Giattina)

7 p.m., $10 El Rio
3158 Mission, SF
(415) 282-3325



Jan. 15


“Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Your day-off tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could stop at couching it and watching a documentary. But seeing as how the civil rights leader was a supremely gifted orator who inspired millions with his speeches, a night of roof-rattling performance seems a bit more fitting, doesn’t it? For the 10th year, Youth Speaks honors King’s legacy with “Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” Host Chinaka Hodge oversees an action-packed lineup that includes spoken word by iLL-Literacy; hip-hop with the Attik; and DJ J. Period, who rocks the event’s annual “I Have a Dream” speech remix. (Cheryl Eddy)

7 p.m., $5-$12
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
700 Howard, SF
(415) 978-ARTS


Absolute Wilson

Though he’s been the most famous American avant-garde stage director for at least three decades, Robert Wilson remains a rather remote, enigmatic figure at home. The surprise of Katharina Otto-Bernstein’s documentary is how accessible – even delightful – he turns out on close examination. Predictably, given his arresting, architectural stage aesthetic, the archival performance excerpts and still photos here are striking. Wilson is funnier than you’d expect as an interview personality – though we also get strong evidence of his tantrum-prone perfectionism on the job. (Dennis Harvey)

In Bay Area theaters
See movie clock at

Careers and Ed: Cocktail frosh



Swanky-ass bars, high-end restaurants, sex, drugs — they’re all great things to love about San Francisco, but they can be cruel and constant symbols of failure to the scrilla deprived. With one-bedroom apartments currently priced at about $1,600 a month, cell phone bills hovering in the $75 to $150 range, and PG&E. religiously raping us for half our salaries, it’s amazing anyone can afford to live in this city, let alone enjoy its vast array of entertainment. But San Francisco has a secret. Unlike most cities, San Francisco pays its waiters, bartenders, and bussers almost $10 an hour. Add to that a healthy tip stash, and there’s at least a little disposable income to hit the town with.

Of all the jobs the service industry has to offer, bartending rules. We’re talking potentially $200 to $500 for six hours of work. OK, count me in. The major problem, though, is acquiring the skills to qualify. San Francisco has almost as many service-industry schools as it does bars and restaurants. Would I get scammed if I enrolled in one? With the ultimate goal of becoming a bartender, I spent a month researching the cultlike world of barkeep education, starting with a quest for the perfect school.


In order to minimize any money and time investments, I first looked for Web classes and free tutorials. I should have known better. Looking for a free or relatively inexpensive online course in bartending turned out to be a bigger waste of time than the hours I logged scouring the Internet for free porn as a young man. The sites of my youth always promised girl-on-girl action, fist-fucking, and bizarre fetish acts but only generated advertisements for sketchy online subscriptions or outrageously expensive chat sessions. The same was true, metaphorically, of,, and Each one taunted me with screen shots and personal testimonies but wouldn’t give up the goods without a credit card number. So I passed on the virtual cocktail-slinging and set about finding a real-world educator.

ABC Nationwide Bartending School (, 1-888-262-5824) looked promising but seemed a little too corporate for my taste. Other schools, such as National Bartenders School (870 Market, suite 828, SF; 415-677-9777,, seemed legitimate but didn’t quite have the attitude and style I associate with the glamorous life of a bartender. I want to be Tom Cruise in Cocktail, not the sad barkeep from Billy Joel’s "Piano Man." I want to serve mojitos, cosmos, and lemon drops to drunk yuppies, ending every night with fistfuls of easy cash and invitations to cologne-drenched orgies. Glamour! Eventually, I seemed to find perfection in the San Francisco School of Bartending (760 Market, suite 833, SF; 415-362-1116,, a school run and taught by local SF bartenders — sort of a FUBU for mixologists.

It works like this: for about $300 (a slow night’s tips for the average SF bartender) you get hands-on training and insider information from a seasoned professional. The classroom simulates an average pub, with music, neon beer signs, and a supersize bar with a pouring station for each student. There’s homework every night, a daily quiz, and a final exam. Near the end of every minisemester, students get a consultation with a professional résumé builder who has magical contacts to the city’s premier restaurants and bars. It’s a boot camp for bartenders, taught by some of the toughest and most knowledgeable drill sergeants around. The slick Web site, affordable price, and sense of community won me over. After a few simple clicks I was all signed up for a two-week course ($295, financing available).


When I arrived at the SFSOB bright and early on a Monday morning, I was immediately greeted by Gretchen Mitchell, a veteran bartender who has served in more than 50 restaurants and bars in her 19 years in the industry. She wasted no time getting started. "All right class, answer me this: if someone comes up to my bar and tries to get a slow screw up against the wall, what am I going to do?" There were blank stares all around as the other students and I tried to think of the right answer. "Should I give a knowing smile and assume the position?" she said. "Hell no! I don’t think so. A Slow Screw Up Against the Wall is a mixture of sloe gin, vodka, and orange juice with a splash of Galliano. I know this, not because I have it memorized, but because I think like a bartender, and that’s exactly what we’re going to teach you to do over the next two weeks. Now get behind your stations and get ready for some action." She paused, then added, "You’re gonna thank me, guys. In no time at all you’ll be having ‘creamy sex on the beach’ with a whole gang of ‘redheaded sluts.’ And ladies, you’ll be serving up expert ‘blow jobs’ and ‘screaming orgasms.’ " With that, class had begun.


I usually wait until around noon to have my first alcoholic beverage, but today was different. It was only 9:30 a.m., and here I was under the soothing neon lights of a real bar. Credence Clearwater Revival played in the background as I wiped down my section of mahogany, filled my ice chest, and got ready to make some drinks. Mitchell passed out laminated cards with pictures of simple drinks like tequila sunrises and screwdrivers and then drew our attention to overhead computer monitors. She was now the patron, and the other students and I were the all-powerful barkeeps. Laid out before us were soda guns, ice scoops, and quick-access mixers. Behind us were countless bottles of fake alcohol, glasses, and towels. We were ready.

"All right, guys, here’s how it’s gonna work: I’m going to walk you through the first couple of drinks, show you how to measure an accurate one-ounce shot without a cup, demonstrate the proper way to hold things, and so on. Then the computer is going to take over for a while. But before I do all that, I want to see what you already know." Mitchell took a breath, looked around, and then said, "Make me a screwdriver right now."

It seemed like an easy request, but as I fumbled around looking for orange juice and vodka, I realized I didn’t know how to mix them correctly. Mitchell watched as we tried to bullshit our way through the exercise. Some scooped ice with their glasses (a major no-no), poured in the orange juice, and then topped the concoction off with a haphazard shot of vodka. Others grabbed the vodka with two hands and then apprehensively poured it into an empty glass before adding the other ingredients. Our new sensei watched in disgust. Soon there were 11 crappy-looking screwdrivers sitting on the bar. The lesson behind the exercise was unmistakable: we didn’t know shit.

We spent the rest of the morning learning proper pouring techniques, standardized orders of mixing, and some light terminology. After lunch we came back and stumbled through a simulated happy hour during which the computer flashed orders while Mitchell marched to and fro shouting suggestions. I thought it would never end. With sweat pouring down my face, fake liquor soaking my shirt, and freezing hands, I poured drink after drink until Mitchell suddenly screamed, "Last call!" The computer stopped flashing. "Good job, guys," she said. "Shift’s over. Now clean up your stations and go home. Remember today’s lesson: bartending is a lot more complicated than you think. It’s not just Bukowski. It’s F. Scott Fitzgerald too."

The rest of the week followed a similar pattern. Mitchell lectured the class on a particular aspect of bartending and then turned the computer on and paced back and forth as we struggled to make drinks. Her teaching style grew warmer over time; eventually, she replaced her cold commands with a soft hand and a helpful voice. Under Mitchell’s guidance mixing drinks became second nature. I could pour a mai tai in a second. Mojitos, cosmos, dirty martinis — I could shoot them all out with ease. By the fifth day I felt like a pro, but I wondered if it was going to work. Would a two-week bartending course be all I needed to get a job? I sought the advice of some experienced bartenders.


According to Cory Norris, a bartender at an Irish pub in the Mission, the answer is no.

"Man, people come in with those certificates, acting like professionals, but once they get behind the bar, they’re fucking lost. The only way to get good at bartending is to jump in the fire. Those classes only work for people with big tits and blue eyes."

Another bartender, Tommy Basso, owner of Delirium, reiterated Norris’s sentiments. "You can’t learn bartending at a fucking school, kid. You’re gonna get back here and choke. You’re gonna have five dudes mad doggin’ you in the corner ’cause you forgot their beers, two chicks at one end of the bar stealing your cherries, two others chicks distracting you with their tits in the middle, and 20 drinks to make. You’re not gonna know what the fuck to do. Those schools are bullshit."

Basso and Norris scared me. Had my $300 been spent in vain? Had I been duped? In an attempt to assuage my anxiety, I went back to the SFSOB and asked Shawn Refoua, one of the other instructors there, about the real-world difficulties of gaining a foothold behind the bar. Refoua was familiar with the antischool attitude. "There is a scholastic component to every trade." he said. "I mean, can it really be true that bartending is so magical that you can only learn it in the field? That line of thinking just doesn’t make sense." Refoua has been teaching classes at the SFSOB for almost two years and has seen hundreds of students get good jobs. Like most teachers there, he keeps in close contact with his students via the Internet, using his MySpace page to notify them of job openings and changes in the industry. "I wouldn’t worry about people who say bartending schools don’t work," he said. "It’s true that a lot of people either fall into bartending or lie their way in. Maybe that’s why there are so many shitty bartenders around here. Many states actually require certification, you know."

As an SFSOB teacher, Refoua could be a little biased, of course. And real-world bartenders naturally look down on newbies. Any smart-ass could conclude, though, that both have good points. A self-taught bartender knows how to deal with a drunken crowd, and a school-taught applicant comes equipped with a deep understanding of liquor ratios, bar etiquette, and efficient pouring techniques.

I now feel confident enough to submit my résumé to all the places in my SFSOB counselor’s little black book. I can shake, stir, pour, mix, blend, and guess the ingredients in foreign drink names with ease. As far as handling belligerent drunks — well, I’m not worried in the slightest. My friends have taught me well. Just last night I had to stop one of them from jumping out of a fourth-story apartment, slap another in the face for throwing an egg at my girlfriend, and convince yet another to not buy more cocaine at 4 a.m. Bar owners of San Francisco, prepare yourselves. There’s a new cocktail jock in town. *



Jan. 9



It gets increasingly difficult to describe how Jon Almaraz and William Sabiston make their electronic drum pads and guitar effects do what they do, probably because they keep getting weirder. Without a record or even a MySpace page to speak of, Bulbs hole up and practice like maniacs for their all-too-rare live shows. I would say Bulbs are underrated, but it’s unclear what rating system they even register on. Maybe tie a hypercolor shirt to a Geiger counter and then melt a bunch of John Fahey records till they look like a Frank Gehry building. Opener East Bay wunderkinder Robin Williams on Fire do the Arab on Radar gambol with excess energy and a fulsome ruckus. (George Chen)

With Man vs. Nature, Yvonne, Child Pornography, and Operation
9 p.m., $5
1600 17th St., SF
(415) 503-0393


Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes may take rap lyrics to task for being needlessly violent, homophobic, and misogynistic, but filmmaker Byron Hurt isn’t a hater – he’s a lifelong fan. His occasionally academic investigation into how masculinity figures into hip-hop culture is therefore rooted in a certain amount of concern: he’d sure like to find a silver lining among all the bitches and bullets, but the stereotype is proven as fact at nearly every turn. It’s a thought-provoking doc that’s worthy of further discussion, so stick around after for the panel of activists and artists. Youth Movement Records and Youth Speaks also perform. (Cheryl Eddy)

5:30 p.m., free
San Francisco Public Library
Koret Auditorium
100 Larkin, SF

NOISE: Sonic Oldster sing-along


Yeah, everyone’s tired of those Sonic Youth AARP jokes – but this clip takes the cake for the sheer enjoyment – behold Young@Heart singing SY’s “Schizophrenia.”


Johnny Ray Huston’s top 10 viewing experiences of 2006


(1) Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand) on Oct. 3 at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Yes, it dug deeper into male-male romance than any hopelessly blinkered creation made and marketed as "gay," but I wasn’t as amazed by Apichatpong’s Cannes coronation creation Tropical Malady as I’d expected to be, especially given the hypnotism of Blissfully Yours. This time, though, he’s created a masterpiece — I get misty just thinking of the mysterious shot at its very center.

(2) Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, France/Iceland). I spend spare time in a world where nicknames like Guga and Rafa and Momo and Chucho reign. I think Venus Williams’s 2005 Wimbledon final victory was opera of a kind no one has seen or heard since Maria Callas sang La Traviata at Covent Garden (not Lisbon). Sports is today’s ultimate live theater, Zidane was its most compelling star in 2006, and Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s portrait of him is a doc even better than William Klein’s look at Muhammad Ali. A big thanks to the Balboa Theater’s Gary Meyer for helping me even get a look at Zidane — knowing that Apichatpong loves Parreno’s The Boy from Mars makes me want to rocket to that planet if I have to in order to see it.

(3) The Descent (Neil Marshall, UK) at an April 29 midnight screening at the SF International Film Festival. Nothing is more fun than sharing extreme claustrophobia with a theater full of screaming horror fans.

(4) The Host (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea) and Bongmania at the Sept. 30 screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Nothing tops my Descent experience except watching a great monster movie with a theater full of fans who mobbed the director afterward.

(5) San Francisco moviemaking: Call Waiting (Cathy Begien); The Dennis Wilson Story and Leonard Cohen in Alberta (David Enos); Lot 63, Grave C (Sam Green); Lovelorn Domestic (Sarah Enid Hagey); Rumsfeld Rules (Bryan Boyce); Song and Solitude (Nathaniel Dorsky).

(6) dünya dinlemiyor video installation by Phil Collins, still on view at the SF Museum of Modern Art. A Smiths fan’s dream come true, indeed.

(7) TV Carnage’s A Sore for Sighted Eyes DVD. Long before Donald Trump foolishly challenged Rosie O’Donnell to a caged wrestling match, TV Carnage revealed just what she was capable of in this, one of the funniest and scariest things I’ve seen in my life, a video mashup that somehow makes Girl Talk’s Night Ripper seem puny and eager to please.

(8) Doomed pilgrimages: Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/Belgium/France/Germany) and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania). My favorite scene in 2006 is the subway sequence in Reygadas’s second film. The title character in Puiu’s movie never quite completes a marathon journey to the heart of the medical profession — a place called death.

(9) A Short Film about the Indio Nacional (or the Prolonged Sorrow of Filipinos) (Raya Martin, Philippines) on May 1 at the SF International Film Festival and Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa, Portugal/France/Switzerland ) on Oct. 2 at the Vancouver International Film Festival. When Khavn de la Cruz’s piano score for Martin’s film broke down, the director reappeared and put on different music, and the movie took on yet another life. Costa’s film is entirely lit by mirrors and natural rays and beams — what else do you need to know?

(10) Somnambucinema. No one likes to admit that some of the best cinema being made today lulls you to or near to sleep. Why? There should be no shame in shifting states of consciousness and drifting into dreams during this panic-stricken age. Somnambucinema deserves an essay, but for now I’ll just mention a recent fave example of the form — Paz Encina’s Hamaca Paraguaya, which spends 90 minutes or so showing a hammock in sun and shade while a couple bickers about it, their son, and their country. There you have it: a critical, two-way filmic window into many people’s awareness of Paraguay and its history, if they even have one.

Raya Martin’s twin cinema peaks of 2006


1. Costa in Cannes Cinema Scope editor Mark Peranson warned me about what was to come: Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth was reportedly still being edited a few days before its screening in the Official Competition at Cannes, and its nonactors from the Lisbon slums were gracing the red carpet premiere.

Costa’s latest film, in all its pure cinematic glory, only had one early afternoon premiere screening, while the festival put on pregala shows prioritizing its star-laden crowd pleasers (e.g., the ridiculously horrible Babel by Alejandro González Iñárritu). Half an hour into Colossal Youth, half of the Lumiere audience had already run out of the theater. Only loyal and curious audience members, including Costa first-timers like me, were there to witness a momentous standing ovation lasting nearly 10 minutes.

It felt like a rebirth of new cinema, one that might have been coincidental — out of place — and that probably might not happen again for a long time.

2. (Re)Discovering Garrel In Philippe Garrel’s Regular Lovers, one finds not just adamant aesthetics (the film’s 16mm screenings around Paris proved to be a true limited release) but a sense of achievement in the cinema of personal-is-political, shown in both Garrel’s narrative and the casting of his son, actor Louis Garrel.

Following my first viewing of Garrel’s most recent, phenomenal, and overlooked film, the timely screening of two others at the Rotterdam Film Festival this January (thanks to White Light programmer Gertjan Zuilhof) gave me a chance to correct my image of him as a newcomer to that of a long-established cinema master.

I Don’t Hear the Guitar Anymore (1991), a painful dedication to his ex-partner, the late Velvet Underground crooner Nico, is like a haunting dream. My personal favorite, Wild Innocence (2001), is an excellent look into Garrel’s cinema and persona, both crossing favorably and fluidly.

While all of his films pretty much deal with the same subject matter — drugs, addiction, relationships, all pointing to a generally public past — Garrel’s cinema basks within a uniquely exquisite atmosphere. One that haunts me as a desperate filmmaker and lonely shadow.

Raya Martin is the director of A Short Film about the Indio Nacional (or the Prolonged Sorrow of Filipinos).

Making their lists


Total Shutdown, Death Sentence: Panda!, Murder Murder
(10) Bay Area representing and dominating at the End Times Fest in St. Paul, Minn., June 22–<\d>24.
(9) T.I.T.S., Throughout the Ages split double 12-inch with Leopard Leg (Upset the Rhythm) and live. Forest-witch psych never sounded so good.
(8) Fuckwolf CD on Kimosciotic and live. Dub done via destruction by way of swallowing glass and delay …
(7) Burmese, White (Planaria) and live. Every time I see them I feel like I’ve been transported to a Beijing opera in 1790 and forced to watch it while strapped to a chair at gunpoint.
(6) Devin the Dude, live at the Red Devil Lounge, Nov. 6. Songs about fucking, drinking, and smoking weed sung so beautifully, like an angel.
(5) “Black Panther Rank and File” at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, March 18–<\d>July 2, and getting snubbed by Bobby Seale when I asked him about when he did stand-up comedy.
(4) Tracy Morgan doing stand-up live at Cobb’s, March 3.
(3) Sergio Iglesias and the Latin Love Machine at Thee Parkside, Nov. 18, and the soccer circle that followed.
(2) 16 Bitch Pile-Up, Doomsday 1999, Ettrick with Weasel Walter live, March 15.
(1) (tie) Nate Denver’s Neck at the Elbo Room, Oct. 14. I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to destroy someone for the first time since sixth grade; Skip Donahue’s new wave extravo-bonanza at Casanova, April 20; Kurtis Blow at Mighty, Aug. 12; DJ Funk at the Rickshaw Stop, July 21; and ESG at Mezzanine, Oct. 27.

• Mountain Goats, Get Lonely (4AD).
• Beth Orton, Comfort of Strangers (Astralwerks). Shimmers with a modern kind of grace.
• Nic Jones, Game Set Match (Topic). My favorite wild-as-the-firth Brit-folk revivalist, live in the ’70s, resurrecting ballads and slapping the guitar like a preacher on a healing mission.
• Crooked Jades, World’s on Fire (Jade Note Music). Old-timey troubadours sing with fire, then stomp it out so that there’s nothing left to repent for.
• Various artists, Chrome Children (Stones Throw).
• Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, The Dust of Retreat (Standard Recording Co.).
• Sara Tavares, Balance (Times Square).
• Meneguar, I Was Born at Night (Magic Bullet).
• Mirah, Joyride: Remixes (K). The double album explores the songwriter’s expansive journal-like stories.
• Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City). Surpasses Cat Power in my book of 2006 for the year’s most sweetly sacrificial feline croon.

Tigerbeat6 band
(1) E-40, “Tell Me When To Go” (Sick Wid It/Jive). Duh.
(2) Indian Jewelry and Celebration at South by Southwest.
(3) Lil Wayne, everything but especially “Shooter,” Tha Carter Vol. 2 (Cash Money).
(4) No Doctors — just in general.
(5) Mute Era and In Corridors. The mystic protégés of the Minnesota-Japan rock ’n’ roll exchange program.
(6) Gentleman’s Techno at the Cave — especially OonceOonce DJ sets and Black William and the Gondolier live.
(7) White Williams, “Headlines,” Let’s Lazertag Sometime (Tigerbeat6).
(8) Watching Dusty Sparkles from Glass Candy and Danava do anything.
(9) Shawn Porter, a.k.a. Bloody Snowman.
(10) Erase Errata, Nightlife (Kill Rock Stars).

Levende Lounge resident DJ
(1) A lotta ancestors: from the great J-Dilla to LA DJ and community organizer DJ Dusk to SF native and NYC staple Adam Goldstone to rebel radio pioneer Michael “Mixxin” Moore to SF DJ and youth activist DJ Domino, the sky gained a lotta bring-ass stars.
(2) The Trackademics phenomenon. Comin’ straight outta Alameda High, young Trackademics took the underground dance music world by storm, using broken beat, dance punk, and new soul sounds and smashing them into a hyphy hybrid that had kids going stewey from SF to NYC.
(3) Pacific Standard Time anniversary party. When Kool Herc stepped to the DJ booth at Levende Lounge in March, time sorta stood still for a few hours. He gave Frisco a taste of the magic that sparked a global prairie fire.
(4) Bilal, Something to Hold Onto. Probably the best major-label release of 2006 that never came out. His label blamed online leaks but probably just lacked the creative vision to market such a strange product — namely, inventive modern soul music.
(5) Tiombe Lockhart, “O Bloody Day, O Starry Night on the Bowery” (Bling47). Evil genius Waajeed and the brilliant Ms. Lockhart released the first of what should be many classic joints.
(6) GQ, “Better Must Come” (Calibud). Something about an eight-year-old having a number one hit with a conscious anthem just kinda makes me feel good about the future.
(7) Alice Smith, For Lovers, Dreamers and Me (BBE Music). Though the incredible Maurice Fulton remix of “Love Endeavor” isn’t here, this album reflected a new direction for urban music.
(8) The hyphy movement. Kinda obvious, but its impact is hard to overstate. Bay Area club music took the world by storm in 2006, leading taste-making rags and bloggers from here to Denmark scouring the Web for the latest Bay Area slang, style, and sounds.
(9) Journey into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story (Rhino). After a couple attempts, 2006 saw a definitive two-disc collection of some of the songs that trademarked perhaps the most influential DJ of all time, besides Herc.
(10) TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope). I prefer the leaked version because “Wolf Like Me” is the shit, but it’s still pretty damn good for a major-label debut, nyuk, nyuk.

(1) Punk section at Amoeba, SF and Berkeley. I know I work there, and this comes dangerously close to an advertisement, but isn’t it about time?
(2) Domino Records’ Sound of Young Scotland series. Lovely reissues of Orange Juice, Fire Engines, and my current fave, Josef K. Courtesy of Franz Ferdinand’s severance check.
(3) Boy, I sure picked a bad year to swear off box sets: This Heat’s Out of Cold Storage (ReR) finally makes available all the in- and out-of-print recordings.
(4) Boy, I sure picked a bad year to swear off metal: Boris, Pink and live, and collaborating with Sunn O))) on Altar (both Southern Lord).
(5) The Bay Area represents: running into fellow local bands such as the Fucking Ocean in NYC and T.I.T.S. in Leeds, England, while on a too-long tour was the salve for the weary, homesick, itinerant musician. And by the way, the Fucking Ocean’s new CD, Le Main Rouge, harks back to the heady times at the turn of the century when it seemed like every day a new band that didn’t suck crawled out of a new crack in the sidewalk.
(6) It would be irresponsible of me to not mention the midterm elections.
(7) Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man was the best music-related film of the year. And it gave me more reasons to hate U2.
(8) Coming to a curbside near you: the Bay Area’s best new venue, John Benson’s decommissioned AC Transit bus converted into a biodiesel RV and mobile venue.
(9) Billy Childish’s unplugged show, Mama Buzz Café, May.
(10) And one thing that sucked this year: Lance Hill quit booking and working the Stork Club. The man who brought you the club’s happy hour and free admission during the Oakland Art Murmur — and who let Battleship record an album at his venue — has left the building. May the East Bay rise to the occasion and continue nurturing good local music.

(1) Mariee Sioux, A Bundled Bundle Of Bundles (self-released). So. Ridiculously. Good.
(2) Death Vessel, Stay Close (North East Indie). I’ve listened to this five billion times since I got it in October.
(3) Laura Gibson, If You Come to Greet Me (Hush).
(4) CMJ Music Marathon, accompanying Alela Diane and Tom Brosseau on banjo. When Brosseau breaks into the highest part of his range, it makes me almost believe in ghosts.
(5) El Capitan live at the Rite Spot, Oct 15. They did a medley covering and reworking other Bay Area artists’ music — one of the most creative and heartfelt things I heard all year.
(6) Last of the Blacksmiths, “And Then Some”/”You Think I’m. O.K.” 7-inch.
(7) Deerhoof, McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
(8) Standing onstage at Carnegie Hall. OK, I was only delivering a bass amp for Smokey Robinson. But it gave me chills!
(9) Jolie Holland’s “Mexican Blue.” Maybe my favorite song of 2006.
(10) Jeffrey Luck Lucas, Bottom of the Hill, Feb. 8.

• T.I.T.S. and Leopard Leg, Throughout the Ages/Leopard Leg split double 12-inch (Upset the Rhythm)
• Mon Cousin Belge, the Knockout, a couple weeks ago
• Bootleg of Black Sabbath Live in Paris 20 Dec. 1970
• Trin Tran (a.k.a. Trinng Tranng)
• Erase Errata, Nightlife (Kill Rock Stars)
Weasel Walter performing with Sergio Iglesias, Thee Parkside, Nov. 18
• Gay Beast, El Rio, Dec. 7
• Fuckwolf, anywhere, anytime
• K.I.T. dressed as mummies (or the Mummies)
• Halloween at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn
• Seeing The Sweet Smell of Success with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster on PBS twice (I don’t have cable). Totally awesome creepy nastiness.

422 Records and; Top 10 Hip-Hop
• Mekalek, Live and Learn (Glow-in-the-Dark). Time Machine’s DJ-producer connects with various rappers for a supremely banging compilation-style album. Rhode Island, stand up!
• Motion Man, Pablito’s Way (Threshold). Bay Area superlyricist knocks it out of the park on his second solo effort, produced by KutMasta Kurt, featuring Too $hort, Mistah FAB, and Q*bert.
• Snoop Dogg, Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (Geffen). Though a bit bloated, Snoop’s eighth album is still great, featuring bass-heavy beats and collabos with Nate Dogg, Dre, Cube, E-40, and others.
• Melina Jones, Swearing Off Busters (sampler). An immensely talented MC-vocalist from the SFC, Jones is the future. Check her out on MySpace and cop the album in early ’07.
• Dudley Perkins, Expressions (Stones Throw). Charmingly blunted soul-funk meanderings from underground icon Madlib and the artist formerly known as Declaime.
•<\!s><\i>Ghostface, Fishscale (Def Jam). The Wu’s most consistent swordsman continues to impress, with help from Dilla, Doom, and Pete Rock.
• Rakim, Slims, Sept. 10. The R may be pushing 40, but he still knows how to move the crowd, running through timeless jams with Kid Capri backing him up.
• A Tribe Called Quest, Berkeley Community Theatre, Sept. 9. Rhymefest and the Procussions were cool too, but the reunited Tribe killed it.
• Ice Cube, Fillmore, April 25. Despite cred-killing family films and uneven recent material, Cube ripped it live, drawing from a thick catalog of Westside classics.
• Kool Keith, Mezzanine, June 17. At his first local appearance in years, notorious rap weirdo Kool Keith did an amazing set with lots of Ultramag and Octagon material, plus a random topless chick.

Hey Willpower
(10) Amy Winehouse, “Rehab” (Universal/Island).
(9) Cassie, “Me and U” (Bad Boy).
(8) Brick Lane, London, on a Sunday.
(7) Hot Chip, “Over and Over” (Astralwerks).
(6) Fingered Club at Little Pedro’s in downtown LA.
(5) Final Fantasy, Bottom of the Hill, Aug. 11.
(4) Planning to Rock at Club Motherfucker, Bardens Boudoir, London, Dec. 9.
(3) Grizzly Bear, Yellow House (Warp).
(2) Lena Wolff, Needles and Pens, March 11–<\d>April 9.
(1) Field Mob with Ciara, “So What” (Universal).

• Brett Dennen, So Much More (Dualtone). The Central Valley singer-songwriter addresses political and romantic concerns in a craggy, tear-stained tenor.
• Kelis, Kelis Was Here (Jive). Although in-your-face sexuality is the Manhattan siren’s calling card, it’s hard not to also adore the way she blurs the lines between R&B, rock, hip-hop, and pop.
• Charles Lloyd, Sangam (ECM).
• Ann Nesby, In the Spirit (Shanachie). Nesby’s glorious alto pipes often leap octaves in breathtaking bounds on this masterpiece of traditional African American gospel music.
• Joan Osborne, Pretty Little Stranger (Vanguard).
• Catherine Russell, Cat (World Village). Veteran background vocalist Russell steps to the forefront with a wonderfully eclectic set of tunes including “Back o’ Town Blues,” which her dad, Luis Russell, wrote with Louis Armstrong back in 1945.
• Candi Staton, His Hands (Honest Jons/Astralwerks).
• Irma Thomas, After the Rain (Rounder).
• Hank Williams III, Straight to Hell (Bruc). This intense honky-tonk country music is filled with visions so demented that the label’s owner, former California lieutenant governor Mike Curb, spells his own name backward.
• Mitch Woods, Big Easy Boogie (Club 88). Marin County vocalist-pianist Woods creates the hottest set of 1950s-style New Orleans R&B since, well, the ’50s.

Charalambides; Top 10 Things That Didn’t Happen in San Francisco
(1) Getting dosed at Terrastock, Providence, RI, and watching Lightning Bolt from high in the light rigging, April 23.
(2) On tour with Marcia, watching thousands of chimney swifts flocking into a smokestack during a light rainstorm in Portland, Ore., with a double rainbow to the east and a sunset to the west.
(3) Me and Natacha witnessing Comets on Fire’s chalet get destroyed at All Tomorrow’s Parties with a BBC film crew documenting the whole scene. Minehead, Devonshire, UK.
(4) Ben Chasny destroying with solo electric guitar at Arthur Nights, LA, Oct. 21.
(5) Jamming Buffy St. Marie’s “Cod’Ine” for over an hour at 4 a.m. with Matt Valentine and Erika Elder in Guilford, Vt.; also Mvee and the Bummer Road’s form-destroying set at ATP, Minehead, Devonshire, UK.
(6) Hearing the most killer noise CD-R ever in Nashville, recorded by Chris Cherry Blossoms’ Boston Terrier.
(7) Gigging with Badgerlore at the Wire festival, Chicago, and eating pizza slices the size of surfboards with Glen Donaldson, Sept. 21.
(8) Laying down thick sounds with Shawn McMillen and the Starving Weirdos in Eureka and later watching McMillen toss tennis balls to a terrier on the beach in Samoa while hearing Steve Weirdo’s roommate’s tales of Sasquatch hunting and dodging bullets in the Yuroc reservation.
(9) Ashtray Navigation’s Syd Barrett tribute at the beginning of their set, biker bar downstairs playing “Astronomy Domine” the same night in Leeds, UK.
(10) Gray-orange dust storm over the gash of the Rio Grande. Later that night, me and my girlfriend, Natacha, listen to Of’s wedding CD-R and watch dozens of shooting stars and a distant thunderstorm over the mountains, Taos, NM.
RIP Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee, and whoever else I’m forgetting.

Hallelujah, more lists!


(1) <\i>The Fall live at the Independent, May. Mark E. Smith, wife, and a band he put together the day before — classic Fall. Peerless.
(2) <\i>John Legend, Get Lifted (Sony). More ideas per song than most indie bands have in a lifetime. Stellar soul.
(3) <\i>Margaret Cho singing “Old Man’s Cock and Balls” to the tune of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” Provincetown, July
(4) <\i>D’autres nouvelles des etoiles — Serge Gainsbourg DVD. 4 hours of sin and sauce, wit and wiles.
(5) <\i>Poppy and the Jezebels, “Nazi Girls”/”Painting New York on my Shoes* (Kiss of Death/Reveal). Best young group out of UK in an age — four 14-year-old girls from Birmingham. Massive in 2007.
(6) <\i>Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, directed by Michel Gondry.
(7.) <\i>Drive-By Truckers at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. The American Smiths with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s shirts and guitars.
(8) <\i>Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City). So far ahead of the “new folk” pack it’s not true. A goldrush-town Kate Bush.
(9) <\i>One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found (Rhino)
(10) <\i>Borts Minorts opening for us at Amnesia.
Music Lovers play Slim’s Dec. 23.

(1) <\i>Detroit producer-musician-good fellow Matthew Smith’s Outrageous Cherry released their umpteenth album Stay Happy (Rainbow Quartz), and it’s a fab collection of big beat Jesus and Mary Chain meets the Chills type of pet sounds.
(2) <\i>I got to play a show with Dan Sartain in Amsterdam this fall. He describes himself to the common man as Chris Isaak on acid — or was that quaaludes ? No weepy romantic, the 24-year-old hails from Birmingham, Ala., and does surf-rockabilly besame-mucho murder ballads really well. He’s a real character, too. After staying up all night he was spotted eating falafel wearing his hotel towels for socks. His new album, Join … Dan Sartain, is on Bjork’s One Little Indian label.
(3) <\i>The Muldoons are a family band composed of Hunter and Shane, about age 9 and 12, respectively, and their dad, drummer Brian, who play high energy Stoogey rock. Their first single was recorded by Jack White, no less. There were a lot of kids playing rock songs this year, but these guys are future and now, for real. Listen to their live session on for proof.
(4) <\i>As 2006 comes to a close, it is getting closer to April 2007, when Sonny Smith’s new album will finally appear. After some rewrites and a touch of hemming and hawing, my favorite SF Pro Tools hobo will release Fruitvale on a new label run by local vocalist Chuck Prophet.
(5) <\i>The Oh Sees recorded a fine new album, Sucks Blood, and that too will be coming along early next year, but since I heard it this year I can safely say it was one of the sonic highlights of the recent past.
(6) <\i>Vetiver, To Find Me Gone (Dicristina Stair). A great collection of ’70s AM radio pop magic and smart lyrical turns.
(7) <\i>Black Fiction were a force of rumbling floor toms, Casio blips, and cool tunes. The most interesting SF band playing in 4/4 time.
(8) <\i>Australia’s Eddy Current Suppression Ring channeled AC/DC, the Buzzcocks, and early Joy Division/Warsaw on their fantastic “Get Up Morning” single.
(9) <\i>How could Arthur Lee and Syd Barrett pass away within a couple weeks of each other? Similar souls departed.
(10) <\i>Sub Pop goes green and offsets their offices’ electricity usage with clean windpower churned up in the Pacific Northwest. I hope more corporate structures within and outside of the music world will take note and do a simple thing that helps a lot.

(1) <\i>Marisa Monte, Palace of Fine Arts, Nov. 5
(2) <\i>Deerhoof, Great American Music Hall, Sept. 5
(3) <\i>Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu, solo at Prison Literature Project benefit, AK Press Warehouse, April 11
(4) <\i>Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar)
(5) <\i>Marisa Monte, Universo au Meu Redor (Blue Note)
(6) <\i>Marisa Monte, Infinito Particular (Blue Note)
(7) <\i>Caetano Veloso, Ce (Umvd)
(8) <\i>Ches Smith, Congs for Brums (Free Porcupine Society)
(9) <\i>Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone duo
(10) <\i>Iron Maiden, A Matter of Life and Death (Sanctuary)

(1) <\i>The Who, Endless Wire (Republic)
(2) <\i>Jose Gonzalez, Veneer (Mute)
(3) <\i>Thom Yorke, The Eraser (XL)
(4) <\i>Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love)
(5) <\i>Cat Power, The Greatest (Matador)
(6) <\i>Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, The Exchange Session, Volume 1 (Domino)
(7) <\i>Cursive, Happy Hollow (Saddle Creek)
(8) <\i>Long Winters, Putting the Days to Bed (Barsuk)
(9) <\i>Boards of Canada, Trans Canada Highway (Warp)
(10) <\i>Beirut, The Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing)

•<\!s><\i>Colossal Yes, Acapulco Roughs (Ba Da Bing)
•<\!s><\i>Voxtrot’s cover of Comet Gain’s “You Can Hide Your Love Forever” from the band’s Web site
•<\!s><\i>Still Flyin’, Time Wrinkle (Antenna Farm)
•<\!s><\i>Peter Bjorn and John, Young Folks (Wichita)
•<\!s><\i>Primal Scream, Riot City Blues (Sony)
•<\!s><\i>Trainwreck Riders, Lonely Road Revival (Alive)
•<\!s><\i>The Tyde, Three’s Co. (Rough Trade)
•<\!s><\i>French Kicks, Two Thousand (Vagrant)
•<\!s><\i>Chow Nasty live
•<\!s><\i>Love Is All, Nine Times That Same Song (What’s Your Rupture)

•<\!s><\i>Matt And Kim, Cafe Du Nord, Aug. 19. They have been described as the “happy Japanther.” It’s true that both bands are duos and use minimal drums for their sing-along anthems. But Matt throws his hands in the air while he plays.
•<\!s><\i>My own birthday party, 21 Grand, July 15. Performances by Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Mirror Dash, Harry Marry, Dinky Bits, Always, Sharon Cheslow and Elise from Magic Markers. I felt like I had my own MTV Sweet Sixteen episode.
•<\!s><\i>Sonic Youth, Bill Graham Civic Center. Not only was I tripped beyond because they even played “Mote,” but I also got to drone on it! Thurston looked over when their never- ending outro started, smiled, and threw his guitar to me. They even gave me all of their leftover catering.
•<\!s><\i>7 Year Rabbit Cycle, Ache Horns (Free Porcupine). This is one of the best records that I have ever heard. It’s a shame that they never get to play live because it is one of the most powerful things that you will ever see.
•<\!s><\i>Xiu Xiu, The Air Force (5 Rue Christine). Does anyone else think the cover looks like Jamie Stewart as Jesus Christ?
•<\!s><\i>Macromantix at 12 Galaxies, November
This MC came straight from the Oz and killed the small crowd.
•<\!s><\i>Deerhoof live. Their free, download-only EP of covers and live tracks made it to the top of my iTunes for 2006. But seeing them go completely nuts under a public microscope has been so rad. Next time you see them look for the John Dieterich strut during “Flower.”
•<\!s><\i>Matmos, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast (Matador). One of the best electronic -based records to come out in years.
•<\!s><\i>High Places. It’s like the Beach Boys on more drugs. But High Places don’t do drugs. Mindfuck, right?
•<\!s><\i>Quintron and Miss Pussycat at 12 Galaxies, July 14
•<\!s><\i>Barr, “The Song Is the Single” 7-inch (PPM).
Brendan Fowler plows through an enormous amount of subjects like touring, loneliness, breaking up, pop music, and his song sucking — in a mere four minutes! The crowd left with their jaws on the floor when he premiered this at the Hemlock in July.
•<\!s><\i>Peaches live and Impeach My Bush (XL)
Peaches’ live show is on fire. She is now backed by JD (Le Tigre), Sam Mahoney (Hole) and Radio Sloan (The Need), who make up the Herms, the best backing band in rock history.

•<\!s><\i>Edith Frost. A Chicago transplant to the Bay Area — her solo opening set for Bert Jansch was casual, personal, and real. Great American Music Hall, Oct. 25.
•<\!s><\i>Jesse Hawthorne Ficks. The guy that puts all the midnight triple-bills together at the Castro. He’ll make you realize that seeing Who Made Who when you were 12 is more important than seeing Citizen Kane in college or Cassavetes in film school.
•<\!s><\i>Alice Shaw. Few artists turn the camera on themselves so consistently and keep it lighthearted and meaningful at the same time.
•<\!s><\i>Omer. The guy that plays on Valencia. Year after year he remains this city’s most dedicated, unique, sincere, bizarre, angry, chipper, crazy, and prolific performer. If you’re intertwined with music so much that you play in the rain on the street every night then you’re operating on a whole other level.
•<\!s><\i>Bert Jansch. One nice thing about the neo-folk trend is that he’s out touring and making records. At the Music Hall, he dressed like a regular old, unassuming guy and launched immediately into a song about a friend murdered by Pinochet. True folk music.
•<\!s><\i>24th Street Mini Park. The most beautiful, selfless, and innocent piece of art this city has created that I know of.
•<\!s><\i>Packard Jennings. He exposes greed, reveals hypocrisy, uncovers lies. A rebellious social commentator, this artist is totally anti-authoritarian, so we like him.
•<\!s><\i>AM Radio. Neverending home of complete insanity. Fascists, paranoid conspiracy theorists, hate mongers, xenophobes, racists, psych-babble freaks, radical religious zealots, and right-wing patriot sociopaths. Truly the theater of the absurd.
•<\!s><\i> Dark Hand Lamp Light. One of the first times I’ve seen music and visual art melting so perfectly together to tell good old-fashioned stories.
•<\!s><\i>Sister Madalene. There is no problem she cannot solve. One visit will convince you and lift you out of sorrow and darkness.

(1) <\i>Jeff Ray (founder/producer): Best show — The Knife at the Mezzanine. Best record — Dwayne Sodahberk, Cut Open (Tigerbeat 6).
(2) <\i>Jon Fellman (co-producer): Best show — Slits, T.I.T.S., and Tussle at Uptown. Best CD — Kelley Stoltz, Below the Branches (Sub Pop).
(3) <\i>Lianne Mueller (graphic designer): Best show — Beirut at Great American Music Hall. Best CD — Lambchop, Damaged (Merge).
(4) <\i>Moira Bartel (sponsorship): Best show — Cat Power at the Palace of Fine Arts.
(5) <\i>Ashley Sarver (programmer): Favorite show — Sprite Macon at Amnesia. Favorite album — Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City).
(6) <\i>Molly Merson (sponsorship): Best show — Alejandro Escovedo and Jeffrey Luck Lucas at 12 Galaxies. Favorite album — Bob Frank and John Murry, World Without End (Bowstring).
(7) <\i>Brianna Toth (publicity, programmer): Favorite show — Dead Science with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Sholi. Favorite album — Paris Hilton, Paris (WEA).
(8) <\i>Katie Vida (arts curator): Best show — Anselm Kiefer at SFMOMA. Best album: Beirut, Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing). Best man: Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006), Poet Laureate of the United States in 2000.
(9) <\i>Neil Martinson (programmer): Show — Os Mutantes at the Fillmore. Record — Winter Flowers, Winter Flowers (Attack Nine). Musical trend — Master Moth.
(10) <\i>Favorite Mission Creek show of 2006 — Silver Sunshine, Citay, Willow Willow, and Persephone’s Bees at Rickshaw Stop, May 20.
The Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival will be happening from May 10–<\d>20; go to for more information.

Eleventh-hour Christmas shopping



Last year you waited until you heard Santa’s sleigh bells ringing overhead before you started your Christmas shopping. You ended up at the corner store purchasing smokes and PBR for your friends and loved ones. You felt about as festive as warm champagne in a can.
The fact that you’re a procrastinator doesn’t mean you can’t round up some rockin’ gifts in time to scoot them under the tree. We made the rounds and found some easily accessible shops for you to hit up. Follow our lead for 11th-hour shopping, and you’ll have gifts galore without the headaches. Most of these places are open extra hours this week and are definitely open on Christmas Eve. For you real snowflakes, a few will be open even on Christmas. Careful though: some places close when the flow of shopping traffic peters out.
This recently opened, perfect postespresso stop is in the heart of North Beach. Buy a beret for your bongo-playing poet friend or a “Fuck Hate” Charles Bukowski poster for your dearest misanthrope. And where else are you going to find limited edition signed posters by the Grateful Dead and Fillmore poster artist Stanley Mouse?
540 Broadway, SF. Wed.–Sat., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Christmas, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. (415) 399-9626,
Make your cable car destination the Buena Vista, a bar and grill by the bay. Here you can sip the famous Irish coffees, then head into the gift shop, which sells Irish coffee–<\d>scented candles. Toss in a bottle of Buena Vista whiskey for a more intoxicating package.
2765 Hyde, SF. Wed.–Sat., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 474-5044,
The Castro’s hardware store isn’t just a place to buy nuts and bolts. At Cliff’s you can get everything from quality cookware and napkin rings to board games and mittens. But if someone in your life is really hankering for a power drill, you’ll find a good one here.
479 Castro, SF. Wed.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 431-5365;
Also known as “the gourmet pharmacy,” Elephant has fancy items you won’t find at Walgreens. For the powder room denizen, grab a spa kit filled with naturally scented candles, soap bars, and body butter in blood orange or Tahitian gardenia fragrances. Your ecoconscious associates will appreciate sustainably grown kitchen products such as the bamboo cutting boards and salad bowls. Creative teens will be wowed by the pinhole camera kit.
1607 Shattuck, Berk. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 8:30 a.m.–<\d>11 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 9 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m.; Christmas, 8:30 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (510) 549-9200,
Probably the coolest shop in the Mission District, Fabric8 specializes in unusual gifts made and designed by local artists. Jenn Porreca has stick-on iPod skins and small, reasonably priced paintings for sale. C. Lee Sobieski designed a washable matching dog collar and owner wrist cuff with a cute skull-and-heart motif. And DJ Romanowski’s wall of knickknacks has something for everyone.
3318 22nd St., SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>11 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas, 11 a.m.–<\d>2 p.m. (415) 647-5888,
Embracing the moderne can be quite an expensive proposition at this posh Hayes Valley housewares shop, but you can most likely afford to buy your mate some good cheer in the form of the “The Good Book,” which is actually just a hollow cover for a flask.
401 Hayes, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas Eve, noon–<\d>5 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 552-1717,
You’ll find just about anything under the exposed beams of this Bernal Heights store: picture frames, stationery, organic cotton baby jumpers, candles, and something we would all like to wipe our asses with — toilet paper printed with George W. Bush’s face and quotable remarks.
436 Cortland, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>5 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 648-1380,
You’ll have an easier time getting gifts for kids at this well-stocked downtown toy store than fighting the crowds at the not-so-near big box. Stimulate the developing brains of youth by getting Lego sets and human anatomy puzzles here. The tarot jigsaw provides some alternative spiritual guidance to Christianity, and the porcelain unicorns are just plain cute.
685 Market, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (or earlier, depending on business); Christmas, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (415) 243-8697
You’ll please collectors big and small with limited edition toys from this hipster enclave in the Haight. Little anime items such as Munny zipper pulls, a paperweight-size pile of poo known as Superduex Shikito Brown, and figurines of the band Gorillaz will all be worth a fortune some day.
1512 Haight, SF. Wed.–<\d>Fri., 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–<\d>3 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 487-9000,
This petite and stylish shop on Piedmont Avenue has gifts for the ankle biter in your life, whether it be a friend’s dog or your sister’s teething toddler. You can also find gifts for grown-ups, such as the Hostess Twinkie Cookbook and sets of self-adhesive mustaches. The handmade bike-messenger bags made with vinylized pages of the New York and Los Angeles Times are a real find.
3820 Piedmont, Oakl. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 10:30 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10:30 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (510) 428-9638
You can’t beat the hours at this emporium of gifts in Chinatown. Many of the store’s bagatelles come in beautiful silks: totes and wallets, lanterns and pillows, kimonos for him and her. It also specializes in iron tea sets and houses a large jewelry section.
826-832 Grant, SF. Open Wed.–<\d>Mon., 10 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m. (415) 982-9847,
Keep the people you’re closest to smelling good. This West Portal store has one of the best soap and bath product selections in town.
44 W. Portal, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 9 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 9 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 759-7487
After visiting the sea lions and taking a spin on the carousel, you can get a gift that doesn’t say “I Went to Pier 39 on Christmas Eve and All I Got You Was This Lousy Alcatraz T-shirt.” Poster Source has movie posters, scenic shots, fine art and photography prints, and sports cars pics to accommodate everyone’s decorative tastes.
Pier 39, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 10 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m.; Christmas, call for hours. (415) 433-1995
The Mission District retailer has cozy sweaters, handsome leather-band watches, and purses in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices. For that special headbanger in your life, pick up the Metallica book Nothing Else Matters: The Stories behind the Songs.
541 Valencia, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 11 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>10:30 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>9:30 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 861-6213
One way to really take the edge off Christmas shopping is to have a drink first. Enjoy a pour at the Ferry Building’s Wine Merchant, then point yourself directly toward the “Great Wines for under $20” section. You’ll find everything from fussy California pinot noirs to fruity Belgian and German whites. Spending more than $150 entitles you to free delivery.
Ferry Bldg., stall 23, Embarcadero and Market, SF. Wed., 10 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Thurs.–<\d>Fri., 10 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–<\d> 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 391-9460,<\!s>SFBG
Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman and Laura McCaul did research for this story.

Girl talk


The Gossip’s first show of 2006 in San Francisco wasn’t as likely to get tongues clacking as one I saw several years previously, the night mod, bobbed fireball Beth Ditto pulled a cute, bare-skulled baby dyke from the audience to twist and grind to the tune of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” But on Jan. 27 the mixed queer-straight crowd was yelling just as loud anyway, singing along like budding blues shouters and bopping up and down atop broken glass as a long-haired Ditto wailed through the sweat streaming down her face, swayed us and slayed us. Her best friend during her Alabama school days, Nathan Howdeshell, tugged as many sharp, shocked punk-blues lines out of his guitar as he could while drummer Hannah Blilie pounded home Ditto’s words: you’re standing in the way of control.
Control … undergarments? In women’s circles, control can be such a dirty word, but self-described fat activist Ditto would probably differ and describe it instead as a cry for seizing power, calling for a new team after half a decade of Republican-dominated government.
According to the US Senate Web site, 1992 was the year of the woman — the first time four women (Barbara Boxer, Carol Moseley Braun, Dianne Feinstein, and Patty Murray) were elected to the Senate in a single election year, following the highly combustible Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. The sight of an all-white male committee laying into law professor Anita Hill apparently led many to question the dearth of female senators. I’m sure some powers-that-be would rather that be the sole “year of the woman,” officially mandated by the federal government. But for me, 2006 could have just as easily have fit that descriptor. Even if we didn’t spend its closing month fussing over celeb thunderwear.
This year began with the typically fire-starting “say, ah-women, somebody” salutations of Ditto at Bottom of the Hill and continued through the strong musical showings of local all-female combos Erase Errata and T.I.T.S., the splashy emergence of girl bands such as Mika Miko and Cansei de Ser Sexy, and the newly revived ESG and Slits, which proved to be some of the most exciting musical reunions of 2006. In the fourth quarter, life seemed to rhyme with art, as Nancy Pelosi assumed her role as the first female House speaker and leaders such as Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa, entered the picture. As 2006 ends with five Grammy nominations for the Dixie Chicks and the girl-group-loving gloss of Dreamgirls, the pendulum of public favor seems to be swinging toward the double–X chromosome side of the block. We’re not even counting the onslaught of Latin pop princesses à la Shakira and Nelly Furtado, reading into Beyoncé’s strident awakening on B’Day (Dreamgirls probably hit a little too close to home for destiny’s chosen child), and paying heed to the escapist serenade of Gwen Stefani. Could feminism be in again?
Perhaps — because you can smell the stirrings of discontent and brewing backlash in the winter wind. The demise of fem-firebrand groups like Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre foregrounded the question “Is the all-girl band dead?” — as the latter’s Kathleen Hanna complained about not getting radio and MTV play on the basis of gender. How else to explain complaints of pretension surrounding the release of Joanna Newsom’s Ys and the fact that the biggest gossip of the year — talked up louder than the Gossip’s Ditto — came in the form of the pantyless pop-tart triad of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan? Even TV’s would-be feminists tut-tutted about the trio’s shaved, bared crotch shots, proliferating online like so many revamped, vamped-up NC-17 Hollywood Babylons and Celebrity Sleuths. Is the image of pop stars flashing cameras news? No, but then most of us never actually saw Jim Morrison’s lizard king or GG Allin’s scabs. Spears’s career was built on the promise of pubescent sex — how does that change when her paycheck is splashed all over workplace monitors? What is celebrity when the highly controlled PR mechanism breaks down and the most intimate component of fame, tabloid poonanny, is served up, C-section and all, in a bucket seat?
So as pop’s eternal girls go wild and skip the thong song and we muse over whether Pelosi and company’s new roles could be the best thing to ever happen to Dubya, especially if he aims to avoid impeachment (mainstream media hand-wringing over frosh Demo centrists possibly going wild is disingenuous — does anyone really expect Pelosi to be as much a partisan pit bull as Newt Gingrich?), we have to wonder how we might transform this turning point, the second (or third or fourth, etc.) coming of the Woman, into something greater than the sum of its disparate, far-flung, all-girl band parts. It’s tempting — and perhaps nutty — to draw rough, symbolic comparisons between the national discussion around Hillary Clinton’s and Barak Obama’s possible presidential runs and the Bay Area’s most arresting musical developments in 2006: the insurgent interest surrounding all-female bands and the buzzy rise of Bay hip-hop and hyphy. Is it time to lay siege to the turf of the Man. Even the oldest schoolee in rock’s girls academy, Joan Jett, can point to Broadcast Data Systems statistics on how more than 90 percent of the songs played on rock or alternative radio are still by men. “It’s institutional, and I’m not quite sure where to attack it,” Jett told me this fall. “Except with the audiences. The audiences forced stations to play ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll.’ So we got to get to that place.”
That place — my space or yours — is wherever women (and men) put together bands to make their own “user-generated content,” as a social networking site might dub it, or “art,” as I prefer to call it, and find the will to take control. Of how they sound and how they get their music out. For a sample overview of that cutting edge, see Chicks on Speed’s recent sprawling triple-CD comp, Girl Monster, Volume 1, with tracks by artists ranging from Kevin Blechdom, the Raincoats, Tina Weymouth, and Boyskout to Pulsallama, Cobra Killer, LiliPUT, and Throbbing Gristle’s Cosey Fanni Tutti. Rewrite musical history and promise you’ll be on volume two. SFBG
•Folk talk: Bonnie “Prince” Billy, The Letting Go (Drag City); Beirut, The Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing); Joanna Newsom, Ys (Drag City)
•Hot rock: Awesome Color, Awesome Color (Ecstatic Peace); Erase Errata, Nightlife (Kill Rock Stars); Snowglobe, Doing the Distance (Makeshift); Om, Conference of the Birds (Holy Mountain)
•Interstellar explorers: Akron/Family, Meek Warrior (Young God); OOIOO, Taiga (Thrill Jockey); Grouper, Wide (Free Porcupine); White Magic, Dat Rosa Mel Apibus (Drag City)
•Live, with love: 7 Year Rabbit Cycle, Coughs, Citay, Gossip, Sonic Youth and Mirror Dash, Neil Hagerty, Flaming Lips, Liars, Radiohead, Grizzly Bear
•Odds and ends: Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards (Anti-); Marisa Monte, Universo ao Meu Redor (Blue Note); Girl Monster, Volume 1 (Chicks on Speed); Art of Field Recording: 50 Years of Traditional Music Documented by Art Rosenbaum (Dust-to-Digital)
•Party jams: Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Arista); Girl Talk, Night Ripper (Illegal Art); Beck, The Information (Interscope); the Knife, Silent Shout (Rabid)
•Pop nostalgists: Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country (Merge); Pelle Carlberg, Everything Now! (Twentyseven); Essex Green, Cannibal Sea (Merge); Pascal, Dear Sir (Le Grand Magistery)
•Solo mio: Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-); Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You (Anti-); Thom Yorke, The Eraser (XL)
•Reissue korner: Cluster; Karen Dalton; Delta 5; ESG; Ruthann Friedman; Jesus and Mary Chain; Milton Nascimento; Ike Yard; What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (1967–1977) (Rhino)

Crash and burn


To read Stephen Beachy’s take on Anselm Kiefer, “All That Heaven and Earth Allow,” click here.)

REVIEW You could go into “Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth” looking for a rush of monumental drama and cosmic philosophizing, for German guilt writ large, and for abnormal feats of technical skill. Or you could go in looking, as I did, for laughs.
Well, not laughs exactly, but at least a little humor. Would it be too much to ask, amid all the clumps of blond hay representing Jewish hair, split-open staircases leading into Rosicrucian limbo, and stick-thin pogrom graves shaped like ancient runes on Kiefer’s canvases — not to mention the literal deadweight of his giant lead sculptures — for an occasional wry smile to shine through? The artist’s work as presented here is the endgame embodiment of Sturm und Drang — thunderous metaphors crashing into lightning-streaked enormity — but once the viewer’s sheer awe wears off and there’s only beauty to contend with, Kiefer begins to look like a bit of a one-trick pony. (How to make a Kiefer: Stick an M-80 up Joseph Beuys’s ass. Explode onto nearest 15-foot canvas. Add a pair of antlers, scratch “Holy Ghost” and some numerals onto a clump of painted birch bark, and voilà — instant mysticism.)
So besides the blockbuster romanticism and genius overlay of German postwar themes onto the work of that other wizard of industrial spirituality, Antoni Tàpies, what else is there? Certainly not subtlety — for a small dose of that in the same key, rent Wim Wenders’s film Wings of Desire. But lack of subtlety may be a symptom of the grand themes Kiefer saddles himself with. It must be tough to be a German artist. Props to Kiefer for confronting the nightmares of his country’s past and throwing them in our faces. And props again for exerting superhuman artistic strength to create vibrant icons of arcane spirituality.
But those two impulses aren’t always compatible. In fact, they’re pretty antagonistic (wasn’t it the whole superhuman ideology thing that led to the Holocaust?), and what we’re left with is an innate contradiction that tears Kiefer’s grandiose postures apart without the humane buzz of resonance that such contradictions launch in other artists’ works. In attempting to synthesize the entire world into an “as above, so below” set of equations (every point in heaven has a monument on earth) while trying to reconcile with his country’s ghosts, Kiefer paints himself into a melodramatic corner. The empty gothic building with flames running along its wooden floor in his painting Quaternity (1973) could be the brick-making factory of his youth, could be the Jew-burning furnaces of the Bible, could be Bergen-Belsen, could be Valhalla, could be hell, could be heaven. Guess what? It’s all of those. But not much more.
To avoid such results, other German artists have opened up their metaphoric palette to include either humor (Sigmar Polke’s daffy takes on Germany’s garish postwar commercial culture) or sly abstraction (Gerhard Richter’s Lesende manages to trump all of Kiefer’s stabs at spirituality by painstakingly rendering a shaft of light falling on a reading girl’s neck). Current wunderkind Neo Rauch does both in his ’50s sci fi–<\d>meets–<\d>Diego Velázquez canvases. Comparing artists by nationality is lame — and maybe one of Kiefer’s points is that art offers no way out — but c’mon, man, could he be more stereotypically heavy German?
Here and there, Kiefer does deliver some insightful chuckles. Those dried sunflower seeds raining down on a gouache vortex could be a play on Vincent van Gogh. The lethal-looking sculptures of enormous books fanned out and standing on their spines might be a nod to Richard Serra (sure enough, Serra’s Gutter Corner Splash: Night Shift [1969, 1995], which looks like what would happen if one of those books fell down, is at the end of the exhibition). That broken motherboard at the top of a ziggurat is kind of funny. So is the smashed toilet bowl signifying the biblical breaking of the vessels.
All mildly amusing, but nothing compared to the moment when, while taking notes near a ginormous lead-plated canvas, I was told by a security guard that I couldn’t use a pen in the galleries. Too risky near the art, he said, and handed me a pencil. Sure, pencils are made of graphite now, but I still fell out over the irony. Which spurred me to consider that maybe Kiefer’s having the last laugh after all — the crowds thronging his show had been breathing in lead dust the whole time. The afterlife may be nearer than we think.

Failure, so thrive


› a&
“Ever heard of Wisconsin Death Trip?” Jacob Heule asks. Ettrick’s alto sax–playing half and I are in my living room discussing the rigors of life in the Midwest as they pertain to the metal-listening youth of today. Heule, a Wisconsin native, has jokingly — or maybe not so jokingly — cited Michael Lesy’s book about the disintegration of the 19th-century town Black River Falls as we make loose connections between freezing cold weather, insanity, and locales that death metal and its fans call home. He’s certain of one thing: “Black metal is the perfect stuff when you don’t feel like a human anymore. When I was a receptionist at a medical center, I got really into it because I just felt terrible about certain things. It was a dehumanizing job. Cold, bleak black metal — I could relate to it.”
Ettrick are indeed a black metal duo, and their music harbors the telltale signs: ferocious blast-beats, gargantuan expanses of pitch-black noise, and drums like a self-propelled howitzer gone berserk. They also happen to be a free-jazz pairing as well, in which Heule and partner Jay Korber, both drummers and saxophonists, rotate between the two instruments to create a grueling improvisational skronk. A well-circulated YouTube video featuring their collaboration with Weasel Walter reveals a dimly lit scene of busted drum kits with the bleating screams of Korber’s tenor sax piercing the deafening cloud of beats raining down from the stage. For all its grandiose chaos, however, the players never lose track of each other in the din. Heule credits this to time spent practicing. “It’s difficult to improvise, but it’s a skill that you can work on,” he says. “We have developed certain patterns that we call on sometimes, but we don’t really discuss things ahead of time. We realized that it sounds a lot better if we don’t.”
Ettrick’s beginnings hark back to 2004, when Heule was looking to sublet his practice space and Korber answered his ad. Korber — a Pittsburgh native who shares his bandmate’s love of brutal music and calls Immortal’s Battles in the North “one of the best black metal albums ever made” — had coincidentally been playing sax for a few years as well. (Heule has played the instrument since age 10.) As it turned out, they were even recording Ettrick-style music independent of one another. “We both had recordings that we had made of ourselves, overdubbing all the instruments onto each other, drums and sax, but we were doing it all ourselves,” Heule explains with a laugh. “So then we found the ‘other guy.’ We could play live now!”
A year and a half later, Ettrick recorded their first self-released album, Infinite Horned Abomination, in their practice space. Though starkly minimalist (doom-laden atmospherics are largely restricted to the first track), Infinite Horned Abomination hints at the separate yet intertwined paths Heule and Korber have forged. Their second disc, Sudden Arrhythmic Death (American Grizzly, 2006), is an absolute must-have, a 15-minute live session recorded in Portland, Ore., that begins as an achingly radiant saxophone duet before it explodes into a maniacal barrage of beats that push the eardrum till white noise is the only sense the brain can make. It concludes with Ettrick’s signature: bloodcurdling screams and the sound of drum kits being destroyed.
Heule muses on the carnage during their recent tour: “The last show in LA was pretty destructive. I broke my snare stand in half. I dropped my kick drum. I wasn’t really thinking about what it would break if I just picked it up and dropped it.”
Korber amassed similar injuries, breaking both heads on his snare drum. He confesses that his sax is “a piece of shit to begin with” and is sure that his other band, Sergio Iglesias and the Latin Love Machine, isn’t helping matters: “Last time [Sergio played] I rolled over it a couple times.”
The improv community in the Bay Area is a tightly intermingled mass of weeds that entangles every act in its path. Ettrick are no exception, having collaborated not only with the aforementioned Weasel Walter but also with Moe! Staiano (Moe!kestra!, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), Mike Guarino of Oaxacan, and most recently, Tralphaz, a one-person pedal feedback assault.
Tralphaz embodies what Heule enjoys most about their chosen genre. “One of my favorite things seeing improvisers play is when things just start going totally wrong, and they bring it back,” says the saxophonist. “I’ve seen Tralphaz do that a couple of times.”
Ettrick follow that lead, constantly pushing their black cloud of noise into failure’s clutches. They hope to tempt even more sonic dissolution with their forthcoming album, Feeders of Ravens (Not Not Fun), which will be released on vinyl in early 2007. Korber is matter-of-fact about the strategy. “There’s always a chance that it’s going to fail,” he confesses.
Heule nods. “That’s one of the best reasons to do it.” SFBG
With darph/nader and Ant Lion
Luggage Store
1007 Market, SF
Call for time and price
(415) 255-9171



Nov. 25


Diamano Coura West African Dance Company

In the Senegalese language Wolof, diamano coura means “those who bring the message.” For more than three decades that’s exactly what Oakland’s Diamano Coura West African Dance Company has been doing, through performances, lectures, and youth programs. Codirectors Zak and Naomi Diouf prize culture over entertainment – rather than present a vision of dance that is separate from other arts, they emphasize that singing and polyrhythmic movement can be vital presences within everyday life. This year’s annual repertory show manifests African dance’s past, present, and future. (Johnny Ray Huston)

8 p.m. (also Sun/26, 3 p.m.)
Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts
1428 Alice, Oakl.
(510) 733-1077


West African Highlife Band

While a lot of African music is mainly rhythm driven, highlife is largely melodic, incorporating jazzy horns and intricate yet laid-back guitar lines. The West African Highlife Band is a veritable all-star group of musicians who have been a crucial part of the West African scene for decades, touring and recording with greats such as Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, and King Sunny Ade. Come at 9 p.m. for an African dance lesson with Comfort Mensah. (Aaron Sankin)

9:30 p.m.
1317 San Pablo, Berk.
$15 general, $12 student
(510) 525-5054



One of the most extraordinary products of recent Fillmore history is Messy Marv, a rapper whose life reflects the neighborhood’s struggle with a half century of urban renewal and the ’80s-era introduction of crack into America’s ghettos. In 1996, when he was still in 10th grade, he released his first album, Messy Situations (Ammo). Though it sold around 15,000 units, Mess admits he didn’t take music seriously at first.
“I dropped out of high school due to family issues,” he says. “I had to grow up real fast and do the man thing, but I started doin’ the street thing.”
Nonetheless, Mess’s rap reputation grew, and in 1997 he hooked up with San Quinn to record Explosive Mode (Presidential, 1998), which has sold more than 50,000 copies. “There was a lot of hype around the hood about how he was better than me or I was better than him,” Mess says. “We decided to come together, and we made a classic.”
“At that time, I was really on the street, living outta cars, doing real bad things,” he recalls. “So Quinn and his mom took me in.”
Despite his success when few in the Bay were moving many units, Mess was unable to leave the dope game, partly due to his own addiction. “I inherited a cocaine habit,” the rapper says. “I been clean for a while, but I had a really bad habit. All I can say is ‘Say no to drugs.’” Though he won’t go into details, Mess confirms his triple life as rapper, dealer, and user came to a head one night at an out-of-state show in 2001, when he was forced to jump out a fourth-floor window. “I broke both of my legs, crushed my left foot, lost a lot of blood,” Mess says. “I was in a wheelchair for six months. The doctors said I’d never walk again.”
“It gave me a whole new respect for handicapped people. I was doing shows in my wheelchair, and I rocked the whole crowd. It was a hell of a feeling that they still accepted me,” he says. “That gave me the strength to get up and walk. I learned how to walk all over again, by myself, in four months. After that I decided it was time to go somewhere else with my life.”
As if to atone for time lost, Messy Marv has since pursued his talent with a vengeance, recording a slew of projects for his own label, Scalen LLC, and labels such as Frisco Street Show, which released a reunion with Quinn, Explosive Mode 2: “Back in Business” (2006), and just dropped Explosive Mode 3 with Husalah and Jacka. In 2004, Mess inked a distribution deal for Scalen through Universal/Fontana, helping him move more than 20,000 copies each of Disobayish (2004) and Bandannas, Tattoos and Tongue Rings (2005). While he spent much of 2005 in county jail on a weapons violation, he still managed to score one of the big radio hits of the hyphy movement, “Get on My Hype,” produced by Droop-E. Most recently, he’s been on MTV and other airwaves with the E-A-Ski- and CMT-produced “So Hood,” from The Infrastructure (SMC), his album with Hunters Point rapper Guce, released under the name Bullys Wit Fullys. A self-conscious bid to end hood rivalry between the ’Moe and HP, the Infrastructure project shows Mess’s awareness of the power of his position as a role model even as he continues to spit with the most defiant swagger of any rapper in the Bay.
While Mess admits he has major deals on the table and plans to release the first of a two-volume opus titled What You Know about Me? in December, he also intends to retire thereafter in a nonbinding Jay-Z sort of way in order to concentrate on the younger acts on his label. This intention seems characteristic of the true spirit of the Fillmore as well as an acknowledgment that despite his youth, Messy Marv has already written a chapter in the district’s history. (Garrett Caples)

The other home of Bay hip-hop


› a&
If you don’t know about the Filthy ’Moe
It’s time I let real game unfold….
Messy Marv, “True to the Game”
I meet Big Rich on the corner of Laguna and Grove streets, near the heart of the Fillmore District according to its traditional boundaries of Van Ness and Fillmore, although the hood actually extends as far west as Divisadero. “Me personally,” the 24-year-old rapper and lifelong ’Moe resident confesses, “I don’t be sticking my head out too much. But I make sure I bring every photo session or interview right here.”
At the moment he’s taping a segment for an upcoming DVD by the Demolition Men, who released his mixtape Block Tested Hood Approved in April. Since then, the former member of the San Quinn–affiliated group Fully Loaded has created a major buzz thanks in part to the snazzy video for “That’s the Business,” his E-A-Ski- and CMT-produced single, which was the Jam of the Week in August on MTV2 and added to straight-up MTV in time for the Oct. 3 release of the Koch full-length Block Tested Hood Approved. (Originally titled Fillmore Rich, the album was renamed to capitalize on the mixtape-generated hype.)
Presented by E-40 and featuring Rich’s dope in-house producer Mal Amazin in addition to heavyweights such as Sean-T, Rick Rock, and Droop-E, BTHA is a deep contribution to the rising tide of Bay Area hip-hop. While Big Rich’s gruff baritone delivery and gritty street tales make his music more mobster than hyphy, the album is not unaffected by the latter style’s up-tempo bounce, helping the movement hold national attention during this season of anticipation before Mistah FAB’s major-label debut on Atlantic. “I don’t necessarily make hyphy music,” Rich says. “But I definitely condone it. As long as the spotlight is on the Bay, I’m cool with it.” Coming near the end of a year that has seen landmark albums from San Quinn, Messy Marv, Will Hen, and fellow Fully Loaded member Bailey — not to mention JT the Bigga Figga’s high-profile tour with Snoop Dogg, which has taken hyphy all the way to Africa — Rich’s solo debut is one more indication of the historic district’s importance to the vitality of local hip-hop and Bay Area culture in general.
The Fillmore is a community under siege, facing external and internal pressures. On the one hand, gentrification — in the form of high-end shops and restaurants serving tourists, Pacific Heights residents, and an increasingly affluent demographic creeping into the area — continues to erode the neighborhood’s edges. “If you grew up in the Fillmore, you can see Pacific Heights has crept down the hill, closer to the ghetto,” says Hen, who as a member of multiregional group the Product (assembled by Houston legend Scarface) moved more than 60,000 copies of its recent “thug conscious” debut, One Hunid (Koch). “Ten years ago there were more boundaries. But the Fillmore’s prime location, and I’m not asleep to this fact. We’re five minutes away from everything in the city. That has to play a role in the way the district is represented in a city that makes so much off tourism. You might not want your city portrayed as gangsta, even though it is.”
Hen has a point. The notion of San Francisco as gangsta is somewhat at odds with the way the city perceives itself. As an Oakland writer, I can attest to this, for even in San Francisco’s progressive artistic and intellectual circles, Oakland is usually understood to be beyond the pale in terms of danger and violence. Yet none of the Oakland rappers I’ve met talk about their hoods in quite the same way Fillmore rappers do, at least when it comes to their personal safety. As Big Rich films his section of the DVD, for example, he remarks on the continual stream of police cruisers circling the block.
“They slowed it down,” he says. “Now they only come every 90 seconds. Right around here is murder central — people be shooting each other every night. By 7 o’clock, we all gotta disperse, unless you want to get caught in the cross fire.” He waves his hands in mock terror. “I ain’t trying to die tonight!”
Though Rich is clowning, his statement is perfectly serious — indiscriminate gunfire among gang members, often in their early teens, makes nocturnal loitering a risky proposition at best. As of September, according to the San Francisco Police Department’s Web site, the Northern Police District, which includes the Fillmore, had the city’s second highest number of murders this year, 11, ceding first place only to the much larger Bayview’s 22. For overall criminal incidents, the Northern District led the city, at more than 10,000 so far.
Though Fillmore rappers might be given to stressing the danger of their hood, insofar as such themes constitute much of hip-hop’s subject matter and they feel the need to refute the city’s nongangsta image, no one I spoke to seemed to be boasting. They sounded sad. Hen, for example, reported that he’d been to three funerals in October, saying, “You hardly have time to mourn for one person before you have to mourn for the next person.” While the SFPD’s Public Affairs Office didn’t return phone calls seeking corroboration, both Rich and Hen indicate the neighborhood is suffering from an alarming amount of black-on-black violence.
“Basically, it’s genocide. We’re going to destroy each other,” Hen says. “It used to be crosstown rivalries rather than in your backyard. Now there’s more of that going on. If you get into it at age 15, the funk is already there. Whoever your crew is funking with, you’re in on it.” The ongoing cycle of drug-related violence — the Fillmore’s chief internal pressure — has only ramped up under the Bush administration’s regressive economic policies. It’s a fact not lost on these rappers: as Rich puts it succinctly on BTHA, “Bush don’t give a fuck about a nigga from the hood.”
“Everybody’s broke. That’s why everybody’s busting each other’s heads,” explains Rich, who lost his older brother to gun violence several years ago. “If you don’t know where your next dollar’s coming from …”
To be sure, the rappers give back to the Fillmore. They support large crews of often otherwise unemployable youth, and Messy Marv, for example, has been known to hand out turkeys for Thanksgiving and bikes for Christmas. But Bay Area rap is only just getting back on its feet, and while the rappers can ameliorate life in the Fillmore’s housing projects, they don’t have the means to dispel the climate of desperation in a hood surrounded by one of the most expensive cities on earth. Moreover, they are acutely aware of the disconnect between their community and the rest of the city, which trades on its cultural cachet.
“It’s like two different worlds,” Hen muses. “You have people sitting outside drinking coffee right in the middle of the killing fields. They’re totally safe, but if I walk over there, I might get shot at. But the neighborhood is too proud for us to be dying at the hands of each other.”
The neighborhood pride Will Hen invokes is palpable among Fillmore rappers. “I get a warm feeling when I’m here,” Messy Marv says. “The killing, you can’t just say that’s Fillmore. That’s everywhere. When you talk about Fillmore, you got to go back to the roots. Fillmore was a warm, jazzy African American place where you could come and dance, drink, have fun, and be you.”
Mess is right on all counts. Lest anyone think I misrepresent Oaktown: the citywide number of murders in Oakland has already topped 120 this year. But my concern here is with the perceived lack of continuity Mess suggests between the culture of the Fillmore then and now. By the early 1940s, the Fillmore had developed into a multicultural neighborhood including the then-largest Japanese population in the United States. In 1942, when FDR sent West Coast citizens of Japanese origin to internment camps, their vacated homes were largely filled by African Americans from the South, attracted by work in the shipyards. While the district had its first black nightclub by 1933, the wartime boom transformed the Fillmore into a major music center.
“In less than a decade, San Francisco’s African American population went from under 5,000 to almost 50,000,” according to Elizabeth Pepin, coauthor of the recent history of Fillmore jazz Harlem of the West (Chronicle). “The sheer increase in number of African Americans in the neighborhood made the music scene explode.”
Though known as a black neighborhood, Pepin says, the Fillmore “was still pretty diverse” and even now retains vestiges of its multicultural history. Japantown persists, though much diminished, and Big Rich himself is half Chinese, making him the second Chinese American rapper of note. “My mother’s parents couldn’t speak a lick of English,” he says. “But she was real urban, real street. I wasn’t brought up in a traditional Chinese family, but I embrace it and I get along with my other side.” Nonetheless, Pepin notes, the massive urban renewal project that destroyed the Fillmore’s iconic jazz scene by the late ’60s effectively curtailed its diversity, as did the introduction of barrackslike public housing projects.
The postwar jazz scene, of course, is the main source of nostalgia tapped by the Fillmore Merchants Association (FMA). Talk of a musical revival refers solely to the establishment of upscale clubs — Yoshi’s, for example, is scheduled to open next year at Fillmore and Eddy — offering music that arguably is no longer organically connected to the neighborhood. In a brief phone interview, Gus Harput, president of the FMA’s Jazz Preservation District, insisted the organization would “love” to open a hip-hop venue, although he sidestepped further inquiries. (Known for its hip-hop shows, Justice League at 628 Divisadero closed around 2003 following a 2001 shooting death at a San Quinn performance and was later replaced by the Independent, which occasionally books rap.) The hood’s hip-hop activity might be too recent and fall outside the bounds of jazz, yet nowhere in the organization’s online Fillmore history ( is there an acknowledgement of the MTV-level rap scene down the street.
Yet the raucous 1949 Fillmore that Jack Kerouac depicts in his 1957 book, On the Road — replete with protohyphy blues shouters like Lampshade bellowing such advice as “Don’t die to go to heaven, start in on Doctor Pepper and end up on whisky!” — sounds less like the area’s simulated jazz revival and more like the community’s present-day hip-hop descendants.
How could it be otherwise? The aesthetics have changed, but the Fillmore’s musical genius has clearly resided in rap since Rappin’ 4Tay debuted on Too $hort’s Life Is … Too $hort (Jive, 1989), producer-MC JT the Bigga Figga brought out the Get Low Playaz, and a teenage San Quinn dropped his classic debut, Don’t Cross Me (Get Low, 1993). While there may not be one definitive Fillmore hip-hop style, given that successful rappers tend to work with successful producers across the Bay regardless of hood, Messy Marv asserts the ’Moe was crucial to the development of the hyphy movement: “JT the Bigga Figga was the first dude who came with the high-energy sound. He was ahead of his time. I’m not taking nothing away from Oakland, Vallejo, or Richmond. I’m just letting you know what I know.”
In many ways the don of the ’Moe, San Quinn — reaffirming his status earlier this year with The Rock (SMC), featuring his own Ski- and CMT-produced smash, “Hell Ya” — could be said to typify a specifically Fillmore rap style, in which the flow is disguised as a strident holler reminiscent of blues shouting. While both Messy Marv and Big Rich share affinities with this delivery, Will Hen, for instance, and Quinn’s brother Bailey — whose Champ Bailey (City Boyz, 2006) yielded the MTV and radio success “U C It” — favor a smoother, more rapid-fire patter.
What is most striking here is that, with the exception of fellow traveler Messy Marv (see sidebar), all of these artists, as well as recent signee to the Game’s Black Wall Street label, Ya Boy, came up in the ’90s on San Quinn’s influential Done Deal Entertainment. Until roughly two years ago, they were all one crew. While working on his upcoming eighth solo album, From a Boy to a Man, for his revamped imprint, Deal Done, Quinn paused for a moment to take justifiable pride in his protégés, who now constitute the Fillmore’s hottest acts.
“I create monsters, know what I’m saying?” Quinn says. “Done Deal feeds off each other; that’s why I’m so proud of Bailey and Rich. We all come out the same house. There’s a real level of excellence, and the world has yet to see it. Right now it seems like we’re separate, but we’re not. We’re just pulling from different angles for the same common goal.”
“We all one,” Quinn concludes, in a statement that could serve as a motto for neighborhood unity. “Fillmoe business is Fillmoe business.” SFBG

Dogmeat, Nazi Hillbillies from Paraguay, and The End of Time: The Vice Guide to Travel Makes Rick Steves Look Like a Big Pussy


Provocative intern Justin Juul weighs in with a seethingly envious assessment of the latest creation belched forth from the land of Vice:


I wish I had more hands — and the ability to lie through my teeth — so I could give this travel DVD from Vice magazine four thumbs down. These jerk-offs are just too much, man. First they took a crappy Canadian ‘zine and turned it into a pop-culture phenomenon, and then, instead of selling out to the highest bidder, they reinvested their money into other creative outlets. They now have a monopoly on “cool,” with a record label, clothing line, and flawlessly designed website constantly reminding the rest of us how uncool we are in comparison. As if all this weren’t enough, the founders of the Vice empire have recently decided to change their image completely. Their publication, once easily ridiculed as a tragically hip fashion catalog masquerading as a subversive youth culture magazine, has suddenly morphed into a monthly ethnographic study of obscure subcultures with art, music, and fashion coverage thrown in as an afterthought. Those Vice fuckers are always one step ahead of the rest of us — and for that they suck — but put your jealousy aside and check out their newest venture.