George McIntire

To the desert and back


The early May Sunday afternoon when I meet up with Fresh and Onlys frontman and songwriter Tim Cohen, he’s has just reached a milestone in his career: His firstborn child has just seen his band play for the first time in her life. The day before, Cohen and co. played the Hipnic IV festival in Big Sur to a seated audience. The mainstays of San Francisco’s garage rock scene were able to catch the attention of the one-year-old for a bit before her interest evaporated into the air like pot fumes at a music festival. It’ll likely be years before the child knows she had a profound influence on her dad’s band’s newest album, House of Spirits, due out June 10 on the Mexican Summer label.

Our rendez-vous is set at Cafe Abir on ever-buzzing Divisadero Street, which of course is being consumed with another hot new opening. This time, it’s 4505 Meats, which is making a splash of a debut with its inviting smells wafting over from salacious BBQ concoctions. The unofficial fogline of San Francisco feels foreign to Cohen, who’s been a resident of the adjacent Alamo Square neighborhood for almost 13 years. That’s because he’s just spent 15 months in rural Arizona. When we reach the inevitable topic of San Francisco’s recent changes, Cohen remarks, “I was gone for 15 months and almost everything changed in that time. I can see six places that weren’t here when I left. It’s a culture shock.”

For those 15 months, Cohen decamped with his wife, newborn baby, guitar, Korg keyboard, and drum machine to a horse ranch 10 miles outside of Sedona, Arizona. Later on during his stay, he picked up an eight-track recorder from a kid on Craigslist to record his demos on. “It’s simple and gives me a lower-quality song; it’s my favorite device to record on.” says Cohen.

The storyline behind House of Spirits lends a feeling of concept album, thanks to the songwriting’s foreign backdrop. It’s still very much connected to the feel, themes, and sounds of earlier Fresh and Onlys productions, but the intrigue lies in how noticeable an effect the desert environs had on the record.

Cohen ventured to the desert of Northern Arizona expecting a new jolt of creative energy and a deviation in his songwriting, but underestimated the effect absolute desolation — amplified by its contrast to San Francisco’s bustle — would have on himself and the album. “I went there knowing I would have a lot of time to myself, [but] I didn’t know how much or how dire that solitude would become, which definitely fed into my creative process…If you’ve ever spent any time in the desert or anywhere that’s just your environment, there’s no people walking by, trains, cars, planes, it’s just where you’re at and you. I had no way to contest the silence and openness of it all. I just sat there and took it in. Finally after living there for a months, I figured how to manage my space in the environment, and just dug out my space,” says Cohen.

Part of the reason for Cohen’s retreat was the idea of not raising a baby in a big loud city. He does concede that, in addition to learning how to negotiate the vacuum of the Arizonan desert, the album was significantly influenced by his other major learning experience, that of understanding how to be both “a parent with someone and to someone.”

Like a friend coming back from a sweet vacation, Cohen highly recommends the rural experience for fellow artists. “It made me more of a prolific artist, because I came back with tons and tons of material. I worked. I say if you can afford it, give yourself that emptiness and blank agenda.”

But Cohen’s foray into the desert wasn’t all artistic introspection and exploration. The lack of constant and face-to-face communication with his bandmates exacerbated tensions already simmering in the band. That inevitable and familiar dilemma of young parents trading time with their lifelong friends for time with their nascent families provided another strain.

“People were being pulled in a lot of different directions. It began with me moving away. When your buddy has a kid and moves away, a lot of times you can feel a sense of abandonment. In a lot of ways we think of this band as our own baby,” he says. “It was almost like running off and having a baby with someone else.” Not to mention, other bandmates were dealing with evictions and layoffs.

Did the stress ever seriously threaten the album? “Absolutely, at almost every turn,” says Cohen. “We had a limited amount of recording days when I came back to SF, which created a sense of urgency and contributed to inflammation of the issues afflicting the band. These were my songs and demos. [Normally] I send the demos to guys way in advance, they think ‘How can I hear this and contribute to it?’ and that’s how it pretty much works. This time around it was a little less of that.”

For all his recounting of the hurdles and “external and internal issues,” Cohen presents a stoic demeanor, and seems confident that the band has escaped its stormy period.

“In the end we won the big victory,” he says. “This album is definitely a grower.”

Fresh and Onlys record release show

With Cold Beat, Devon Williams

July 5, 8pm, $15

The Chapel

777 Valencia, SF

Dispatches from SXSW: Day 3 — Lessons, brisket, and fool’s gold


The most important thing I learned from being at SXSW is that I should not under any circumstances make any decisions to move to Austin based on my experience at SXSW. Yes, the city is amazing, hip, and fun for 10 days out of the year, but what about the other 355? I’m willing to bet at least 60 percent of attendees thought to themselves “You know what, I could totally see myself living here.” For San Franciscans and New Yorkers, that number is probably 80 percent. Not to mention, summertime in Austin is a devil’s combo of Arizona heat and Deep South humidity. In addition there’s only one light rail line in this huge sprawl of a city; Austin’s population is a little larger than San Francisco’s but has more than five times the square mileage. I feel this is necessary to point out because I have a feeling there are a dozen or so people every year who did this and after a couple months of living here they panic and are like “Oh god! Why did I sign that one-year lease!”

On to day three (Friday).

Part of the reason I was so excited to visit Austin was for the barbeque, specifically brisket. My original plan was to visit the famous Franklin’s BBQ, a place that usually has a three-hour wait. But when I saw that people were camping out in line, I said scratch that. The first two days were brisket free for me, therefore my third day had to be brisket day. I went to some place called Noah’s and had a brisket plate and a brisket sandwich to go. The plate was good at first and then became mediocre half-way through. When I had the sandwich later on in the day, it was dried out and there virtually useless, I still ate it anyway. My determination to find a decent a brisket joint was still undeterred. I found a food truck area and convinced myself to order a $10 brisket sandwich. It too was mediocre. My friend had a brisket from another food stand, I had a bite of it and it didn’t do anything to impress. Here’s another lesson for you, food at big events sucks, it’s the more expensive and mass-produced version of itself; Outside Lands is very guilty of this.

Anyway, back to the music.


Day three was also my sleep-in and rest day. Walking 14 miles a day with sun in your eyes and loud noise in your ears and staying out to 2 or 3am can really wreck you. At around 4pm, I’m fully recharged and I make my way to the Fader Fort for one last hurrah. Unfortunately, this time around even the badge-people are having a hard time getting. I’m stuck in line for 80 minutes, while my friends are enjoying the hedonism of the Fader Fort. I finally get in, I catch the last three songs of Young Thug’s raucous set. I find my friends and we decide to bounce, I bid adieu to the Fader Fort.

For our last night in Austin, my friends and I decide that we’re going to stick to one showcase and spend the entire night. We finally decided on the Fool’s Gold showcase hosted by A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs. On the bill was A-Trak, Migos, Travis Scott, Black Atlas, Treasure Fingers, Berkeley rapper 100s, and about 234 other rappers and DJs. We get in line two hours before doors open at 8 and of course there are already 30 people in front of us. We pass the time by playing games, eating dinner, and making new friends with our line buddies. Then 8pm rolls around,  the moment we’ve been waiting for. Nothing happens besides someone telling us to form a strict single-file line. Then at 8:40, we make our way in knowing our patience will be greatly rewarded.

The waiting, however, is not over. The first hour and a half of acts are by and large forgettable. They’re all rappers whose gimmicks, fist-pumping, and attempts to “turn up” were doing little to affect the crowd.

Four hours after we got in line, the real fun kicks in when Treasure Fingers hops on the ones and twos. He spins a bombastic set of fast-paced galloping electro and bass-drenched hip hop, a near perfect threading of the border between hip-hop and electronic music. Fool’s Gold co-head Nick Catchdubs takes over the DJ baton after Treasure Fingers and switches to a more hip-hop centric set that’s just as  exciting. Sweet vindication for all that time waiting is settling in, my version of the marshmallow experiment.


However, I was not prepared for the next two and a half hours. I had never experienced such a colossal amount of hip-hop bravado, swagger, and stage presence packed into such a small space (the venue was a car repair garage.) 100s led off this hip-hop marathon with his silky perm and synth-hop beats. When they say SXSW is a platform for artists to take off, they’re talking about artists like 100s.

A-Trak takes the stage after 100s and starts turntabling for a bit and then out of a nowhere Danny Brown pops out as the “surprise” guest of evening. The crowd goes wild even though despite this being one of the least surprising guests SXSW. Danny Brown throws down a rambunctious set mostly because the crowd is so hyped to see him. He yells “Where’s the molly at?!” of course, then does one more song and bows out to Migos.

As soon as they grab the mic, it’s apparent that Migos are natural performers. Not too many acts can have an iron-fisted control over a mob of drunk and high hip-hop fans. During “Versace” and “Hannah Montana,” the energy in the air is so palpable I think the entire place was going to collapse. Then Young Thug bursts out of nowhere, causing an earthquake registering a 7.2 on the richter scale. Tsunami warnings are issued all along the Texas and Gulf coasts.

young thug and migos
Young Thug and Migos

It’s one of the most “Can’t stop, won’t stop” moments I’ve ever witnessed in hip-hop. More and more guests like A$AP Ferg, Travis Scott, and YG. Each guest somehow finding a way to turn up the crowd more. Every time I feel like we’ve reach peak turn-up, the next track manages to turn up even more.

At the end of this hip-hop extravaganza, I am left nearly catatonic and speechless. I literally OD on hip-hop, and plan to go cold turkey for the rest of the month. When I regain consciousness, a pain and numbness takes over my legs, leaving me with the daunting task of walking two miles home.

Dispatches from SXSW: Day 2 – Fader Fort, Future Islands, and Waiting in Lines


I’m pretty sure the Fader Fort is where I want to spend the rest of my youth and possibly my life. This makeshift village is probably as close to cool heaven as it gets. It’s got free music, free drinks, and people-watching galore. Did I mention it’s also got charging stations, free ice cream, and a first aid tent? You really could spend the rest of your youth and/or life here.

The Fader Fort is that illustrious castle on the hill of peak hipness. You can absorb the coolness into your skin via osmosis. For entrance into this Hearst Castle for the Snapchat crowd, you must either know somebody who knows somebody, have a pass (like I do), or get in line at the ungodly hour of no later than 12:30pm. Seriously, if you don’t get in line by at 1pm, you’re doomed to a fate of sunburns and sobriety. So get in line early, your brand depends on it.

As much I want to conduct an anthropological study on the impossibly hip 20-somethings lounging and fluttering all over the Fort, I have to force myself over to music stage.

fader fort

The first act is British crooner Sam Smith. He’s most known for his feature on Disclosure’s “Latch.” Without the Disclosure brothers at his side, Mr. Smith and his rad pompadour unleash an acoustic rendition of the dance hit, which the crowd and I found equally pleasing. As per SXSW custom, Smith busts out 20 minutes of work, packed up, and bounces to his next gig.

I go re-up on free pineapple juice and rum.

When I get back, Theophilus London is about to come on. I’ve been listening to this guy for a while and I still don’t get his deal. I feel like he’s been stuck on the come up for a while, which contradicts the very idea of being on the come up. He presents his mix of electro funk, pop, and hip-hop, all while wearing torn yellow pants, a yellow tank top, jean jacket, and that Pharrell/Arby’s hat. Towards the end of his set, he brings onstage a woman from the crowd and they do some sort of seductive dance that’s kind of novel and cool, but immediately takes a turn for the worse when London creepily starts grope-dancing with her. He almost sucks all the cool from the air, leaving everyone baffled and awkward. She goes back to the crowd and we all breathe a sigh of relief.


Theophilus London
Pineapple juice and rum time.

Collaborators Shlomo and Jeremih are up next. Shlomo warms up the crowd with a DJ set of percolating electro rhythms. I begin to worry Jeremih might not show up, but he does. The two are collaborating for an upcoming album, but their performance makes me think they should establish this as a permanent arrangement. Jeremih’s suave and soothing nu-R’nB vocals hypnotizes the crowd into a state of mindfulness. But Jeremih knows what the crowd wants to hear, they want to hear “Birthday Sex,” and you do not deny what the good people at Fader Fort want. Jeremih plays “Birthday Sex” and the audience reacts in a way that it makes seem it like they enjoy “Birthday Sex” more than actual birthday sex.

Headlining the Fader Fort is electro-funk impresarios Chromeo, aka the self-proclaimed “most successful Jewish-Muslim collaboration ever.” Even though everyone in the concert tent is shoulder to shoulder and butt to butt, we all erupt in cathartic dance when Chromeo belt out “Night by Night.” There aren’t too many acts worthy of being a headliner at the Fader Fort, but Chromeo rises to the challenge and then some. They decimate the audience with 30 straight minutes of the old hits and some new tracks from their upcoming LP, White Women. Then the clock strikes midnight on the Fort and now we all have to face the daunting reality of not being in the Fort. But wait, Chromeo comes back for an encore! Encore finishes. OK, now the Fader Fort is done.

I grab a quick dinner and speed-walk over to Congress Ave, where the entire Heart Break Kids gang are playing, but unfortunately when I get there, there’s a 100-foot line, and from what I can tell, the entire club is packed to brim. Even badge people like myself aren’t being allowed in. I give up on HBK and speed-walk across town again to the Mad Decent Garage shows. Half an hour  later I arrive, and there’s a short but extremely slow-moving line. I give up and go meet up with friends at some rave tent with no line.

Turns out, there’s a real good reason there was no line. I’m subjected to blaring and soul-killing dubstep. The filthy and warbled bass jackhammers my very-being. Time to get out of there.

I wander around this part of town looking for my next show, while also being in awe of the massive herd of drunk revelers tripping flyers and empty drink cups.

I then happen upon Cheer Up Charlie’s to catch the end of indie-rockers Merchandise and then indie-poppers Future Islands. I didn’t catch enough of Merchandise to formulate an impression. At this point I’m just happy to be away from the dubstep. Future Islands come on and are the saviors I’ve been waiting for in this post-Fader Fort landscape.

future islands
Future Islands

Future Islands’ frontman Samuel T. Herring immediately grabs the crowd with a loud growl, jabbing dance moves, and pointed stares. Every band should have a Samuel T. Herring. His chaotic energy is more infectious than a breakout of pink-eye. He sneers, jumps up and down, and makes disfigured looks on his face for the entire set, and it makes for a surprisingly good complement to Future Islands’ bouncy and sunny pop. I honestly have never seen someone as turned up as this guy. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day.

Dispatches from SXSW: Painted Palms


After a long day of waiting in line in the sun, catching various 15-minute sets, and just being downright baffled by the enormity and complexity of SXSW (this is my first time), I lumbered my way to Maggie Mae to catch San Francisco’s psych band du jour, Painted Palms, at the Forcefield PR showcase (disclosure: I interned for Forcefield one summer a long time ago). The venue itself looked like Bottom of the Hill’s cousin but without the absurdly short ceilings and claustrophobia.

San Francisco power-punk act Tony Molina fronted by (you guessed it) Tony Molina packed a raucous and chaotic set into 20 minutes, which of course was too short, but then this is SXSW.

tony molina
Tony Molina

This was Painted Palms’ second show so far at SXSW. They are touring on debut LP Forever, which came out last January on Polyvinyl Records. The band is comprised of two cousins, Chris Prudhomme (vocals, guitar, hails from Bernal Heights), and Reese Donahue (electronics, hails from Western Addition).

Despite some minor technical difficulties, the psych-pop duo jammed out a sunny set full of spirited electronic sounds, a great soundtrack to lounge on for day-long retreat at Alamo Square or Dolores Park. Just minutes after the show, the  cousins joined me for a quick Q&A, where we discussed the origin of the name Painted Palms, whether or not they would ever cover The Talking Heads, and everyone’s favorite topic of conversation: the cost of living in San Francisco.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Why are you called Painted Palms?
Prudhomme: I don’t know, people guess, and I think the best guess that someone has had so far is that William Randolph Hearst had a mansion and at the end of his life, he didn’t want to see death on his property. So whenever the palm trees died, he would have people paint the bark of the palms to keep it looking like they were still alive.

SFBG: This is your second show at your first-ever SXSW, how’s it going so far?
Prudhomme: We had some technical difficulties, but I think it’s something that with a full band is recoverable.
Donahue: I think [the show] was sketchy in the beginning…but it’s fine.

SFBG: So music journalists like myself often describe bands in a wrong manner. Tell me how do you describe yourselves?
Prudhomme: It’s psychedelic pop music.
Donahue: I think it focuses on pop structure, the structure of ’60s pop music. We have a fascination with ’90s electronic psychedelic stuff.

painted palms
Painted Palms

SFBG: Your influences?
Donahue: I’d say The Zombies, they’re just the coolest motherfuckers.
Prudhomme: Some of our influences also don’t have anything to do with the way our music sounds, a lot of it is just music personalities. I really like David Bowie a lot, but I don’t think our music sounds anything like David Bowie.

Donahue: My favorite band of all time is The Talking Heads, and I think the drummer was at our showcase earlier.

SFBG: The city is extremely expensive right now, which is especially tough on creative types such as musicians like yourselves. Has this impacted you? Is this a big worry for you?
Prudhomme: It hasn’t really impacted us that much because we’ve been doing the same kind of recording process for a really long time. We have a really cheap, raggeddy practice space in the Tenderloin.
Donahue: But we have to share it with five other bands to make the rent. I tried to move out and get my own place at one point but it didn’t work out. If I ever decide to leave San Francisco and live somewhere else, I don’t think I could come back. I do have rent control so it’s not something I’m worried about.
Prudhomme: I worry about it. I live in a big house with lots of tenants, which is the only way I can afford to live in SF. So whenever I have master tenants who are about to move out, I worry about my rent being jacked up.

SFBG: Is the East Bay an option?
Donahue: Oakland is fucking awesome…but I don’t know.

SFBG: Ever thought about covering a Talking Heads song?
Donahue: No, we’d never do that. I don’t think we could make those songs better.

Dispatches from SXSW: Day 1


[Ed note: George was going to write a recap of the first day’s shows and general SXSW revelry, but with news of last night’s horrendous accident making the rounds, that felt a little inappropriate. Stay tuned for more festival coverage.]

Last night tragedy struck SXSW when a drunk driver rammed into a crowd of people. Two people are confirmed dead, one man from The Netherlands and one local woman. In total, 23 people have been reported injured; eight remain in the hospital. The suspect has been charged and is currently in custody, and his or her identity will be made public later today.

SXSW’s official statement on the matter:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragic accident that took place last night here in Austin. We appreciate and commend the first responders, as well as the city agencies who so quickly sprung into action. We will be making schedule and venue changes for programming in the surrounding area of last night’s events. All other programming will continue as previously scheduled.

I was fortunate enough to have already been at my friend’s house and asleep when the tragic incident occurred. In fact, I didn’t even find out about it until I woke up this morning to a total of nine emails, texts, and missed calls from my parents. When I reading about the coverage of the incident, one tweet in particular stood out for me: A horrible wake up call for a rapidly growing city with an economy based on alcohol and terrible public transportation, this is awful” — a stark reminder that sometimes horrible things occur not only because of reckless individuals but as a result of our environment.

In that vein, some attendees I talked to expressed how unsurprised they were that this happened, given the continent-sized amount of alcohol drunk by thousands of people here, all stumbling around within a few square miles. From what I’ve seen, the city of Austin, the SXSW organizers, and participating venues have all gone to great lengths to ensure people’s safety. Unfortunately, there are some things you just can’t prepare for.

Goldies 2014 Comedy: Sean Keane


GOLDIES At a recent edition of the Business — his weekly comedy showcase at the Dark Room Theater — Sean Keane is fulfilling one of stand-up’s most cherished rituals: skewering the absurdities that inconvenience our daily lives.

Like BART seats, for instance. “Who’s the person with the bright idea of making BART seats out of carpet?” Keane asks, before re-creating one possible scenario for an uproariously-laughing audience: “Sir, I think we should use carpet, as much carpet as possible, carpet on the floor, carpet on the seats, carpet that we scavenge from an elementary school in the ’70s. And it should be as absorbent as a sponge. Every spill, every odor, every terrible thing that happens on a BART train should be preserved for eternity. And for cleaning we’ll shut down the whole system for six hours a night and lightly sweep it with a broom.”

Keane’s specialty is the observation beat. The self-described “baby-faced man with the body of a dad” deftly riffs on the various mishaps and oddities he encounters. With his sports-announcer voice, he spins comedy gold from that time he ate at an Ethiopian-Irish food truck, or witnessed the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death on ESPN, or found himself having to react to a stranger’s curiosity about his “I’ve Got Beaver Fever!” T-shirt (true story: he used to coach a middle school swim team with a beaver mascot).

It’s no surprise that a unique city like San Francisco has produced such an effective observational comic. “It’s interesting how what’s unacceptable in SF is acceptable in other places,” Keane says. “The worst thing you can do is use a plastic bag. At the Folsom Street Fair, you can see guy in a full leather outfit just sitting on a street corner jacking off, but if he was jacking off into a single-use plastic bag, he’s a monster.”

Keane is also a sports fanatic. Stories from one of his blogs,, have been picked up by Deadspin and other mainstream outlets. Though he avoids incorporating wonky inside-baseball jokes into his comedy act, he’s able to combine his two passions by regaling crowds with hilarious sports-related happenings. (Like, say, his ejection from a bar after accosting someone clad in a 49ers pajama onesie.) His best sports-related gag is his hilariously accurate impression of a British commentator covering the NFL draft, and the inevitable culture clash that follows.

Keane comes from a humor-loving family that encouraged his performing ambitions. In high school, he was involved in musical theater, which he credits for helping him overcome a speech impediment and learning to properly enunciate. At UC Berkeley, he started doing stand-up, opening for touring acts like Dave Attell.


Guardian photo by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover

Cal is also where he developed his material-generating process. “We had a big white board in our living room where I would write ideas down,” he recalls. “The key is to write things down everywhere. When I’m driving, I record voice memos. You kind of feel like a crazy person when you do that, and duck to the side of the street and just start dictating something into the phone. I write things out like they’re lecture notes, with a subject and heading. Jokes comes first and then wording gets fixed later.”

After doing a lot of writing and improv, Keane fully committed himself to stand-up in late 2005 and early 2006. In 2009, he co-founded the Business, which has become a popular fixture on the local comedy scene.

“The Business helped with developing our style and skills due to the regular 20-25 minute sets,” says Keane. Of his fellow Business comics — including Caitlin Gill, Nato Green, and Bucky Sinister — Keane says, “When you perform with people every week, you pick up on stuff from them and you get pushed by seeing someone go out and kill.”

“Sean is someone who makes stand up look easy,” Gill says. “He is impossibly likable, endlessly witty, and incredibly fun to watch, even more fun to be around.” One of Gill’s most memorable moments with Keane was the “Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction” show, in which Keane performed bits entitled “Riding Miss Daisy” and “Zero Dark 69.”

Sadly for San Francisco comedy fans, Keane is at that point in his career where a move may soon be necessary. “SF is a great place, but I need to get to the next level and there’s no comedy industry here,” he points out. “Your ceiling as a SF comic is two weekends a year at the Punchline, and two weekends a year at Cobb’s. To become a headliner, you have to be famous. To be famous you have to get on TV. And it’s hard to get on TV in a place that does not produce many TV shows.”

Until then, Keane’s Business is booming on Mission Street, delighting audiences every week — even those who have to ride those carpeted BART seats to get home. Catch him while you can.

Years Latyr(x)


When the last Latyrx album, The Album, came out in August 1997, hip-hop was still trying to figure out its footing in a post-Biggie and Tupac world. The duo, made up of East Bay rappers Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker, was one of the first conscious acts to make waves in that world before the actual subgenre of conscious or progressive hip-hop solidified.

But 16 years is almost half the lifespan of hip-hop and every cultural aspect associated with it. Countless micro-genres, fads, and rappers have emerged, disappeared, and assumed their position in the annals of style during the years after The Album and before Latyrx’s follow-up. Though the game has changed between the last time they collaborated and the release of 2013 full-length The Second Album (Latyramid), Lyrics Born and Lateef have still been putting work in the hip-hop industrial complex. Combined, they’ve put out more than a couple dozen solo albums, remix records, EPs, live albums, and mixtapes.

So why get the band back together? Lyrics Born puts it simply “[The Album] was such a milestone in our lives and careers. It was something we always planned to revisit but never had the opportunity to do so. It was definitely one of the top five questions I was always asked by fans. ‘When are you guys gonna do the next Latyrx album?’ It was just sort of time.” A second Latyrx album was announced on Lyrics Born’s website back in early 2007, but there was little movement until a few years later. The duo realized it better finally get cracking on the follow-up record when it was invited to do a show in 2010 with local jazz maestro Adam Theis of the Jazz Mafia group at the Mezzanine — and witnessed the immensely warm reaction to its set the following year at Outside Lands. Following those two performances, it was apparent that another Latyrx record needed to happen: “The window was right, so we got in the studio” says Lateef.

The most striking element of The Second Album is the feeling that each track comes from a different album. “It’s Time” features Zion I incorporating whizzing Transformers-like synths. “Gorgeous Spirits” is a booty-shaking clubbanger. The two tracks featuring tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus — “Watershed Moment” (also featuring longtime collaborater Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab) and “Deliberate Gibberish” — each shine in uniquely differing ways. “Deliberate Gibberish” sounds like it was culled from a fast-paced spoken word album and “Watershed Moment” percolates with a bouncy and eccentric flow. “There’s really no reason why a song like [‘Deliberate Gibberish’] should exist. It’s like the anti-song, the anti-hip-hop song in the sense that there’s no drums, it’s just Merrill from tUnE-yArDs doing these weird voices in the background,” says Lyrics Born, on working with the indie-art pop crooner.

The seemingly out-of-nowhere appearances of Garbus on the LP is due to an artist retreat in New Orleans. The conference put on by the Air Traffic Control (ATC) organization (which put on the Tibetan Freedom Concert series) is described by Lyrics Born as “an effort to coordinate artist with nonprofits.”

“We were there looking at the aftermath and recovery with the Gulf oil spills as well as the recovery from Katrina. We spent a lot of time in the gulf and different neighborhoods connecting with other musicians and orgs to get involved there. It was amazing to see the spirit that the city has.”

Those drawn to Latyrx for its conscious aesthetic will find its progressive expectations satisfied. Its signature wordplay ricochets throughout the album, railing against crass commercialism, gun culture, and the overall desolate situation faced by many struggling Americans today.

Some may argue that progressive hip-hop is a relic from another generation, but for Lyrics Born, being an artist in 2013 is no different than in ’97. “It means what it’s always meant: I can’t do today what I did yesterday. That’s really how we approached this record and all my records. Neither of us is interested in covering ground that’s already been covered.”

Things are going well on the underground alt-rap stalwarts’ current tour together, and in the next year, Latyrx will be doing a larger world tour. As for the now-looming question about a third Latyrx album, the duo says: “We just hope the third one doesn’t take another 16 years to create. This last album was a chance for us to get back to doing what we do best. We got a lot of our solo stuff out of our system. The world needs unusual records right now.”


With Forrest Day, DJ Aaron Axelsen

Nov. 20, 9pm, $25


628 Divisadero, SF


For whom the bell rocked: Too much turned up


Three to five years ago, the most popular phrase at Rock the Bells was “Rest in peace J Dilla.” This year, it was “Let’s get turned up!” The difference between the two shout-outs exhibits the festival’s progression from underground/old-school hip-hop gathering to a way more genre-expansive festival.

This year included stalwart acts that you would have seen at Rock the Bells 2004, 2005, and 2007 such as the Wu Tang Clan, TechNine, and Deltron 3030. But rappers like Juicy J, Riff Raff, and Trinidad James would have been ridiculed for not being “real hip-hop” enough in past years. This year’s eclectic and diverse cast was a reassuring reminder that hip-hop is not dead and that the music coming out in 2013 is just as worthy as that of any other era.

More than 50 acts split between two days and divided onto three stages meant that I had lots of ground and music to cover despite only being one person. And due to the immense offering of music, there were bound to some distressing scheduling conflicts. The worst of all was Juicy J vs. Black Hippy vs. Deltron 3030 at 7:45pm.

Even more upsetting was the fact that there was no music playing between 7:15 and 7:45. I cannot fathom why the organizers would have absolutely no act performing for 30 minutes less than three hours before the end of the festival. Fortunately I was able to dash between the three stages where the three acts were performing.

Nearly every act, all weekend, encouraged the audience to get “turned up,” but Juicy J was the only rapper to get his crowd “turned up” without asking. Due to the scheduling conflict, Deltron accompanied by an orchestra played to a rather small but very impassioned group of fans. When I caught Black Hippy, Kendrick Lamar was in the midst of performing the hits from his acclaimed good kid m.A.A.d city and I only needed five minutes to understand why he proclaimed himself to be “King of New York.”

The E-40/Too $hort duet was lackluster due to their early time slot — a mind boggling 4:25pm slot — and because 40 didn’t show up on the stage till more than halfway through the set. Other bland performances included Joey Bada$$ who was very undeserving of his main stage slot, Immortal Technique who belongs in a museum of homophobia and sexism and not on a concert stage, and Action Bronson. Bronson, who normally is overflowing with personality, spent his entire set floating around on stage and basically talked his verses, the most exciting part of his set was the guest appearance of Riff Raff on “Bird on a Wire.”

For the most part, the rappers at the festival were generally excited to be presenting for an exclusively hip-hop head audience. Brooklyn outfit Flatbush Zombies exploded on stage with psychotic energy from start to finish. Odd Future mates Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt in each of their sets trolled the hell out of their fans, which made for an even more amped set. Pusha T gets immense credit for kicking off his set with his lively guest verse from “Don’t Like” and Clipse-favorite “Grindin,’” a successful attempt at keeping fans from drifting off to the other stages.

Trinidad James’s “I’m so happy to be here” schtick surprisingly made for a bouncy show. A$AP Mob and Black Hippy each tied for best overall group performance and both crews played like they owned the Shoreline Amphitheatre. Kid Cudi, who some hip-hop heads might have doubted as a viable headliner, possessed a contagious enthusiasm that the crowd inhaled like it was pot smoke.

As for the holograms, they get credit for their novelty and not much else. Both Eazy E and ODB were flickering in the beginning. The hologram as a medium could barely play surrogate for these two strong and influential personalities. I pray to god Mac Dre never gets subject to this. The hologram was a worthy endeavor in that it gave a sense to millenials what it was like to witness Eazy E and ODB, but fun time is over and it’s time to retire this gag before we jump the shark.
Least Surprising Cancellation: Chief Keef.
Best Surprise Guest: Tiny “Zeus” Lister aka Deebo from “Friday” showing up during Earl Sweatshirt, E-40/Too $hort, and TechN9ne’s sets.
Most “I’m old” Comment: RZA for “I know a lot of y’all grew up with iPads and iPhones, but I’mma show y’all how we used to do it back in the day”
Most Generous: Juicy J for throwing his sweat-soaked Gucci sports jacket into the crowd.
Most Unnecessary Stage Set-Up: Kid Cudi and his giant “Legends of the Hidden Temple” boulders.
Biggest Bay Area Panderer: Host Peter Rosenberg for constantly reminding people who live in the Bay Area that they are currently in the Bay Area.
Best Freestyler: Supernatural for the umpteenth time.

Number of times I heard the word “Twerk:” A shockingly low 2.
Number of times I heard the phrase “Turn Up” or any variation there of: ∞ [infinity]
iPad sightings: 6 (ugh)
Number of “Fuck the Police” chants: 7
Number of acts I heard lip-syncing: 4

For whom the bell rocks: hologram rap edition


This year’s Rock The Bells really is the Costco of hip-hop festivals. Pretty much anyone who’s anyone in the hip-hop world (plus some dead rappers) will be at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater this weekend. There is literally something for every kind of hip-hop fan out there, with more artists packed into those two days than weed in a Juicy J blunt.

Perennial RTB performers Wu-Tang Clan, Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick, Rakim, Bone Thugs N Harmony, and KRS-ONE will holding it down for the old school. Meme-rap stars Riff Raff, Danny Brown, and Trinidad James will bring their WTF-brands of rap. On the rise Brooklyn youngsters Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$ will be present.

And even though the backpack era is over, mid-aughts underground luminaries such as Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Brother Ali, and Tech Nine will transport you back to a not so distant 2005. Headliners Kid Cudi, the entire A$AP and Black Hippy crews, hyphy super duo E-40/Too $hort, and Girl Talk (who might throw down a more hip-hop influenced set) will cap off the long weekend.

But the talk of the festival is not anyone listed above or anyone who has a heart beat. Hologram versions of Easy-E and Ol’ Dirty Bastard will appear in intangible 3D form. To catch a preview of their set you can watch performances of E and Dirty from last weekend’s Rock The Bells LA.

It’s easy to snark or scoff at a somewhat preposterous idea, but as someone who was witnessed hologram Tupac the first weekend at Coachella, I can fully attest that hologram rappers is as awesome as it sounds. I distinctly remember one guy in the crowd who literally thought Tupac had come back from the dead — granted he may have been tripping hard. So make sure to circle the two hologram shows on your setlist.

If you’re planning to travel via Caltrain, know that trains only leave from SF at the 15 of the hour. More importantly, the last train to leave Mountain View on Saturday is 10:49 and the last train on Sunday is at 9:19. Plan accordingly as you sure as hell don’t want to pay for a $120 cab back to the city.

Saturday recommendations:
Tyler The Creator, Chief Keef, Supernatural, Action Bronson, Pusha T, Flatbush Zombies, A$AP Mob, E-40 & Too $hort

Sunday recommendations: Juicy J, Deltron 3030, Rakim, Riff Raff, Earl Sweatshirt, Trinidad James, Danny Brown, Joey Bada$$, Black Hippy, Wu-Tang Clan.

2013 Rock The Bells Festival
Sat/14, Sun/15, $65.50-$239
Shoreline Amphitheater
1 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View

Striking Out


Today marks 1,575 days since concession workers at AT&T Park have had a raise, during which time the San Francisco Giants have been fabulously successful, both on and off the playing field.

The 750 workers represented by UNITE-HERE Local 2 are currently involved in frustrating and fruitless negotiations with their employer, Centerplate, a South Carolina-based food service company contracted by the Giants to sell beer, garlic fries, and other overpriced consumables at games.

The Giants and its front office seem fairly unconcerned about the plight of workers who proudly don the team’s logo and pad its revenues. Not a single concession worker that we interviewed for this article said that they work for Centerplate — each of them said that they work for the Giants.

Since the last contract expired in March 2010, the Giants have won two World Series championships, raised the average ticket price by 20 percent, and have seen the value of the team shoot up by $223 million. The only thing that hasn’t improved are the wages of the concession workers.

Cashiers currently make $16.40 per hour, in-seat runners make $13.40, and some entry-level workers make just $10.45, which is actually less the city’s minimum wage. That’s only legal because those workers were under contract for $10.45 per hour when the wage increased to $10.55 at the beginning of this year. And Centerplate won’t even let Giants workers have a tip jar to augment their substandard wages.

Local 2 reports that revenue from concessions is divided up in a 55-45 split between the team and Centerplate (the Giants PR office disputes this number, but it won’t divulge the actual split). So when a fan spends $17 for a hot dog and 16oz beer, Centerplate and its workers get $7.65 and the Giants get $9.35, all of it pure profit. And the Giants executives even set the concession prices, not Centerplate.

But the team says the plight of these workers isn’t its problem. “We continue to urge both parties to get back to the bargaining table and to have productive discussions so the matter can be resolved as quickly as possible. This dispute is between Centerplate and Local 2, not the Giants,” is the team’s public position on the issue.

The Giants communications office responded with this stance to every question the Guardian asked about the issues involved: What have you done to “urge” Centerplate to settle the contract? Couldn’t the Giants force a settlement if it really wanted to? Why haven’t concessions workers shared in the team’s success and rising revenues? How can you claim to support the community if you can’t even ensure the people who work in your stadium are paid minimum wage?

The Giants had nothing to say about a petition signed by 600 of the workers urging the team and Centerplate to agree to a deal, instituting a company-wide no-comment policy on the standoff with concession workers.

“It would be nice if they would come in and talk—not be a mediator, but to know what we’re asking for and say why they’re not providing it or why they feel they shouldn’t provide certain information,” Billie Feliciano, who has worked as a Giants cashier for more than 30 years, told us. “They could talk to the president of the union on that if they wanted to. You know, we’re not asking you to tell us how you spend your money. We just want to know how much control you have of this situation.”

Feliciano and her fellow workers just want the Giants to be team players.




Contrary to what the Giants may say, there is one pressing issue—job security for the workers—that is nearly impossible for the workers and Centerplate to resolve. Every worker interviewed for this story has explicitly said that job security is their most important goal.

Even Centerplate says only the Giants can offer job security to concession workers. If Centerplate goes out of business or loses its contract, the concession workers will likely lose their jobs, which is why they’re advocating for a succesorship clause that would guarantee their employment in that scenario.

When The Guardian inquired with the Giants office about the issue, its spokesperson once again responded, “This is an issue between the workers and Centerplate, not the Giants.”

But with the Giants controlling who runs its concession and how much they charge the fans, is Centerplate just an easy scapegoat for squeezing more profits from workers? Because on the subject of health benefits and wages, the two camps are separated by a wide chasm.

In order to qualify for healthcare, the workers need to work at least 10 games in a month (they’re eligible for health insurance only from June 1 through December 1) to have coverage a month later, which means that the health and well-being of the 750 workers hinges on Major League Baseball’s scheduler.

Workers almost got denied coverage for August because June only had nine games, but they ended up qualifying because they worked a private event at AT&T Park for the biotechnology firm Genentech.

Yet Centerplate wants to raise the number of qualifying games to 12, while Local 2 wants to keep it at 10 and grant healthcare coverage to workers who work every game in months with less than 10 games.

On wages, Centerplate has offered 25-cent increase in hourly pay, no retro raises for the years worked under the expired contract, and a $500 bonus. Though Local 2 has not put out an exact number on their wage demands, its spokesperson says Centerplate’s wage offers are beyond unacceptable; they’re insulting.

Centerplate’s main message in this quarrel is its insistence that the concessions workers are among the highest paid in the nation and that they accrue more benefits than most part-time workers. But the workers say that claim is misleading given the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

“If we were living in Dallas, Texas, I’d say yeah, we’re probably overpaid. But we’re not,” Anthony Wendelburger, who has been a cook for three years, told us.

The Bay Area is among the most expensive metropolitan areas in the nation. Last month, the business consultant Kiplinger published a list of the top 10 most expensive cities in the U.S. San Francisco was third behind Honolulu and New York, with nearby San Jose in fourth and Oakland eighth.

The average concessions worker makes around $11,000 in a year while some make upwards of $13,000 during the regular season. Based on differences in the cost of living, we calculate (using that $11,000 translates to $7,760 if they served food and drinks for the Seattle Mariners, $7,880 for the Chicago Cubs or White Sox, and $6,530 for the Atlanta Braves.




At the Giants-Padres game on June 18, a Tuesday, several hundred protesters gathered at a rally to show support for the Giants concession workers. Most were affiliated with Local 2, but a few off-duty concession workers came to join the demonstration.

They implored the fans—most whom seemed to be just learning about the dispute—to abstain from purchasing any concession stand products. The rally started an hour before game time engulfed fans waiting in line with chants of “No justice, no garlic fries!” and “Ain’t no protest like an union protest because an union protest don’t stop!”

Inside the stadium, 44 protesters (all of whom had purchased tickets) staged a sit-in in front the garlic fries stand situated behind sections 122 and 123. Their numbers withered as the game progressed and by the fourth inning, the area in front of the stand was cleared and business resumed, with 10 protesters arrested for refusing to disperse.

That protest followed a more significant action on May 25, when all of the 750 workers staged an one day strike, authorized by a 500-16 vote by workers. For that game, Centerplate employed volunteer workers who only got paid in tips. Yes, the scabs got the tips that the regular workers are being denied.

Food and drink service during that game was significantly slower than normal, as even the Giants acknowledged. There were reports of fans standing up to 40 minutes in line for a beer, which is usually more than two innings, an amount of playing time that few true baseball fan would ever give up for a beer run.

Critics—including several passerby fans who were loudly expressing their disdain for the demonstrators at the Giants-Padres game—say the workers should be content with what they have, perhaps assuming the workers were getting more from that $10 beer than they really are.

When Pearlie Jones started working concessions at Giants games 22 years ago, hot dogs were $3. Today they sell for twice that amount at the stand that Jones now manages.

We met Jones at the Local 2 building in the Tenderloin. She lives in Daly City, survives on unemployment during the off-season, and has no other source for health insurance. With nervous laughter, Jones told us she “prays to God during [the off season] that I don’t get sick.”

Wendelburger, who has to commute almost two hours each way to the ball park, works as a bartender during the off-season, although he can only get three days a week. When asked about health insurance during the off-season, this husband and father of two says, “Unless I’m going to die, I’m not going to see a doctor.”

But Jones says that as important as improved wages and healthcare benefits are to her and other employees, they really fear losing their jobs: “Our job security is the main issue that we’re pushing for right now.”

One issue that seems telling of the way Centerplate and the Giants are treating concession workers is on the issue of tips. The workers are currently not allowed a tip jar or a tip line on credit card receipts, a standard feature of food service, particularly here in the Bay Area, where even butchers and bakers have tip jars.

Ramirez says she’s utterly baffled by Centerplate’s stubbornness on the issue. “A tip line is something that doesn’t cost management anything and requires a small change in the computer system and is something the customers are actually demanding. We have a great experience with our fans and customers and they want to share their gratitude and they can’t,” she told us.

Another seemingly minor yet deadlocked issue is the request for benches for in-seat food runners. These workers currently have nowhere to sit for breaks or in between food runs, yet Centerplate has refused to budge on that issue.

When asked about these minor demands, a Centerplate spokesperson said that they have not seen any list of demands from Local 2, a statement disputed by workers and Local 2.

Centerplate has cast workers as greedy, even filing a lawsuit against Local 2 claiming that the union and the workers are trying to exploit the Giants’ World Series championships, an action that the union and its workers heard about from reporters, adding to the aura of mistrust hanging over these negotiations.




Both sides have accused the other of not operating in good faith, something they both hope will change when negotiations resume on July 29.

Centerplate says it wants to give the workers a contract, but blames the deadlocked negotiations on Local 2 head Mike Casey, who also serves as the elected president of the San Francisco Labor Council.

“Unfortunately, Local 2 and its leader Mike Casey have not responded to our economic proposal. Our employees, and Local 2 members, remain without a contract, raise, bonus, and health security all because of Casey’s failures,” Centerplate spokesperson Gina Antonini told us.

But the concession workers seem to strongly support Casey, who was on vacation and unavailable for comment. “I have tremendous faith in our Local 2 union leadership. Mike Casey is brilliant,” Patricia Ramirez, a line cook of 14 years, told us. “I think Casey and [Local 2 organizer] Alphonso Pines are leading us in the right way and I think we’re going to win because of their guidance.”

Centerplate seemed unaware of Casey’s local reputation and community support. “The entire labor community is supporting Local 2 and our message is clear: If you have to go to the games, don’t buy the food” San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson told us.

Local 2’s tough, deliberate, long-term strategy is one that has paid big dividends numerous times in its history, even if it has resulted in long standoffs with management, as was been the case with hotel workers in San Francisco.

“We have seen plenty of times that they have deadlocked for a period of time, they hold out, they tend to fight as long as it takes, and they tend to win” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

For their part, concession workers involved in the negotiations blame Centerplate lawyer and lead negotiator George Aude and his abrasive style for the impasse and the tense relations. Several workers we talked to cited Aude’s disrespectful demeanor, with one worker calling him a “giant hothead”.

In one of the negotiations, Aude made several irate comments, which Local 2 took as a threat. They say Aude demanded of the Local 2, “If you don’t stop all these actions you’ve been doing, we’ll offer you less money.”

We reached Aude to comment on the contract talks, he said simply “unsatisfied,” and when we asked for further details, Aude hung up and refused to answer our calls.




Mayor Ed Lee says he’s urging the two sides to settle the standoff and that he has offered to help, although he’s leaving it to the mediators involved. So for those keeping score, City Hall has offered help but the Giants organization has not.

Yet Lee’s half-hearted offer to help Giants workers belies his zealous efforts to promote the Giants and its brand. In February, Lee and the Giants launched a citywide anti-litter program called “The Giant Sweep,” named in honor of the Giants’ sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series.

“Last year the Giants showed us that winning the World Series took a team effort that went far beyond individual heroics. It required the effort of every player, coach, manager, and support staff — not to mention the fans — to build a championship team. The same approach is needed to attack San Francisco’s litter problem. The Giant Sweep will help San Francisco remain a place where people want to live, work and visit,” the Mayor’s Office said in announcing the program.

Mayor Lee and Gavin Newsom awarded the Giants a “Key to the City” for their World Series wins. Pitcher Matt Cain was awarded a “Key” last year for his perfect game against the Houston Astros. Even disgraced slugger Barry Bonds was given a “Key” after passing Hank Aaron on the all time home run list in August 2007.

“You know, we usually give keys to individual dignitaries who have accomplished great things, whether it was the president of Ireland, or Tony Bennett, or even a Matt Cain on his wonderful perfect game in San Francisco,” Lee said during last year’s celebration. “We normally celebrate those individual accomplishments, but today, we’re gonna break with that tradition and present this key to the entire team and coaching staff, everybody involved in the Giants, the investors, their front office. Congratulations to a team that doesn’t know how to quit, never gives up, and defied the odds at every opportunity.”

Then the city spent nearly a reported quarter-million-dollars to throw its team a massive victory parade and San Franciscans went wild in celebrating the Giants, once again, as the concession workers waited to feel like part of the team.

Could Lee or other City Hall figures help solve the standoff? Other mayors have successfully intervened in situations like this before. In 2004, then-Mayor Newsom sided with the 4,300 picketing hotel workers after the hotels refused his request to end a lockout.

Less than a year before that, Newsom ran for mayor as a “business friendly centrist” who raised millions of dollars from the hotel industry and other downtown business interests. But when he saw that hotel management wasn’t being reasonable, he used the power of his office to help broker an agreement.

It would seem Lee could do the same thing if he wanted, particularly given that the Giants are currently asking the city for land and support to help grow its business.


The Giants organization is currently working on a $1.6 billion, 27-acre development project at Pier 48, located on the opposite side of Mission Creek from AT&T Park. The gargantuan project will include 1,000 housing units, 125,000 square feet of retail, 1.7 million square feet of office space, 2,690 garage parking spaces, and more than eight acres of public space. The project is on public land and will be subject to numerous approval processes, by both the city and the Port of San Francisco. Pier 48 and Seawall Lot 337 are some of the last valuable, easily developable sections of waterfront in San Francisco, so one might say the team is asking a lot from the community. And of course, Mayor Lee offered unqualified, enthusiastic support for the project, telling the Chronicle, “Among my highest priorities is to make sure our homegrown companies can stay, grow, and hire right here in San Francisco, driving job growth, improving our neighborhoods, and in this case our world-class waterfront.” But Lee, Centerplate, and the Giants seem to think that just creating jobs is enough, regardless of pay, benefits, and job security. “The success of a Major League Baseball club is measured by more than game-winning rallies and pennant drives. Beyond the box scores, a ballclub has a unique opportunity to create partnerships to improve the quality of life in its community,” the Giants proclaim on its community page. But for Giants workers, such sentiments have done little to improve their quality of life.

Chatting up Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas

Chances are, you probably have the Daily Kos blog open on one of your browser tabs right now. The fiercely progressive blog and community hub showcasing an array of liberal activists and organizers has been at the forefront of a number 21st political battles. Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos, started Netroots (then known as YearlyKos) as a way to bring an online community together in a shared physical space. Eight years later, Moulitsas attends as a “private citizen.” When I caught sight of him at the conference, I approached him for a conversation on how the conference has changed over the years, the relationship between liberals and Obama, and his take on current voter demographics.

SFBG: What’s your been your experience at Netroots Nation 2013?

Moulitsas: What’s been different than previous ones is, it’s kind of lot younger. There seems to be a sort of a new generation of network activists. And so, we have this new generation of activists that’s emerging, which is to me is kind of cool. Because any movement cannot sustain itself without youth, that new blood and … the skills they’re bringing to the table — this intimate knowledge of social networks — are skills that I can definitely benefit from, and some of these young guys can actually benefit from some of the wisdom that old-timers have.

How has the conference progressed since the first one in 2006?

You know what was amazing about that conference, is that it was organized by the community. I didn’t organize it, it was the community that decided that they wanted to meet in person and then they made it happen. It was truly volunteer and amateur-driven, from day one, but it didn’t feel like an amateur conference. So they accomplished kind of the impossible just by sheer will and desire to make this happen, and so what I would say is … this is going to grow into something much further beyond the Daily Kos community.

What do you say to liberals who are disillusioned and cynical about Obama and other Democratic Party leaders?

You know, change is incremental. It always is in the political realm. A lot of that disappointment with him really stems from the fact that we have a shitty Congress. A lot of that had nothing to do with the shitty Congress. We’re not going to get everything we want and we could never get everything we want. We’ve got to keep creating that space, politically, for people to do so. Obama couldn’t be pro-gay marriage his first term, until the very, very, very end of his first term, when finally the political space has been created, where he could be a better progressive. So to me, that’s what it’s all about, is to continue to create that space and move the American public. I mean, the American public is already there. It’s getting them to realize they’re actually more liberal than they think they are.

It’s making sure that growth demographics that are very democratic are engaged politically, not taken granted but make sure that African Americans, Latino, Asians are engaged politically because there are going to be key components of our future majorities in the direction our nation takes. Conservatives really began their movement, building their movement in 1964, after the Barry Goldwater defeat. From the point, it took them 16 years to win the White house with Ronald Regan. It took him 30 years to win Congress in 1994 with the Newt Gingrich revolution.

But while the Democratic Party has moved left on issues like pot and gay marriage, a lot of people are saying the neoliberals have taken over the Democratic Party.

I actually think some of the most excitement coming from the Democratic Party are people like Elizabeth Warren, who are actually more progressive on economic issues than any democrat I’ve seen on the scene long time.

Do you think the emerging “Democratic Majority” has arrived?

Obama lost the white vote. The white votes were 75 percent of the electorate 2012. Mitt Romney won them 59-39 and Obama didn’t hit 40 percent with white voters. If the election were held in 2016, nothing else changes, same percentages, instead of winning by 5 votes, Obama would win by 9 points. So, not only is it here, but it’s growing at an incredible pace. Right now the only way Republicans can win elections is if our voters stay home. That’s a problem, because our core voters are also the least performing of voters – young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and single women have the worst turnout rates, particularly in midterm elections. 

Disillusionment, “Everyman,” and Netroots Nation

For nearly the entire Caltrain ride to down San Jose last Thursday morning, my thoughts were fully consumed by the subject of liberal disillusionment and cynicism. I pondered the question, “How much progress have the things that liberals care about made since the start of the new millennium?”

The issue of gay rights was the only glimmer of hope I could conjure up. Since 2000, income inequality has increased astronomically, the military-industrial complex grows unabated, the drug war continues to destroy millions of lives, women are having to protest the same idiotic conservatives policies their mothers protested, we are realizing the tangible repercussions of climate change, the Citizens United ruling and Republicans have become the John Birch Party and Democrats, by and large, have become identical to the Republicans of 30 years ago.

And while it may be true that progressives were responsible for electing the first black president, the Obama Administration has, for the most part, ignored, shunned, and at times insulted progressives. If Obama governed like a progressive, he would have jailed Wall Street executives for their roles in the financial crisis and HSBC bankers for laundering terrorist and drug cartel money, he would have rejected the Keystone pipeline in resounding fashion, he would have fought harder for a public option, he would have ended or at least decreased the surveillance state, and he wouldn’t be prosecuting medical pot dispensaries with extreme vigor.

Like a lot of the other media there, I came in search of demoralized liberals and to see if the Democratic Party leaders and other notable figures in attendance would feel the brunt of this dismay.

Unsurprisingly, the boogeyman of John Boehner, the Koch Brothers, and other rightwing caricatures were paraded out in order to stomp out any reservations you may have had about the president. One of the most notable lines of the conference was Howard Dean’s unfunny salvo of how the president isn’t perfect, “but it sure beats having Bain Capital, oops, I mean Mitt Romney in the White House!”

When our Rep. Nancy Pelosi was booed for saying that Edward Snowden should be prosecuted for his leaks, she tried shouting over the jeers by repeatedly saying that Obama’s second term was not Bush’s fourth. Then she tried to calm the crowd down (in a twist of irony, a man named Marc Peckel was kicked out for voicing objection to a police state), saying she welcomed the booing and debate about privacy. But would we be having this debate now, if it weren’t for Snowden’s leaks?

I attempted to ask Rep. Pelosi some follow-up questions as she exited the building (flanked by numerous aides and security) but oddly enough, my shouts of “I’m with the San Francisco Bay Guardian!” didn’t faze her one bit.

From the dozens of interviews I conducted with a wide range of attendees, the overall consensus seemed to be that Obama, his administration and other Democratic Party leaders are still on their side – though a good number of my interviewees expressed profound disappointment that the president hasn’t been liberal enough. One healthcare organizer from Chicago said he was immensely dissatisfied by Obamacare, but believes that it’s right the step toward implementing universal healthcare.

Obama’s most visible critic for the three days was a man who goes by the name Stan Everyman, who came on behalf of the San Jose Peace & Justice Center and carried a sign everywhere he went that read “OBAMA=CHENEY”. Everyman, who fervently believes that “Netroots is firmly under control of the Democratic party,” saw the conference as an opportunity to connect with other progressives who have gripes with Obama. The majority of reactions to his sign were positive, he said, but he did wind up engaging in some mild confrontations with what he calls “Democrat loyalists.” He was aghast when he encountered someone who came to Netroots on behalf of a liberal dating service, saying, “she didn’t mind if her emails and calls were tapped and didn’t care if there were helicopters hovering over her house as long as it caught the terrorists.” and when it did elicit a reaction, did nothing more than get a thumbs up or an eye-roll.

Meanwhile, some Democratic figures urged progressives to pressure elected leaders as much as possible. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota representative and co-chair of the progressive caucus, stated: “If people who came before us got discouraged because things were hard, we’d still have slavery, have no right to collective bargaining, the air quality would be horrible. The problem isn’t that you’re not involved and you didn’t get what you wanted, the problem is that you got to stay involved.”

When I countered that a big reason behind liberal disillusionment was that our own guy didn’t come through for us, Ellison’s responded, “Let me say this, never ever organize around a personality – even if it’s an awesome personality like Obama’s. Organize around the principles that guide you. Somewhere along the way we stopped saying ‘yes we can’ and started saying ‘yes he can,’ and when he didn’t do certain things we want, we got discouraged. What personality does the Tea Party coalesce around? None! They coalesce around, ‘we hate government, we love guns’ and ‘if you’re not quite like us, you’re not all right.’ So the progressive movement should coalesce around generosity, inclusion, fairness, sustainability, and leaders need to live up to that, and if they do, they’re good, and if they don’t, they’re not. But it shouldn’t be a personality-driven thing.”

If you want change, you have to keep on keeping on, no matter. Sure, town halls, letter campaigns, and protests are great ways to engage your politicians and in democracy, but when you got to go to work or tend to your family, six-figure lobbyists walk through the halls of Congress retracting whatever impact the people’s efforts made. Politicians want us to give them the political will to do what’s right even though we elected them to do what’s right. I don’t naively believe politicians are perfect and that they’re our friends and that we can sit back and relax after we pull the voting lever. However I do have a problem with “I’ll fight for you!” during the campaign season and “Fight for me!” during the legislative sessions. The latter due to this being a non-election year, was the unofficial theme of Netroots Nation 2013, which also possessed a palpable feeling that the reason why many of the big names showed up was to throw the progressive wing a bone and quell whatever qualms they have.

I do admit that Netroots, in the past, has resulted in a concrete impact (namely, helping to get Obama elected and being instrumental in manufacturing a 21st century online campaign apparatus). However, the chances that it will be able to pull Hillary Clinton—who’s just as hawkish as Dianne Feinstein— to the left beyond the duration of the conference are lower than the probability of Obama appointing Angela Davis as his Chief of Staff. A piece on a couple days ago reported that progressives are open to a Clinton run, which should come as no surprise to given how good the left is at reconciling their beliefs with that of their leaders.

So between now and NN14 (which is in Detroit), when the Democratic Leadership will come begging for the left’s help to return the Speakership crown back to Pelosi, pretty much everything the left holds dear will wallow in purgatory or regress to hell. But cheer up: At least Bain Capital isn’t president!

Netroots Nation: How to make a comeback

At Netroots Nation the central focus on the how, and not so much the why. Everyone here knows why austerity is devastating, why women need ready access to birth control, and why blank-industrial complex is morally reprehensible. But not everyone necessarily knows how marriage equality made a comeback in 2012, or how one goes about convincing your Nebraska Republican farmer father to believe in climate change. At Netroots, your network is your net worth. 

A noteworthy panel of the day was “Moving the Needle: How We Won the Gay Marriage Fight,” spotlighting an issue where the left has made considerable progress. Remember the days when Feinstein was trying to stop Newsom from issuing gay marriage licenses? That was less than a decade ago; today, even Republican senators from Alaska endorse gay marriage.

In 2009, the pro-gay marriage team lost at the ballot by 33,000 votes, three years later the good guys won by 38,000. Ian Grady, communications director for Equality Maine, explained “that their main message of ‘equal rights for all’” lacked the emotional resonance to persuade swing voters and “left the LGBT community vulnerable to the civil unions argument.” In 2012 when Equality Maine pivoted to showcasing a marine talking about his two moms and a grandfather’s emotional speech about wanting to see his granddaughter get married, their research overwhelmingly showed that the impact of emotional persuasion. PR pro tip for liberals and progressives: evaluate and reevaluate ideas that look like no-brainers to you and know that style (communication) is just about as important as substance (ideas).

Closing out the first day was the pep rally! Liberal stalwarts Howard Dean and Barney Frank, activist Sandra Fluke, Speaker of the California House John Perez, Senator Jeff Merkeley, and a video appearance from Obama all reiterated the message, and provided a much-needed respite from the dysfunctional state of our government by reminding us of the progress our issues have made and inspired us to keep on keeping on.

Netroots Nation Stats:

# of Google Glass Sightings: 2

# of White people flubbing “Si Se Puede!”: 3

# of Ignored interview requests sent from me to Congresswoman Pelosi’s office: 4

# of Times I heard “The president is not perfect” or some variation there of: 6

# of Times some crazy guy called the American people slaves to Congressman Mike Honda’s staff: I lost count after 6.

# of points Chris Bosh and Mike Miller scored in game 7 of the NBA Finals: 0

# of New media/tech-oriented panels on day one: 12

Netrootin’: Dispatches from the progressive tech networking confab


George McIntire is reporting live from Netroots Nation ’13 in San Jose

Good morning all you liberals, progressives, socialists, leftists, environmentalists, civil libertarians, feminists, queer activists, radical freegan communists and everyone else! Today is the first day of the 8th annual running of the liberals more commonly know as the Netroots Nation Conference and your correspondent for the three-day liberalchella (I promise that’s the only time I’ll use that term) has just arrived in beautiful San Jose.

Everyone is buzzing about the issues du jour of gay marriage (SCOTUS ruling coming soon), immigration (the one issue Congress might actually work on), and civil liberties (all your phone calls are belong to NSA). Will there be a schism due to the Obama’s administration’s abhorrent record on civil liberties? Or perhaps a new era of progressivism will ignite? Maybe Pride will just kick in and everyone will throw on a wig and rainbow boa. Stay tuned to find out!

For the next 60 hours I will be reporting, blogging, and tweeting on the panels, talks, keynote speeches, attendees, and anything else I see fit to report (in addition to photographing the event). Unfortunately for me the paradox of choice will be in full effect and I do not have a way to clone myself. There are 14 events to choose from during the 3-4:15pm time slot and 16 events during the 4:30-5:45 slot, not to mention all the after parties. Here is the schedule.

So I call on you Guardian faithful to help me decide which events to cover. Should I check out “Moving the Needle: How We Won Gay Marriage in 2012” or “Smoke Signals: The Next Steps in Marijuana Reform” or “Beating Back Mansplaining & Sexism in Politics & Organizing”. Please let me know in the comments or you can tweet at me at @gorejusgeorge.

Functional hyphy


MUSIC Here, in the depths of the pot smoke-drenched green room of Slim’s, the muffled chants of an insatiable gathering of Bay Area hip-hop fiends grows louder and more forceful by the second. The crowd is brazen in its vocal yearning for the show’s main act of IamSu! and Compton rapper Problem.

This show, which took place at the end of last month, was a de facto homecoming spot on the Million Dollar Afro mixtape tour and the leader of the HBK (Heart Break Kids) Gang was keen to give his fans what they wanted, and then some.

After a quick team prayer, IamSu! and Problem make their way up the back stairs towards the stage, giving the ceremonial daps to the homies along the way. Then amid a torrent of blaring horn drops courtesy of HBK Gang DJ Azure, IamSu! and Problem leap out on stage like they’re t-shirts being launched from a cannon, the kind you’d traditionally see at baseball games.

IamSu!’s lumbering 6-foot-something frame is rocking a dashiki and a slim leather jacket. The duo commandeers the performance with the skills of a group of season veterans and dutifully maintains the hype level two clicks above organized calamity for the majority of the show. Between each track, someone or some group out there is getting a shout-out, but the biggest shout-out of them all is reserved for the completely unexpected appearance of Juvenile, who is trotted out to perform his verse on “100 Grand.”

If IamSu! had followed the conventional hip-hop career path, he would have quickly spat out an album following his 2011 potty-mouthed, Gold-certified single “Up” and filmed the all-too-common hip-hop club music video with Lil Wayne. But for all his youthful cheerfulness, IamSu!, or Su for short (his real name is Sudan Williams), embodies a dexterous patience when it comes to decisions regarding his budding career.

He has plans for an album but no specific date. He frankly would rather kick it in the studio with his HBK crew laying down tracks on tracks on tracks than strut it out on the national stage, at least for the time-being. Su cheerfully remarks that “with or without music, HBK Gang would be having fun together,” but, almost conversly, holds high aspirations for his crew: “I want it to be a brand like Nike and you see our logo and you already know it’s from the Bay Area. That bond is what keeps us so humble right now, the fact that people will check me when I’m being an asshole, I’ll check somebody else and vice versa.”

A handful of major labels have courted Su and he has rejected generous offers from at least one. In fact, he’s still residing at home because he admits he “just hasn’t had the time to find a new spot”, but he did confirm to me that his pockets “are on sumo.” It was there in his childhood room/makeshift studio that he recorded his incredibly slippery and jolting verse on E-40’s “Function,” while recovering from a cold.

Su, who raps and talks with an undeniable East Bay twang, is just as adept in the studio as he is on the mic and just like the Kanye-model, Su produces nearly every track he raps on. Like East Bay hip-hop stalwarts Trackademiks and Kool A.D., Su explored and absorbed the craft of beat-making at the Oakland nonprofit media center, Youth Radio. Starting at the age of 15, he spent three days a week immersing himself in knobs, keyboards, and drum pads. The first poignant moment of his time there — and of his rap career — occurred when he performed for his peers at Youth Radio, which was the result of a weeklong competition. Su fondly recalls it was “one of the best feelings ever” when he observed the positive reactions of the crowd at Youth Radio.

Su now does the bulk of his production at a small and almost claustrophobic studio tucked away in a nondescript office on the border of Emeryville and Berkeley. There in that studio, I caught a glimpse of the process of constructing a slap.

Starting with a simple synth riff and voice sample, Su gradually and artfully added layers of drum hits, hi-hats, and bass jabbed while twisting and warping the voice sample. Operating the keyboard drums with his left hand, Su maneuvered the mouse to dig in the sample database and drop in instrument clips, all while methodically bobbing his head like a metronome. It wouldn’t be an IamSu! joint if he wasn’t also testing out some indistinguishable lyrics under his breath. Around 15 minutes later, the result was a rough draft of what will likely be a banger, which had the overwhelming approval of his crew present in the studio. Though Su affirmed for me that this joint won’t be hitting speakers “for at least a while”.

While in the studio, Su couldn’t help but bug out with giddiness every time he listened to one of his unfinished tracks, he seemed playful yet focused, relaxed yet determined. That brimming combination of curiosity and enthusiasm remains the driving force behind his dozen or so mixtapes.

Overarching questions pertaining to the status of hyphy or Bay Area hip-hop don’t apply to Su. Whether or not he brings back hyphy or becomes the first rap superstar of the decade from the Bay Area, the self-described “laid back friendly kid who likes to make music, go shopping, and listen to ’80s music,” is going be having the time of his life in the studio, with the full support of his crew.


Just chill


MUSIC Four years ago, in the waning days of the aughts, the befuddling adlib term “chillwave” forged in the throes of the blogosphere, accompanied nearly every story about acts like Neon Indian, Washed Out, and Toro Y Moi. For the uninitiated, chillwave is a cheap, slap-on label used to describe grainy, dancey, lo-fi, 1980s inspired music, and most importantly is a disservice to any band associated with it. Luckily for music writers and listeners alike, this term has died a relatively swift death.

Toro Y Moi, the one-man bedroom project of Chaz Bundick, has exponentially progressed since the chillwave era, in addition to his relocation to Berkeley in August 2011. Bundick is currently on a sold-out tour with his live band and will headline two sold-out Noise Pop shows at the Independent this weekend.

His latest LP, Anything In Return, which came out last month on Carpark Records and was recorded in full in the Bay Area, is a fruitful expansion beyond his earlier albums Causers of This and Underneath the Pine, and a shining foray into experimental styles and sounds.

Anything In Return marks an ambitious departure from anything Bundick has done in the past; Bundick describes it to me as a “bigger sounding album, more accessible and poppy.” The result is a fluent and delicate fabrication of funk grooviness, R&B introspection, and swirling pop melodies. The success — and more importantly, the ethos of the effort — is highly indebted to the late sacrosanct hip-hop producer J Dilla. If Anything in Return signifies a reinvention of Toro Y Moi, then J Dilla and his “try anything, do anything” mantra are its guiding light.

Such a transformation can be daunting to some, but as Bundick notes during our phone call, Dilla “makes everything seem like it’s alright to try.” One of the few Dilla tributes outside of the Paid Dues and Rock the Bells festivals.

Though maturation and cheer remain central themes in terms of sound side of things, Anything in Return is loaded with confessions about Bundick grappling with his relationship and the strain the life of a touring musician has placed on it. The gripes are most poignant on tracks like “Cola” and “Say That,” where he laments the state of flux his and his girlfriend’s different lives have placed on their relationship and the resulting insecurities that arise from such limbo.

His new life in the Bay Area — he moved out here from his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina because his girlfriend enrolled in a grad program at Cal — is expectedly represented in Anything in Return‘s character and aural makeup. One of the first and last things heard on the opening track “Harm in Change” is the crisp noise of a BART train accelerating as it leaves a station — most likely one of the three Berkeley stations.

So far Bundick has fluidly adjusted to life in Berkeley and in the Bay Area in general and signals his health as the biggest benefactor of his relocation. Coming from BBQ-laden South Carolina, the recent vegetarian convert is grateful for the Bay Area’s wealth of veggie options; in a recent interview with SFStation, he listed the revered Berkeley institution Cheese Board Pizza as his favorite food joint. And like pretty much anyone who moves here, he’s been biking, busing, and BARTing more and more.



With Sikane, Dog Bite, DRMS (Fri.), James and Evander (Sat)

Fri/1-Sat/2, 8pm, sold out


628 Divisadero, SF

Time’s a wastin’, but Craigslist Casual Encounters can help you go out with a bang


Think you’ve outfoxed the apocalypse because it’s almost noon on 12.21.12? Sorry to burst your bubble, but the Mayan armadoomsdaypaclypse may still be on.

The land of the ancient Mayans, which lies in present-day southeastern Mexico, is subject to the -6 UTC time zone (same time as Chicago and Houston.) Which means for us in the Pacific realm – probably the most dangerous place to be considering the fault lines and tsunami vulnerability – 10:00pm will be the moment of truth. So spend your last moments with loved ones, reading what could possible be the Guardian’s last cover story ever, or getting some of that sweet dirty Craiglist sex that you’ve heard so much about but were too afraid to try.

Time is obviously of the essence, so we picked out five possible sexual encounters that we believe will be worthy of your last moments on earth. Interestingly enough, some ads require you to be disease free.

– These guys don’t even want sex, they just want to see some boobs! 

– He genuinely wants to be with you for the company, though you’ll have to be the host because he has roommates. 

– It’s end times, so go on — hook up with someone from the Marina.

– Finally! A reason to visit Redwood City! (NSFW)

W. Kamau Bell plays the Fillmore, but doesn’t hold back for the home crowd


A word of advice to the person who shouted, “who’s your favorite clothing designer?,” at W. Kamau Bell during his December 9th show at the Fillmore: a guy who wears a “Legalize Arizona” t-shirt during a night he considers one of the biggest moments of his career probably doesn’t give a shit about fashion. (Initially befuddled by the question, Bell eventually responded “Dickies.”) In addition, to the person who asked Bell whether or not he thought was a whore for being on TV, if he is a one … well you paid for your ticket to the show, right?

Glad we could get that out of the way first.

Bell’s Fillmore gig in the city where he resided for 15 years was one of seven on his Kamau Mau Uprising tour – the name an obvious nod to his radical political leanings. But perhaps none of the other venues held as much significance for him as this one. As he told me in our recent Guardian interview, “in some sense that’s bigger than getting a TV show, when they said that I was going to play the Fillmore.”

The comic’s giddiness in reuniting with the people of his adopted homeland (he grew up in Chicago) was evident as his 6’4” frame came lumbering onto the stage, just moments after opener Dave Thomason’s set. Thomason supposedly was going to go off stage and then come back on to introduce Bell, but Bell apparently didn’t get the memo and strolled right into the spotlight sans introduction from Thomason.

You don’t have to be Nate Silver (a.k.a., White Jesus, according to Bell) to predict how a show like this was going to begin. When a local comedian leaves town to get his own TV show in New York – Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell was recently renewed for a second season – it’s pretty much de rigueur that he opens by regaling the crowd with an anecdotal New York show biz story followed by some softball home crowd-pleasers.

And that’s how it happened. Bell told a story about the time he appeared on The View with Taylor Swift and his towncar was swarmed by six or seven deranged teenyboppers. As for the home crowd pleaser, Bell teased the East Bay denizens about their reluctance to cross the bridge for pretty much any reason. Low hanging fruit? Sure. Could he have easily flipped which side of the Bay he was joshing? Sure. Was it necessary? Absolutely! Broad home crowd pleasers are hypeman-stand-ins in the world of live comedy.

Once we got past the “homecoming” novelty (it never fully went away) Bell hit full stride, thwacking the audience with his favorite subject: race! A palpable liberal queasiness was rife in the historic theater when Bell struck his harshest notes, especially those recounting his own experiences with racism — he once got called the n-word twice in one night in the Mission.

And then as kicker, he chucked sexuality in the mix:

“Hey I’ve lived in San Francisco for 15 years, I never had any beef with gay people, I had way more beef with Chinese people than gay people. Way more, not even close and that’s why I don’t think we should let Chinese people get married. If there’s one point I’m making tonight it’s that Chinese people should not be allowed to get married…That’s the funny thing about San Francisco, it has this reputation of being gay but it’s way more Asian than gay and on some level, gay trumps Asian.”

For the record W. Kamau Bell isn’t actually against Chinese marriage.

Bell’s best quality is his ability to derive humor from seemingly humorless racial topics, distributing laughter equally among the crowd. At no point during the show did it seem like a certain joke got more laughs from people of a certain race. No one else can make the Fillmore ignite in uproarious laughter with a joke skewering the supposed notion that black people were responsible for Prop. 8 passing.

Bell’s “I’m glad to be back!” moment played out exactly like it was scripted. It took place in the perfect setting. Nostalgia and a familiar audience drove Bell’s success at the Fillmore. His biggest challenge, of course, lies ahead: replicating those fuzzy feelings in TV land. 


On the Cheap Listings



The Lion and the Lamb FIFTY24SF Gallery, 218 Fillmore, SF. Through Feb 12. Opening reception: 6:30-10pm, free. Partnering with chic streetwear store Upper Playground, artist Sam Flores will be debuting his first solo presentation in more than three years entitled "The Lion and the Lamb." The work presented is a thorough exploration of the duality of the relationship between good and evil via the medium of oil paintings, pen and ink drawings, and sculptures.


I See Beauty in this Life Curator’s Walkthrough California Historical Society, 678 Mission, SF. (415) 357-1848, 5pm, 5:45pm, 6:30pm, free–$5. Jump into 100 years of pictures of rural California with writer and photographer Lisa M. Hamilton’s as your tour guide, in her new exhibit entitled "I See Beauty in this Life." For the last two years, Hamilton has been chronicling stories of rural communities as apart of work "Real Rural" and tonight some of that work will be on display at the California Historical Society.

Ditched a.Muse Gallery, 614 Alabama, SF. (415) 279-6281, Through Jan 6. Opening reception: 6:30-9pm, free. Hap Leonard’s latest photo exhibit takes a humorous approach to our city’s urban landscape. "Ditched" is a series of photographs of colorful abandoned couches set in various San Franciscan allies and streets.


Soldering, Lapidary, and Enameling Demonstration Silvera Jewelry School, 1105 Virginia, Berk. (510) 868-4908, 1-8pm, free. Interested in learning to work with soldering, lapidary, enameling, and stone cutting? Then you won’t want to miss this event at the North Berkeley Silvera Jewelry School.

Animal Dance Party Harlot, 46 Minna, SF. 9pm-3am, $5-10. If the name of this event doesn’t immediately make you want to burst out of your seat and start dancing like nobody’s watching, then something must be wrong you. Just kidding: we’ll still love you either way. Experience DJs Traviswild and Girls and Boomboxes ignite electro mayhem at the Harlot Club. Oh, and nimal attire is strongly encouraged.


Steppe Warriors Shooting Gallery, 839 Larkin, SF. Through Jan 5. Opening reception: 7-11pm, free. Did you know that Genghis Khan’s real name is Chinggis Khan? Genghis Khan is the Persian version of the Mongolian King’s name. And the horsemen of this legendary historical player are the source of inspiration for Zaya’s upcoming solo show entitled "Steppe Warriors" which will feature 12 ink and watercolor paintings.

Fabricators Jack Fischer Gallery, 49 Geary Suite 418, SF. 3-5pm, free. This new show is the result of a collaboration among five Creativity Explored artists and students from the California College of the Arts’ Fabricators ENGAGE class which is taught by art critic, writer, educator and curator Glen Helfand. Holiday gifts, baked goods, and art pieces will also be on sale at this exhibit.

Mercado de Cambio 2940 16t St. #301, SF. (415) 863-6306, 3-7pm, free. POOR Magazine will throwing the fourth edition of its annual Mercado de Cambio/The Po Sto’ Holiday Art party, billed as a "powerful people-led collaboration of micro-business, art, performance, and community." Sounds like the perfect holiday party for the Mission.

Poetry Reading Vi Gallery, Embarcadero Center 4, Lobby Level, 100 Drumm, SF. 4-6pm, free. The Embarcadero Center isn’t the first place most people think of when asked where’s the best place in SF for a poetry reading. Nevertheless this Saturday writers Richard Hack and Mel C. Thompson will be on hand to dish out some of their own poetry.

In One Hand a Ghost, the Other an Atom White Walls, 835 Larkin, SF. Through Jan 5. Opening reception: 6-9pm. Australian artist New2’s curiously named exhibit will showcase between 16 and 24 pieces of large-scale artwork completely made from paper — specifically, hand-cut layered paper collages.


Santa Skivvies Run The Lookout, 3600 16th St., SF. 1pm, free to watch, $35 to run. The only thing better than running through the streets half-naked is running through the streets half-naked for a good cause. Come watch dozens of barely clothed Santas romp around the Castro for the 2012 Santa Skivvies run, whose proceeds will go to benefit the SF AIDS Foundation.


Sketch Tuesdays 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna, SF. 6pm, free. On the third Tuesday of every month about 20 artists gather at this swanky SOMA gallery to fabricate art on a small scale. And if you’re a patron of the arts you’ll be able to purchase these freshly made works.

Next level: this weekend’s SF Youth Arts Summit takes SOMArts


San Francisco’s next great designer, sculptor, or filmmaker could possibly be in attendance this Sat/8 at the second annual San Francisco Youth Arts Summit taking place at SOMArts Cultural Center.

Maybe the next big things will be Maeve Fitzhoward and Brandy Ruedas, two youth artists who we met who will be showcasing – and selling, hey – their printmaking projects from Out of Site youth arts center, which will help host Saturday’s science-fair-meets-arts-gala. Fitzhoward and Ruedas also dish out advice to other artists through their positions on the Out of Site youth advisory board.

The Guardian also spoke with another Out of Site participant Mari Galicer, who’s been taking the digital media class this past semester. Galicer has learned how to create and manipulate film using programs like FinalCut Pro and Photoshop. Right now she’s working on a film with a group of peers about the city’s 11th district. If you stop by to see her, smile pretty – she’s putting together footage of this weeks’ Art Summit for an upcoming promotional video for Out of Site.

The summit will feature a total of 200 teenage artists from over 20 youth arts organizations. Attendees will also get to check out autuers from YBCA’s Young Artists at Work program, the Children’s Creativity Museum, and BAYCAT‘s base of budding Bayview media types.

While you’re perusing the various works of art you may want to indulge in some printmaking at the Out of Site bartering bank and ATM (Art That Matters) machine, or unleash your inner filmmaker by creating a stop-motion video at the mobile animation studio. If you’re a wordsmith, show off your literary skills at a poetry workshop with members of the WritersCorps, SF Mime Troupe, and TILT, the independent film center for young people.

SF Youth Arts Summit

Sat/8, 2-5pm, free

SOMArts Cultural Center

934 Brannan, SF

On the Cheap Listings


Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.


“Hidden in Plain Bite: Overlooked Opportunities for Food System Reform” 371 10th St., SF. (323) 828-7040, 6:30-9pm, $8-12. Come for this informative and eye-opening discussion that tackles new and innovative measures to reform our dastardly food system. Organic food offerings and a silent auction will follow the talk.

Lemony Snicket The Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF. (415) 863-8688, 5-8pm, free. Beleaguered children’s book hero Lemony Snicket will be on hand at the Booksmith this evening for a meet and greet promoting his latest effort, entitled Who Could That Be at This Hour?


“Terra e Asfalfo: Around the World on a Vespa” The Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno, SF. (415) 500-2323, Through Dec. 16. Opening reception: 6-10pm, free. How anyone can travel all around the world on those speedy little cosmopolitan numbers is beyond us. But Italian couple Giorgio Serafino and Giuliana Foresi did it — and the duo will be presenting their travels via this photo exhibit, where pictures of destinations such as Thailand, South Africa, and Italy will be on display.

Mission Holiday Block Party Various businesses on Valencia from 23rd to 14th Sts. and surrounding blocks, SF. 5-10pm, free. Get half price on sangria at Locanda, 20 percent off clothes and accessories at Five and Diamond (while Shovel Man plays!), check out a George Chen-hosted comedy program at Lost Weekend Video’s CineCave and more at this holiday celebration in Valencia’s neighborly businesses.

“Snapshot” Southern Exposure, 3030 20th St., SF. (415) 863-2141, Through Dec/20. Opening reception: 7-9pm, free. The Youth Advisory Board of Southern Exposure’s new exhibit explores the relationship between the medium of photography and the notion of memory. An experimental work, “Snapshot” features young artists’ take on fact and fiction through digital manipulation.

“Aloha on Ice” Embarcadero ice rink, Justin Herman Plaza, SF. (415) 392-2235, 4-7pm, free. Come bask in the warm aloha spirit at this pop-up luau. You’ll have a number of ways to get tropical at this event, like sampling Hawaiian food, making fresh flower leis, and mugging in a Hawaii-kitsch photo booth. Drink umbrellas and hellacious sunglasses tan not included.

DIY Library Party Mission Bay Branch Library, 960 Fourth St., SF. (415) 626-7512, 7-10pm, free for members and friends of members, $35 for membership. The DIY aesthetic has permeated nearly all facets of our contemporary culture, so it’s past time for our local library to get in on the low budget fun. Get engrossed by an impromptu arts and crafts project, and mingle with cocktail-sipping fellow literary fans at this free event.

Hurricane Sandy Benefit Show Modern Eden Gallery, 403 Francisco, SF. 6-9pm, free. We on the West Coast are lucky to not have to deal with terrors of hurricanes, which is why we urge to attend this art show benefiting our fellow Americans on the other side of the nation.


East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest Berkeley City College, 2050 Center, Berk. 10am-5pm, free. The good folks behind this event decided to go bigger with the third installment of the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine fest. There’ll be workshops on zines, screen-printing, letterpress, and comic illustration in addition to speeches from dozens of local writers.

Vagabond Indie Craft Fair Urban Bazaar, 1371 Ninth Ave., SF. (415) 664-4422, Also Dec/9. Noon-6:30pm, free. Etsy addicts take note! Urban Bazaar in conjunction with Etsy and the SF Etsy team will be putting the third annual holiday-themed Vagabond Indie Craft Fair. Come peruse with your keen shopper’s eye the emporium of hip, fun, and crafty items. Also probably a good idea to do some holiday shopping while you’re at it.

Holiday Indie Mart Speakeasy Brewery, 1195 Evans, SF. Noon-6pm, free. If you’ve never made it out to Speakeasy’s Bayview brew factory, now’s the perfect time. Indie Mart is assembling over 45 vendors, who will come equipped with DIY giftables you’ll be stocked on for your family and friends. Bonus round: today the brewery will unveil its new taproom, designed by Indie Mart creator Kelly Malone and friends.

KPFA Crafts Fair Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., SF. (510) 848-6767 ext. 646, Also Dec/9. 10am-6pm, free–$10. Go to the Vagabond Crafts Fair on Saturday and the KPFA Crafts Fair on Sunday, or vice versa or do a crafts fair crawl by attending both on the same day! Sponsored by the progressive-minded folk at the KPFA 94.1 radio station in Berkeley, this festivity is going all out by bringing craftwork from over 200 local artisans featuring glass, leather, and stone items.


Pladra Holiday Launch 5-8pm, free. 111 Minna, SF. SF flannel company Pladra shows off its latest line of shirts for men and women at this holiday party and trunk show. Everything’s sourced and made in the Bay Area, for a hyperlocal, winter-ready shopping experience.


A Long Day’s Evening Translation City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF. (415) 362-1901, 7pm, free. Turkish experimental modernists rejoice! Aron Aji has finally translated A Long Day’s Evening by Bilge Karasu for our literary loving. Attend this talk today by Aji to hear how the process took shape.