Amy Char

All the buzz: a report from CoffeeCon San Francisco


Whether your caffeinated allegiances lie with Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, or a non-coffee drink, CoffeeCon San Francisco offered something to appeal to everyone’s cravings on July 26. Venturing out of Chicago for the first time, the consumer coffee festival boasted a multitude of roasters — many of them local and therefore well-acquainted with using glorious Hetch Hetchy water in the brewing process — and a wide variety of presentations to intrigue both casual coffee drinkers and connoisseurs. Plus, unlimited coffee samples!

One of CoffeeCon’s immediate strengths was its venue. A far cry from a sterilized, gray environment, the event took place at Terra Gallery & Event Venue, a SOMA art gallery. Paintings and coffee naturally complement each other, and within minutes, it felt like a laid-back Saturday morning, where I admired colorful, contemporary paintings while sipping rich, appropriately bitter coffee. The only way for the event organizers to improve future venues is to recreate the feelings of a cozy coffee shop, which it seems like they made a crack at with the abundant comfy couches. However, I was a little disappointed to see that the live music, which was promised on CoffeeCon’s website to “add atmosphere,” was absent, although I suppose that gives it something to improve on next year.

While I was impressed by the roundup of some of SF’s more recognizable coffee brands and enjoyed their samples, I gravitated more toward more unconventional participants — ones that technically didn’t even sell coffee. Drawn in by the wafels and the company’s clever name, my first stop was Rip van Wafels. Stroopwafels are heavenly, although I’ve always been too impatient and scarfed them down before I could pair them with coffee. There are two main strategies to tackle the combo: you can either one, place the wafel on the edge of the coffee cup, let the steam from the drink infuse the wafel’s caramel flavor, and eat it once the wafel droops or two, say “fuck it” and just dunk the wafel in the coffee. 

In addition to Rip van Wafels, I was a big fan of Project Juice and Torani — all three of which are local companies. I did a double take when I walked past Project Juice’s booth; it seemed just a little out of place at a coffee festival. My hesitation quickly waned. The company sells organic, cold-pressed drinks, including a tasty, healthy coffee alternative: Get Up and Go-Go (claiming to be 67 percent less acidic than normal coffee), which is incidentally made with another one of its drinks, Almond Mylk. The other drinks were just as delicious, although I didn’t expect the ginger to pack such a punch. Torani was a breath of fresh air on the unusually hot SF summer day. The booth served iced coffee with liberal additions of its flavored syrups — vanilla is a popular, traditional favorite, but the s’mores syrup is a tempting flavor that recalls childhood summers.

Though the upper level of the gallery was a perfect setup for the booths, the lower level was much less suited to handle the presentations. Essentially, the lower level is divided into two rooms of similar size. A handful of presentations simultaneously went on in the first room, which was divided into curtained subsections. It was a cacophony; I’d strain to hear my speaker over the presentations happening mere feet away and the louder speaker in the other room, who had the privilege of using a microphone. 

Still, I managed to clearly hear one poignant comment Helen Russell, co-founder and CEO of Equator Coffee & Teas, made: “It’s more than just what’s in the bag.” Russell spoke about social and economic responsibility, telling a heartwarming story about a little girl with a debilitating leg infection she met on a Panama coffee farm. She invested in the girl’s medical treatment and education, and even bought her a horse named Barista (because why not?) Maybe there’s more to coffee than just being a life-restoring elixir in the morning.

More reviews from the SF Jewish Film Festival


If Instagram is anything to go by (read: it’s not), anyone can make a short film — just slap a filter on it and call it a day! Thankfully, the protagonists in Anywhere Else and Swim Little Fish Swim, two films featured in the 38th annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, work on creative projects that can pull their own weight — sans filters — even if the length exceeds 15 seconds from the sidelines. Short DIY clips, not integral to the plotlines, are interspersed throughout of each film and are a breath of fresh air, even if the overall film itself is a hit or a miss.

If you’re lucky enough to call yourself multilingual, you may have noticed that your personality seems to change when you speak in a different language (level of inebriation aside). With all these factors in mind, the odds of being misunderstood by others increase. This very notion permeates Anywhere Else, Ester Amrami’s first film — literally, as Noa (Neta Riskin), an Israeli graduate student in Berlin, gets her video project (documenting explanations of rich, untranslatable words in foreign languages) shot down by her advisor. 

Viewers, intrigued by linguistics or not, will have no trouble following the intricacies that accompany dialogue in the film, whether it’s in German, Hebrew, Yiddish, or English. At the same time, Noa unsuccessfully yearns for the security of “home” in both Germany and Israel. An impromptu trip back to Israel doesn’t help much, especially when her boyfriend Jörg (Golo Euler) visits. The film also tackles weighty issues such as disapproval of Noa and Jörg’s relationship (Noa’s grandmother lost her entire family in the Holocaust) and Noa’s brother’s unease about being a member of the Israeli army. 

Contrary to what Noa’s advisor thinks, untranslatable words are perfectly fine — who’s to say that the simple word “home” is sufficient enough to express the complex feeling of belonging? Anywhere Else ultimately and sentimentally proves that complicated problems don’t need complicated solutions.

At first glance, it’s a bit comforting to see that neither Swim Little Fish Swim‘s Leeward (Dustin Guy Defa) nor Lilas (Lola Bessis) have been hardened by the cynical realities of adult life. Leeward is a stay-at-home dad who entertains himself by jamming out on his toddler’s toys, while Lilas is a budding French artist on the brink of her twenties who crashes on Leeward’s couch in the dwindling days before her visa expires. While it initially seems as though Leeward still looks at the world in childlike wonder, the rose-colored glasses quickly shatter, and he becomes a hopelessly useless, naïve man and by far, the most annoying character in the film. The only thing his wife Mary (Brooke Bloom) can count on him to do is shirk his financial responsibilities. 

All in all, the sickeningly saccharine film is far too twee, distracting the viewer when Leeward and Lilas finally encounter adult life’s setbacks head-on. It’s stereotypically cute: The film is set in New York, Leeward insists on the hipster kid name “Rainbow” for his daughter instead of “Maggie,” Lilas totes around an old film camera that must be twice her age to record her new friends’ seemingly profound confessions, and Leeward struggles to avoid selling out as a musician. However, if you can muster through all of that, the Swim‘s ending is moderately satisfying, even if it is somewhat predictable.


July 24-Aug. 10, most shows $10-$14

Various Bay Area venues

Scare and scare alike: zombies, maggots, and more at ‘BAASICS.5: Monsters’


“We stopped checking for monsters under our beds when we realized they were inside us,” reads a quote often misattributed to the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. The presenters at July 14’s “BAASICS.5: Monsters” event at ODC Theater capitalized on this concept, examining both modern monsters (though not “cars and corn syrup,” as one emcee mentioned at the beginning of the event) and monsters of yore. 

In past years, the organization has explored provocative topics such as the future (more weighted toward a possible uprising of robots rather than the nagging question “What am I going to do with my life?”) and psychiatric and neurologic disorders by juxtaposing science and art. It’s easy to find the right balance between the two for these past themes, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this year’s event. 

It ended up being a lot less grisly than I’d imagined — with the exception of a video clip depicting maggots violating a honeybee. (I can never unsee that.) I felt as though I were in a college lecture hall, viewing PowerPoints — which were much more aesthetically pleasing than the Papyrus-laden slides my freshman year history professor used — and listening to professors, each with an exceptionally dry sense of humor. 

Presenters, ranging from shark conservationists to artists, shared their definitions of a monster, often turning the tables on common misconceptions. David McGuire revealed that more people die from vending machines than from shark attacks, emphasizing how it’s truly a man-eat-shark world out there today. (Ahem, shark fin soup…) Closing presenter Brynda Glazier tackled societal expectations of beauty and normalness, drawing inspiration from her personal life as her brother is disabled, expressing this through seemingly ugly and monstrous sculptures. 

BAASICS’ associate content producer Georgeann Sack — described in the program as a “neuroscientist by day and science communicator by night” — also performed low-key acoustic songs as a segue between presentations. In fact, her music was so low-key that I often had trouble hearing and understanding her, although I’m sure the lyrics to her song “Vampire Love Song” were clever. Sack’s standout performance was her rendition of the Creepshow’s “Zombies Ate Her Brain,” which sounded a little like a singer-songwriter’s DIY GarageBand-recorded music. 

However, the biggest letdown of the event were the short videos. With topics such as malaria research and glowing plants, the videos had potential but ultimately came off as too sterile. The two video shorts seemed as though they were filmed with a cheap digital camera — that highlighted distracting background noise while researchers spoke — and edited in iMovie. Other audience members were just as unimpressed as my friend and I were — I heard some people in the row behind us begin a slow clap after the second video. 

Art and science weren’t exactly joined in holy matrimony at this event. To me, BAASICS.5 was more like an evening well spent in your friend’s apartment — you know, the friend with a great appreciation for art who’s basically a living, breathing encyclopedia of weird shit — and can talk endlessly about it. Bring up Bigfoot and they’ll mention how the highest number of reported Bigfoot sightings originate from Humboldt County and slyly attribute this to the inhabitants’ altered perceptions. And did they mention how there’s a pseudo-porno titled Bigfoot’s Wild Weekend? (Here’s looking at you, Jill Miller!) Maybe zombies are more up your friend’s alley and they created an amazingly detailed zombie survey for people to fill out. (Your hard work definitely paid off, George Pfau.)

As for me, I checked off “Zombies are Vaudeville performers,” “The apocalypse is ‘the big one,’” and “After death, you take harp lessons” as my answers to Pfau’s zombie survey, which I picked up in the lobby afterwards. The real highlight of the event was being exposed to modern takes on tales as old as time, if the outside of the survey brochure, a Where’s Waldo-inspired scene even featuring Michael Jackson from his “Thriller” days, is anything to go by. 

Live Shots: Phono del Sol 2014


So, what did you get up to on Saturday?

From an abundance of flamingo decorations to the sight of skateboarders with a penchant for performing dangerous acrobatics off stage barricades, July 12’s Phono del Sol — the hometown pride-filled music festival thrown with a new level of fervor each year by the Bay Bridged at Potrero del Sol Park — showcased a variety of genres and kept the musical midsummer blues at bay.

Here’s the best of Phono del Sol 2014.


Best dark horse: Yalls
Hands down, sickest set of the day — literally. Berkeley-based musician Dan Casey battled a bout of bronchitis but delivered a powerful performance, taking the microphone as if there were no tomorrow for his bronchial tubes. Admittedly, I was a little wary of his set before it began. I first saw him perform as an opener for chillwave superstars Small Black back in March. Yalls reigns as king in venues such as the Rickshaw Stop, where the smoky stage and club lighting complement his beats well. However, he successfully conquered the unfamiliar territory of a sunny, outdoor stage in the middle of the day. I was impressed (his doctor probably isn’t) — not even his slightly nasally vocals could detract from his songs.

tony molina

Best ’90s throwback: Tony Molina
Tony Molina’s biggest strength can easily backfire on him and become his biggest weakness. Making the perfect mixtape for a friend is tough — even tougher when you had to work with an actual cassette tape without the help of iTunes’ drag-and-drop features. It’s important to include a varied selection of songs that also flow into each other. Local musician Molina only halfheartedly hit the mark on Saturday. While he found the delicate balance between grunge and pop in each song, he seemed like he’d simply forgotten to spice his set up a bit. He’s known for exceedingly short songs (none of the tracks on his latest album exceed two minutes) that all flowed into each other a little too well during his afternoon set. Oftentimes, it was difficult to figure out when a song would end and when a new one would begin, which wasn’t a problem when I listened to his 2013 EP Dissed and Dismissed.


Best dressed: Blackbird Blackbird
Blackbird Blackbird’s Mikey Maramag has come a long way since he opened for Starfucker in 2013, when I overheard someone in the audience murmur “It’s a wall?” after he asked us to sing along to his song “It’s a War.” Although security cut his set off, Blackbird Blackbird was a notable highlight due to his impeccable sartorial splendor, persistence in trying to connect with the audience, and ethereal vocals. Effortlessly clad in a Hawaiian shirt, he alternated between requesting that “everyone get fucking closer” and enveloping the crowd with dreamy vocals that occasionally battled for dominance over the synth.

das bus
(Das Bus photo by Amy Char)

Best German thing (Das beste deutsche Ding): Das Bus
Two disappointments: the World Cup final took place the day after Phono del Sol and Sportfreunde Stiller’s unofficial World Cup anthem from years past is far too trite to appreciate unironically. Otherwise, the German national football team could’ve claimed this title as well. Das Bus is the Bay Area’s mobile Volkswagen photo booth. In this modern age, we’re both obsessed with photos of ourselves and anything vintage, so Das Bus is simply a rad match made in heaven. A chalkboard outside the van even proclaimed that the experience was pet-friendly, so the family dachshund can jump in with you.


Best audience participation: Nick Waterhouse
Watching this set from a distance while enjoying the food trucks’ offerings, my friend and I marveled at the wall of audience members who swung their bodies along to Nick Waterhouse’s soulful, old-timey tunes. We were impressed by how the number of participants grew steadily throughout the set and the demographics of the dancers. Coachella gets a bad rap these days because some of its most notorious attendees are rich college kids in hipster headdresses. But because Phono del Sol takes place in a small, neighborhood park, it caters more to music aficionados of all ages — ones who don’t pretend to recognize “bands … so obscure that they do not exist” à la Jimmy Kimmel Live. The toddler swaying to Nick Waterhouse’s “This Is a Game” in his mother’s arms and the multitude of well-behaved dogs should remind us that we’re damn lucky to have an annual festival like this just a mere Muni or BART ride away from our neighborhoods. 

Best snippets of stage banter: Bill Baird
As the first act of the day, Bill Baird’s sense of humor was appropriately low key and easy to miss if you trickled into the park late. “We’re Bill Baird,” he announced, in a deadpan voice, before a spiel about the presence of deodorant as one of his stage decorations and how heavily he himself relies on deodorant. (Practical, yes, but I never knew deodorant could be trendy.) Introducing the second lo-fi song, “Your Dark Sunglasses Won’t Make You Lou Reed,” he confessed that the song was originally about talking shit about himself, but the meaning evolved over time; the track now talks shit about one of his bandmates. He may not confess this (if he did, I missed it because I wandered away early to catch the Tiny Telephone tour) but he could very well be talking shit about a pretentious festival-goer…

(Marvin the studio cat photo by Amy Char)

Best hidden gem: Tiny Telephone tour and Marvin the studio cat
Musical magic happens in a small, unassuming corner tucked away behind the park the other 364 days of the year. I couldn’t tell if the Tiny Telephone recording studio tour was poorly advertised or capped at a certain number of people, but it was worth sacrificing the opportunity to see a couple of artists. We explored the studio with owner John Vanderslice, who must be one of the most genuine professionals involved in the music business. His enthusiasm was infectious — he spoke about the difficulties behind monetizing art, the aesthetics of reclaimed wood, and his preference for analog recording (as opposed to something computerized, which is commonplace today).

We even met Marvin the studio cat, who snoozed on top of the console in studio A’s control room. (Adorable, but not affectionate.) I quickly forgot about the studio’s proximity to 280; it felt like I was walking around a cozy cabin in the woods. Still, the studio was weird enough to justify its location in the city — studio B used to be the home of a weed-selling auto shop before it went out of business amidst the rise of dispensaries. 


Best all-around: Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
Hometown heroes Thao & the Get Down Stay Down kickstarted their headlining set with Thao Nguyen’s sincere welcome: “Hello, my hometown.” From the 50-minute-long set alone, I could tell that she’s one of the most talented and down-to-earth modern indie musicians, from her expertise on at least three instruments (not including her impromptu takeover of the drums and her beatboxing prowess) to her introduction of John Vanderslice, “a.k.a. the nicest man in indie rock — it’s a fact.” (The band recorded its last album at Tiny Telephone.) Thao’s energy and stage presence was intoxicating; it was evident how much all the band members love what they’re doing when they lost themselves in the music. The set easily transcended genres even within the first two songs of the set, with a folkier emphasis on the violin on “Know Better Learn Faster” and a louder, rock sound on “City.”

phono crowd

Best festival ending: A little boy’s jam session on the drums under Thao’s helpful eye

“There’s a lot to be proud of living in San Francisco and I hope we remember that,” Thao remarked in between songs. As the crowd slowly dispersed after the band’s encore, I ruminated on her words as I watched her lead a little boy from backstage over to the drums, where she grabbed two pairs of drumsticks: one for her and one for him. She taught by example; whenever he successfully imitated whatever she had done, Thao joyfully raised her arms up and cheered. What was left of the audience quickly followed with an enthusiastic round of applause. I overheard someone behind me mention how this must be the most adorable festival ending ever.

Clutching the setlist I requested from Thao as temperatures steadily returned to normal San Francisco averages, her words rang true. All Phono del Sol attendees should be proud that a festival like this, whose inaugural event was free just three years ago, happens right in our very city…not to mention that it’s a steal compared to Outside Lands.

(Set list photo by Amy Char)

phono crowd

Inspiring doc ‘Keeper of the Beat: A Woman’s Journey into the Heart of Drumming’ airs on KQED


“I would get the comment ‘Gosh, you play really good for a girl,’” Barbara Borden admits in the introduction of Keeper of the Beat, which chronicles her lifelong passion for drumming. The documentary, by San Francisco’s David L. Brown, airs Sun/6 on KQED

The Always brand’s empowering #LikeAGirl ad campaign made the rounds on the internet this week, but Borden’s musical sojourn, discouraged for a female at the time, is decidedly more inspiring (especially since it’s delivered by a badass drummer and not a corporation).

Borden is aptly described in the film as a “drumbeat diplomat” — she bypasses the language barrier (cultural, too, as the film highlights the universality of music during the Yugoslavia Civil War and in a remote part of Siberia) between her and people she meets by quickly finding a way to communicate in the language of drums and punchy beats.

Clips from her past performances are cleanly weaved between interviews, showcasing both Borden and director Brown’s strengths: her story and his storytelling. Lavish camerawork and breathtaking shots are noticeably absent from the film; they’d really only detract from the unadulterated music and dialogue. It’s a shame the documentary only clocks in at a little under an hour long, as the poignant montage of vignettes whizzes right by you. 

Wax on: a journey into the new Madame Tussauds San Francisco


You probably won’t win any staring contests inside the new Madame Tussauds that opened June 26 at Fisherman’s Wharf. (Besides, I wouldn’t recommend holding prolonged eye contact with any of the wax figures, especially the Nicolas Cage one.) Like the youngest sibling in the shadow of brothers and sisters who have already established themselves, the SF branch — the fifth North American branch — tries to make a name for itself by flaunting its individuality whenever it’s convenient. Its attempt showcases eerily lifelike figures of well-known San Franciscans in themed rooms.

The museum’s main selling point is the Harvey Milk figure, which successfully presents itself as a thoughtful tribute. His nephew Stuart Milk had the privilege of unveiling his uncle’s wax figure to press less than an hour before the museum’s opening. The moment the red curtain fell — days before this year’s Pride Weekend — we stepped into a scene from 1978’s SF Pride, where Harvey parks himself on the roof of a car, clutching a handmade sign proclaiming “I’m from Woodmere, N.Y.” Stuart himself lauded the authenticity of the wax figure down to the shabby state of the shoes, as he said Harvey was quite frugal then. 

Later during the tour, I learned that Madame Tussauds’ team painstakingly pays attention to every possible detail. Apparently, the artists place the wax figures’ hair in place one strand at a time (!) and strive for complete accuracy — I was assured that if someone had a wrinkle on their face, it’d reappear in the exact same spot on their doppelgänger’s face. After examining the stubble on a baseball player’s face (even though it seemed to give him a slightly ashen complexion), I was convinced of the employee’s claims.

Madame Tussauds stresses how visitors can get up close and personal with the figures. Even the wallpaper of Harvey Milk’s room underscores this point, as it depicts a crowd of participants banding together with Harvey in his fight for gay rights. Props sit on the sidelines so you don’t have to. Grab a bullhorn or a sign that reads “Free to be” in big block letters and join Harvey.

Admittedly, it’s clear the museum tries to capitalize on its location — isn’t that how you stay in business at Fisherman’s Wharf? Yes, there’s a room to commemorate 1967’s Summer of Love, complete with Janis Joplin beside a psychedelic Volkswagen van and Jerry Garcia. But it quickly gets cramped. The room also includes a replication of the famous Haight Street fishnet stocking legs (just if you forgot you were in the middle of tourist territory), and interestingly enough, a Chinese New Year parade commemoration that feels out of place. Here, it begins to get a little gimmicky. The Spirit of San Francisco room slightly redeems itself by featuring the Golden Gate Bridge at two moments in its history — its current likeness and the construction process (complete with engineer Joseph Strauss).

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t quite make the cut for the Spirit of San Francisco room. He’s relegated to the same floor, however. In his trademark hoodie, he sits cross-legged and barefoot in a chair, enjoying some downtime even though he’s almost rubbing elbows with wax figure Barack Obama and his Oval Office reproduction. The iconic Apple logo is noticeably absent from what must be Zuck’s Macbook Pro. (Curiously enough, his sandals still sport the Adidas logo. Go figure.) 

“He’s been very popular with selfies,” said Adrea Gibbs, general manager of Madame Tussauds San Francisco. Our press preview ran a little overtime and members of the public had already entered by the middle of our tour, getting cozy with the wax figures. And to accommodate visitors who have qualms about awkwardly-angled photos taken at arm’s length, employees are quick to offer assistance. I saw only one visitor attempt to take a selfie, but it wasn’t too crowded yet. Give it some time.

The appeal of the remainder of the museum, however, quickly dwindled for me. Madame Tussauds San Francisco — the youngest sibling again — falls short of differentiating itself. It’s likely that most of the wax figures, including Lady Gaga, George Clooney, Audrey Hepburn, and E.T., will feel right at home in another branch somewhere across the world from San Francisco. (Although it did feel like I was supposed to be in Lincoln Park when the Golden Gate Bridge, as part of the wallpaper behind Tiger Woods, caught my eye.)

Apart from the Spirit of San Francisco room, there’s nothing that feels quite as put together elsewhere in the museum. Sure, Madame Tussauds does a fine job of creating interactive props to accompany the other wax figures and to entertain visitors. And marketing-wise, I suppose it only makes sense to include a variety of figures to appeal to a broad audience. Adult admission stands at a somewhat steep price and in this economy, attendees want to get enough bang for their buck. A visit to the new Madame Tussauds, however, is best saved for those who don’t think twice about wearing shorts to Fisherman’s Wharf in the middle of a San Franciscan summer.

Madame Tussauds San Francisco

Open daily at 10am, $16-$26

145 Jefferson, SF

Comedy without limits means ‘No Happy Endings’ for SF’s Granny Cart Gangstas


Sexy granny panties? Up-and-coming San Francisco comedy troupe Granny Cart Gangstas recently proved this isn’t an oxymoron. Taking a cue from the Kids in the Hall — one of member Ava Tong’s biggest inspirations — who were once photographed wearing bras over suits, the troupe decided to do something similar (one member flaunted a pair of leopard-print granny panties) for a photo shoot ahead of its Sat/28 show, “No Happy Endings,” at SF’s Little Boxes Theater. 

Founding members Tong and Aureen Almario dreamed about creating their own comedy troupe since 2006. The two met at San Francisco State University, where Tong was Almario’s teaching assistant in an Asian American studies class. “Then she ended up being one of my friends’ girlfriends and I was like ‘Oh … hey!’ and I saw her at Bindlestiff [Studio] and it was like … ‘Can’t get away from you, Aureen!’” The two finally created the troupe in 2011, with five total members, and continued to expand by inviting women associated with Bindlestiff that they worked well with. 

The name of the comedy troupe, Granny Cart Gangstas, juxtaposes two contrasting concepts. Tong said Almario, who came up with the name, was inspired by the pedestrian lifestyle of granny-cart owners in the midst of the hustle and bustle of certain SF neighborhoods. “That’s like, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to do my thing and I don’t care what anyone else thinks,’” Tong explained. 

Lauren Garcia, who joined the troupe last October, expanded on the name’s connotations. “If you have a granny cart, you know, you can’t politely, say, go through the bus or the street, and go ‘Excuse me, excuse me.’” (Tong interjected, “You’re just unapologetic.”) Garcia continued, “You just run over those people’s feet.”

When it comes to the troupe’s material, this mindset is always relevant. Its material is solely comprised of things that make its own members laugh. And even though members grapple with worries that no one else will find certain things funny, they’ll keep them in anyway.

“No Happy Endings” opens with a piece that pays homage to grannies — one of the first pieces where the members assume the role of grannies. “You’ve got to respect grannies,” Garcia said. “They’re grannies — they’ve been through shit.” In the sketch, the troupe members are nursing home residents (sans granny carts, unfortunately), comatose as a nurse administers their daily medicine. Before the nurse leaves, she switches on a radio, which starts playing classical music. But one of the grannies won’t have that and slowly trudges to the radio — with the assistance of her walker — and changes the music to something more modern: Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman.” Instantly rejuvenated, the grannies begin to dance. 

The troupe returns to this scene later to close the show. “Grown Woman” is still playing. “We actually bust out into our younger selves and we do a short synchronized dance,” Tong said, “kind of saying that every granny is young inside them. They have that young person that lived there before.” Combined with the young souls’ dance, Beyoncé’s lyrics “I’m a grown woman / I can do whatever I want” only serve to further drive this message home.

“I feel like so many people forget that older people were young once and they are people — they’re not the sacks that people treat them as,” Garcia said. As a nurse, she said she constantly witnesses incidents of verbal elder abuse where nurses and other people in the hospital condescendingly speak to elderly patients. 

Besides the geriatric piece, the group likes to write about womanhood. For their first show, “Rise of the Red Dawn,” the group performed a sketch titled “Look At This Betch.” “We’re making fun of the idea that women sometimes … have this competition with each other,” Garcia said. “They’re cutthroat and catty and will cut other women to get ahead when they should be helping other women. They know what it’s like to be a woman in this world.”

However, Tong said the group noticed that much of the last show focused on the negative aspects of womanhood. To depict women in a more positive light, it included a sketch titled “Vag Save” in the upcoming show, which also includes films and stand-up. Garcia introduced “Vag Save” to me through a mock movie trailer voiceover: “Save your best friend’s vagina. Coming soon, this Saturday, June 28, we will be saving … your vaginas.”

The sketch follows a group of women at a club banding together to protect each other from the unwelcome advances of creepy men. “Not everybody sees that world,” Tong said. “Guys definitely don’t know when other guys are being creepy — or when they’re being creepy — and this is how women see it.”

The troupe is entirely comprised of women of color. Members write cultural references sparingly — one of the lines in sketch “Spanx” plays with how similar the word “backpack” and the Tagalog word for “vagina” (pekpek) sound: “Reach into my pekpek” — because they don’t want to alienate any audience members. Sometimes they’ll include references if a character has an accent (the references are usually improv ad libs), but they stray from writing references that aren’t obvious or explained. 

At the same time, Tong and Garcia appreciate San Francisco’s diversity and open-mindedness. “I think we take advantage of that,” Tong said. “We almost take it for granted. We don’t think about having to be sensitive.” The two joked that they might have things thrown at them on stage or their citizenship papers checked in more conservative states. Most of the members are Bay Area natives, but live in cities as spread apart as Walnut Creek, San Francisco, and Hayward, which Tong admitted makes getting together for rehearsal tough.

Inspiration can hit the troupe at any time — sources range from people, such as Beyoncé, or the minutiae of daily life, such as putting in a Diva Cup. (A Diva Cup is an eco-friendly alternative to a tampon. Garcia shared some tips from a YouTube how-to video she watched, where an upside-down wine glass served as a model vagina: improper nail length can quickly make the experience unpleasant and one of the tricky things is “getting it into a little ball and making sure it goes in before it pops open … because then that’s painful and you don’t want to do that, let me tell you.” Tong was a little hesitant about this sketch idea.) Throughout the interview, Tong and Garcia effortlessly bounced new ideas off each other, assuring me they could even parody the interview we were having. “You’ll be in this,” Garcia told me. “Come watch our stuff; you’ll see yourself.”

Six days before the show, at least one troupe member’s grandmother was confirmed to attend “No Happy Endings.” Garcia’s mother purchased tickets for several family members — before her daughter explained that the not-so-family-friendly show was “mature, sexual, and raunchy.” Garcia complained that her grandmother would simply have to sit through performances such as “Octopussy,” where she sings “I’ve tried everything / You could possibly do / When you’re in bed with two / Wheelbarrow, doggy style / Missionary, 69 / It feels so fine / But he can’t make me cum.”

“We’ll apologize later if you need us to,” Tong reassured Garcia. 

Emphasis on “need.” After all, a true granny cart gangsta is never apologetic if they can help it. 

Granny Cart Gangstas’ “No Happy Endings”

Sat/28, 8pm, $15

Little Boxes Theater

1661 Tennessee, SF

(415) 603-0061