Laura B. Childs

Amour Vert brings its eco-friendly designs to Hayes Valley


“Paris Chic, Cali Cool.” That’s the tagline behind the eco-friendly clothing brand Amour Vert. Usually, the people who refer to California as “Cali” are non-natives. The term implies a certain unfamiliarity with the golden state and a desire to be more ~CaLiFoRnIaN~. Yet, the slogan is fitting. Founded out of a need for clothing that doesn’t sacrifice style for sustainability, Amour Vert’s garments are created by a French designer and made within a 20 mile radius.

Until now, the Palo Alto-based brand was only available in department stores and small boutiques but Amour Vert opens its first retail store today. Nestled in the heart of Hayes Valley, at 437 Hayes, the boutique neighbors the french confectioner Chantal Guillon Macarons and clothing store Steven Alan.

Across the street is Alternative Apparel, a company with a similar commitment to sustainable fashion. But owner Linda Balti maintains that Amour Vert is very different from its neighbor. In an equally sustainable way, Alternative Apparel outsources its garments to socially-responsible factories in Peru, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and other countries around the world. Amour Vert keeps everything local, from its design studio in the Dogpatch, to the exceptional garment factories in the Bay Area, to its beautiful living wall in the Hayes Valley store.

French-German couple Balti and Christoph Frehsee conceptualized Amour Vert after reading a Newsweek article a couple years ago that named the fashion industry as the second polluter in the world.

“I was in the middle of writing a paper for my master’s,” Frehsee said at the store’s opening reception last night. (He studied environmental resources at Stanford.) Balti began researching sustainable alternatives but found that they were either unflattering (think hippie hemp dresses) or expensive, such as John Patrick and Stella McCartney. 

The Parisian designer wanted simple and elegant options to fill her wardrobe at an affordable cost, she says. At the opening reception, Balti wore an Amour Vert sleeveless green palm leaf printed jumpsuit and crisp white hightop sneakers, the epitome of French elegance. With ruffled straps and a cinched waist, the Crystal Jumpsuit is a highlight of the summer collection. This easy and feminine silhouette made of washable silk is indicative of the brand’s casual luxury. Using the finest materials available in the Bay, each garment is handmade from bamboo, silk, organic cotton, recycled polyester, linen, or wood pulp.

Amour Vert’s “Plant a T(r)ee” collection is probably its most impressive. Continuing their dedication to a cleaner environment, Balti and Frehsee have created a small line of garments made from wood pulp, where with each T-shirt purchase (ranging from $75-$135), American Forests will plant a tree in the United States. “It’s our way of directly giving back to the environment what we take from it,” said Balti. So far, they’ve planted 15,000 trees.

In the store, vibrant green and coral pieces with palm tree prints line the walls. Simple, neutral basics are also available. The “Plant a T(r)ee” is mostly comprised of marinières—the quintessentially French navy and white striped boating shirts. With muses such as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Clémence Poésy, the brand maintains a prominently French style. But the Cali vibe is not lost. A lace crop top hangs in the corner embracing the West Coast flair.

The focal point of the store however is a heart-shaped living wall — a nod to Amour Vert’s French name, which translates to “green love.” Designed by SF native, model, and philanthropist Lily Kwong, the installation is composed of small potted plants (for sale for $20) that create a big green heart in the back of the store. The local support continues with two “Made in California” chairs produced by Russell Pritchard, owner of the interior design store Zonal down the street, and board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association.

“Everyone has been very welcoming,” Frehsee said. At last night’s reception, Kwong made an appearance, and delicious snacks by Chantal Guillon Macarons and the Melt food truck were on hand for hungry partygoers. There was also Amour Vert’s signature photo booth, where a tree will be planted for every photo taken. 

The decision to open a store in Hayes Valley was very natural, Balti said. After several pop-ups in the area, the couple decided to open a permanent location in the neighborhood. The store is a lab project to them, says Frehsee — the couple got their beginnings in science, they met at a defense trade show in Abu Dhabi.

“The store is our opportunity to interact with our customers on a personal level and hear what they love most about Amour Vert,” Frehsee said. “We’re looking forward to having that direct dialogue with them.”

Good green: Lessons from the 4th annual SF Green Film Festival


I can count on my two hands the days it’s rained in San Francisco this year. You’d have to be living in a cave to not know that our city is having its worst drought in decades.

For that reason, the theme of the fourth annual San Francisco Green Film Festival is “Water in the West.” The festival, which began on Thu/29, is pushing us to reevaluate our relationship with water. As our state is faced with its worst drought since 1977, it is imminent that we answer the question on everyone’s minds: What is the future of water in California?

With over 60 films coming from 21 countries, the SFGFF is tackling our complicated relationship with water. Like a river flowing through the week-long festival, six feature films address this issue in varying ways: DamNation, Watermark, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, The Great Flood, Lost Rivers, and Chinatown.

Yesterday’s centerpiece film at the Roxie Theater, Watermark, explores humans’ relationship with water, traveling to countries far beyond what most of us have experienced. The film, directed by Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal and landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky, superimposes breathtaking aerial perspectives of water scenes from around the world. Watermark travels to the National Ice Laboratory in Greenland, the disturbing and daunting Xiluodu Dam in China, a heavily-polluted leather tannery in Bangladesh, a pilgrimage of 30 million people bathing in the Ganges river, and a parched, cracked desert in Mexico where the Colorado River used to run wild, among many other beautiful sites.

The film exposes the manifold layers of our water consumption and offers awe-inspiring cinematography but leaves something to be desired. With no narrator and minimal context, the documentary shows rather than tells. It excels visually, but flounders thematically. We see how the world consumes water for farming, for energy, for spiritual and recreational purposes and most importantly for survival but what does it all mean?

The Green Film Festival finds answers with a handful of other films. On Saturday night, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek was awarded the Green Tenacity Award for capturing the inspiring community fight for environmental justice in Mississippi. Over the weekend, the festival hosted two shorts showcases, several workshops, various panel discussions and nightly feature films, including a special 40th anniversary screening of Chinatown.

The event’s opening ceremony last Thursday night was fittingly held at the Aquarium of the Bay. It’s difficult to process the imminence of climate change with the majestical bay at fingertips length. But the opening night’s feature film DamNation drove the point home. The award winning documentary weaves together the ecological, political, economical and psychological implications of river dams. Focusing on the Pacific Northwest, the 87-minute film tracks the “era of dam removal.”

With nature-drenched cinematography and a candid narrator — co-director Ben Knight who admits in the first five minutes to his embarrassingly minimal knowledge on rivers dams when he signed onto the film — DamNation offers an excellent introduction to how the removal of river dams restore watershed ecosystems, revive fish migrations, improve water quality and the lives of adjacent communities and cultures. “The great beauty about wild fish is we don’t have to do a damned thing for them except leave them the hell alone,” says one of the activists in the film. At the end of the night, DamNation took home a 3-D printed award for Best Feature Film. The festival came full circle with Sunday night’s showing of The Great Flood, a film-music collaboration about the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, a catastrophe that prompted the “era of dams.”

The first leg of the Green Film Festival offered a wide array of perspectives about the green movement. Water is the world’s most precious resource and it affects all environmental issues from food security, healthy kids, and livable cities. The festival continues on with daily panel discussions and films promoting social change. Wednesday night’s Lost Rivers is the final installation of the six-part “Water in the West” theme. “Do you know what is hiding beneath our cities?” the film asks. Lost Rivers retraces history in search for disappeared rivers around the world. The film not only offers insight on how and why most rivers in major cities have disappeared today but also answers the question of whether we will see these rivers again.

Activism is rooted in community. For the fourth year, the Green Film Festival is engaging with the community through discussion and film. The community support in San Francisco is heartening. From the filled theaters to the community organizations who’ve partnered with this event: Earthjustice, American Rivers, Save the Bay, Restore the Delta and many others.

Water is invaluable to our daily lives but we treat water as an inexhaustible resource. The films showcased this week prove that this is not the case. Climate change is imminent and we are at the root of it. We can make a difference through education, engagement, activism, and our vote. And if you’re too lazy to do any of that, why not watch a film?


Seeds of Time + panel discussion with Sandy McLeod, director; Cary Fowler, agriculturalist; Greg Dalton, Climate One 

6pm, Roxie Theater

A Will for the Woods

8:30pm, Roxie Theater



Free Screening: Thin Ice: The Inside Story of Climate Science

12pm, SF Public Library


Angel Azul  + panel discussion with Marcy Cravat, director

6pm, Roxie Theater

Uranium Drive-In

8:15pm, Roxie Theater


Lost Rivers

6pm, Roxie Theater


Wrenched: The Legacy of the Monkey Wrench Gang + discussion with Ariana Garfinkel, archivist; David J. Cross, Earth First! photographer; Karen Pickett, activist; and other guest activists from the film.

8pm, Roxie Theater


Closing Night Wrap Party

10pm, Slate Bar

LA siren BANKS enchants The Independent


On Wednesday night at The Independent, a sold-out crowd anxiously awaits the mysterious creature known as BANKS. Cloaked in layers of black fabric that fall to her ankles, the dark chanteuse struts deliberately to center stage, where a spotlight shines onto her pale face. The L.A.-based signer-songwriter seductively sets into the dark R&B track “Before I Ever Met You,” recalling instrumentals by The Weeknd, with whom she toured last year.

“Everyone knows I’m right about one thing,” she breathes into the microphone. The stunning singer pulls off her long sheer robe to reveal a sleeveless black leather top and black asymmetrical skirt. “You and I don’t work out,” she hums. Banks’ soft crooning overlays the sultry drum beats and rugged electric guitar of her two-person band.

The poised musician seamlessly swims through her set. She pulls her dark straight locks out of her face when she dances seductively to the emotional industrial tracks. At times, she slinks to the back of the stage, surreptitiously veiled behind the strobe light haze.

Despite her coyness, BANKS unveils intense vulnerability as she chants about love and loss. Her lyrics divulge an aching heart but also a fierce confidence. She plays with two personas: a shy soulful singer and a strong, fierce femme fatale.


BANKS at The Independent. All photos by Laura B. Childs.

In heartfelt gratitude, the spiritual singer puts her hands together in prayer, thanking the crowd before diving into the entrancing anthem about women’s empowerment, “Goddess”— BANKS’ newest single and the title of her upcoming full-length. “You put her down, you liked her hopeless, to walk around, feeling unnoticed,” she begins in singsong, with unassuming sexiness. “You shoulda crowned her, cause she’s a goddess, you never got this.”

BANKS connects with the audience through her compelling no-bullshit lyrics. “Fucking with a goddess, and you get a little colder,” she sings before passionately throwing the middle finger in the air. The singer uses singing and songwriting as a means of empowerment during dark times. Her lyrics uncover haunting themes of heartbreak and separation; she first started writing music when she was 15 as a coping mechanism after her parents divorce.

The singer’s honesty is contagious as she reaches her hands out to the audience. She creates an candid connection as the crowd sings in harmony to “Brain.” The song begins with the priestess’ guttural moans about the games we play in the name of love. She repeats the sultry lyrics until the instrumental interlude. “I can see you struggling, boy don’t hurt your brain,” BANKS cries out to the crowd. She rocks back and forth on her black platform boots, twisting her wrists like a somber belly dancer.


Twenty-five-year-old Jillian Banks — simply known as BANKS — got her beginnings on SoundCloud, like many of her peers. She has created a remarkable fan base online, released two EPs, Fall Over and London, and is finishing up a full-length album to be released in September. She is noted for her reluctance to use social media and conceals herself with entrancing tracks and haunting grey-scale music videos. She’s cited musical inspirations ranging from James Blake to Aaliyah.

“I get very nervous before shows,” says BANKS at the show. She sings covers backstage, she says, to feel more comfortable. At the mention of covers, the crowd goes nuts because they know she’s about to sing Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.”

BANKS brings a sexy, come hither vibe to the 1997 single by the late R&B singer. In a stripped-down acoustic version, she unearths a powerful stage presence, luring her audience to her like a musical siren. Her honeyed voice feels slightly dangerous. “Boy, I’ve been watching you,” she sings. “Like a hawk in the sky that flies and you were my prey.”

Yes, she’s shrouded in mystery. Make no mistake, this mystery is deliberate. The California native strays away from overexposure and she always leaves you wanting more. But the enigmatic priestess doesn’t need to reveal all of her secrets. She’s opened her heart to us with her music. Her message is clear. She’s here to empower us, unshackle us from heartbreak, and liberate us from sadness. “You are all so perfect,” says BANKS to her fans in between songs, “and every woman is a goddess.”



Wear no evil



Do you know where your clothes come from: Bangladesh? China? Possibly. Clothes are a commodity whose origins are often taken for granted. Fashion followers glamorize garments as collectible items, while others value comfort above all. In most cases, customers will size up a garment’s price or style first, rather than considering where or how it was manufactured.

But consider this: The production end of the apparel industry impacts the world significantly. The fashion industry employs one-sixth of the world’s population. An estimated 250 million children work in sweatshops. The lack of regulation results in unfair labor and pollution around the world. It is the second most polluting industry, second only to oil. Due to the toxic waste discharge in China, you can tell what colors are in season by looking at the rivers. The deadliest garment-factory accident in history, the Bangladesh factory collapse last year, killed 1,129 workers and injured twice as many.

The fact of the matter is, if you care about where your craft beer came from, whether your apple is organic, or if your latte contains fair-trade coffee, you need to be applying that same consciousness to your clothes. Read on for ways to whip your fashion karma into shape.


Click the image above to see our flowchart, “So you want to shop sustainably…”



Global warming isn’t going anywhere. Why not help save the world (as summers grow hotter) one T-shirt at a time? Many independent (and several mainstream) brands have partnered with nonprofits to support the environment. Eco-friendly SF-based brand Amour Vert ( developed the Plant A T(r)EE program, in which a tree is planted in the US with each T-shirt purchase. According to the company, 15,000 have taken root so far, with plans to reach 100,000 by 2015. Other eco-conscious brands, including Alternative Apparel (, support the workers behind the products. Though the company sources its materials in Peru, it works to ensure fair labor practices. Both of these brands design fashionable apparel with organic cotton and other natural, sustainable fabrics — which can result in higher prices. But if your clothing budget allows, it pays to focus on quality, not quantity.



Thrift shopping is probably the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your carbon footprint. The average American throws out 68 pounds of textiles every year. By buying secondhand, you’re saving water and energy that would otherwise be used to manufacture new products, not to mention keeping textile waste out of landfills — and curating your own unique style in the process.

When you clean out your closet, donate your duds to a local thrift store instead of discarding them. Somewhere, there’s a vintage shopper who will treasure that sparkly mini-dress you wore one long-ago New Year’s Eve.



Why haunt the mall when San Francisco has a plethora of homegrown makers? Eco-friendly apparel defies stereotypes (it’s not just hemp dresses anymore) thanks to independent, multi-brand shops like the Mission District’s Gravel & Gold ( and new Hayes Valley spot Gather (, both of which thoughtfully select products to create a connection with the craftspeople behind the designs. Progressive street style brands like San Franpsycho ( and Oaklandish ( celebrate local love while keeping their manufacturing nearby. You can also find city blocks packed with locally made goods at craft and street fairs like the roving Urban Air Market (

But be wary. A label reading “Made in the US” does not guarantee the garment was produced under fair labor conditions. Despite labor laws, sweatshops still exist on our shores. Be an informed, aware shopper, and make sure your dollars are supporting an ethical company before you make a purchase. *


Thick as blood: Sibling duo Broods are the next kiwis on the rise


“Kiwis tend to hold back and be too humble. They don’t want to be over-confident, but I think people are starting to realize that a little bit of confidence can go quite well,” says Caleb Nott, the elder brother of the sibling sensation from New Zealand known as Broods. He sits comfortably next to his sister, Georgia, in the back of The Independent, several hours before their show.

The brother-sister electro-pop duo didn’t get that confidence until the release of their first single, “Bridges,” on SoundCloud, created waves on the world wide interwebs last October. “Bridges” became a hit in the blogosphere and in this hemisphere alike, earning over 200,000 streams in a week.

“It all happened at once,” says 19-year-old Georgia. The singer has an innocent face, giving her the appearance of a much younger teenager. “We went from nobody really knowing us to people on the other side of the world wanting to meet us.”

Later that night, the band starts the night off with “Never Gonna Change,” a deep-synth track with correspondingly morose lyrics. “You’re pushing down on my shoulders, and emptying my lungs,” sings Georgia, lyrics reminiscent of a certain internationally-acclaimed Kiwi. Georgia moves slowly around the stage while Caleb creates layered synths and hypnotic beats. The two remain relatively reserved both on stage and in private. Georgia’s voice is sweet and breathy to the likes of Imogen Heap and Romy Madley Croft of The XX. Caleb brings more energy during the upbeat tracks, bouncing up and down behind his keyboard while Georgia skips around stage in a printed corset crop top and white billowy shorts.


Georgia, a self-proclaimed depressing music lover (“I love sad songs,”) falls deeply into “Taking You There,” a personal favorite and one of the strongest songs from the self-titled EP. Caleb gently strums an acoustic guitar and offers deep vocals to accompany his sisters’ silvery, dream-like hums. The audience moves to the soft beat and sings along. Most of the audience knows the words to every song on Broods’ EP, which the siblings admit to still be adjusting to.

“Seeing people wearing our T-shirts in the crowd,” says Caleb before the show. “That’s so weird and crazy, you’ve got my face on your T-shirt.”

Since October, Broods — the name obviously referring to the band members’ blood relation but also the melancholic nature of their songs — has played two US tours, spent a brief stint touring with Haim, and is scheduled as the opening act for Ellie Goulding’s Australia/New Zealand tour this summer.

“Over the last couple of years, people have started to look over to Auckland and to New Zealand as a whole for new music.” Caleb explains. From LadyHawke, to The Naked and Famous, Lorde and now Broods, the New Zealand music scene is a treasure trove of indie talent. Caleb says the music scene remains relatively tight-knit where everyone supports each other in their own music genre but doesn’t reach out beyond, reminiscent to a private high-school. “It’s pretty cliquey, because it’s very small.”

“This one’s for Lorde,” says Georgia in between songs. She dives into the gentle lullaby “Sleep Baby Sleep.” The mesmerizing beat and soft vocals is characteristic of Lorde’s debut album.

The band is clearly following in her footsteps, from the grassroots release of the Broods EP, to the dark coming-of-age tones, to the producer who discovered them. Joel Little found Caleb and Georgia while a judge for a music competition in 2011 but the band wasn’t formed until early 2013 in Auckland. After producing Lorde’s Grammy Award-winning debut album, Joel Little began work on “Bridges.”


Broods closes the show with its first single, “Bridges,” a moody track about broken relationships. Georgia starts out with muted piano chords and an ethereal voice that builds into Caleb’s rich synth soundscape. Georgia’s voice is exceptionally developed for her age. She plays a soft version of a song from their upcoming album. She’s most comfortable behind the piano, her instrument of choice. “And I’m trying hard to make you love me, but I don’t wanna try too hard,” she sings moodily about falling in love with the perfect man.

Broods has played in San Francisco twice now but has yet to play a show in New Zealand. The siblings will head home next week to work on their debut album with Joel Little. Then, they will play their first proper show in their hometown of Nelson with their 17-year-old sister, who is set to open with her folk band. Clearly, talent runs in the family.

Swing away — Urban Putt opens today!


After a sneak peek and a couple of delays, Urban Putt finally opens at 4pm today. The high concept mini-golf course, restaurant, and bar combination arrives just in time for some Cinco de Drinko fiesta time.

The former mortuary at South Van Ness and 22nd Streets is freshly coated with a new paint job that seamlessly blends with the neighborhood. There’s nothing flashy about Urban Putt from the outside but as you step inside, you’re transported into a gadgety, steampunk world — a techie’s Disneyland.

The elaborate 14-hole golf course designed by the guys behind Mission Bowling Club can hold 40 golfers at a time, so expect a wait list as long as Nopa’s on a Friday night. Golfers start out at the Earthquake Hole where they navigate around Lotta’s Fountain and moving buildings into a fire hydrant hole. Expect kitschy San Francisco references scattered around the course: a Transamerica windmill, the Day of the Dead hole, and a robot hole built by the people from Make Magazine. Several other of our city’s landmarks also make an appearance.

While it’s a tad cramped, the course’s beauty remains in the details. A lot of the course was built by Urban Putt’s in-house 3-D printing machine. With custom ironwork, wood designs, and digital features, there are many surprises! At the Music Hole, the golf ball is lifted 10 feet in the air and dropped down an elaborate chute bouncing on drums, tambourines, and xylophones before making its way back onto the turf. In the left corner is a dark room resembling something out of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The two-hole underwater course includes an LED-lit floor, a moving octopus, and an interactive submarine decked out in bells and whistles, levers, and buttons. 

If mini-golf isn’t for you, the building’s second floor is entirely dedicated to a different kind of sport: eating and drinking. The full bar and restaurant UP @ Urban Putt is run by chef Dane Boryta, formerly of Bottle Cap. The restaurant will serve up traditional Americana dishes that include burgers, pizza, salads, and desserts — basically what you’d find at any mini-golf course. Guests can eat at communal wooden picnic tables or private high tables. Other upstairs divertissements include skee ball and Caddyshack on repeat. Expect weekend brunch offerings in the near future, because what new restaurant is complete without the city’s favorite weekend pasttime?

Urban Putt is basically every eight-year-old’s birthday party dream. Pizza, ice cream, mini golf … what more can a kid ask for? Moreover, later in the night, adults can have their own fun. No one under 21 will be admitted onto the course after 8pm. While the restaurant stops serving food at 11pm on weekends, drinking and golfing is available until 2am, and putters can sip drinks designed by the Bon Vivants  strong and tasty enough to decrease your chances of getting a hole in one. Pro-tip: the Duck Shooting hole is exceptionally difficult to master, even while sober. Fore!

Urban Putt

Mini-golf: Mon-Thu, 4pm-midnight; Fri, 4pm-2am; Sat, 10am-2am; Sun, 10am-midnight, $8-10

Restaurant: Sun-Thu, 5:30-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5:30-11pm

1096 South Van Ness, SF

(415) 341-1080

One Lorde to rule them all: An evening at the Fox with one seriously royal 17-year-old


I woke up this morning wondering if I could pull off an orange jumpsuit. I wasn’t contemplating how I would fare in a state penitentiary, mind you, but rather whether or not I was as cool as Lorde.

It’s Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Oakland and, clad in an wide-legged orange jumpsuit, Lorde looks like the newest addition to Orange Is the New Black. The oversized one-piece cinches at the waist and is cropped at the elbow and calf. It’s not particularly flattering, but Lorde rocks it. She marches on stage in her signature footwear: clunky black leather platform boots. When the singer turns around the suit reveals a horizontal cutout in the middle of her back — just a hint of sex appeal.

She’s not trying to impress the boys, though. The jumpsuit at times gives the singer a slight camel toe. In stark contrast to her peers, the Disney princesses and even the post-Disney Miley Cyrus, Lorde revels in darkness, growing pains, and awkward dancing.

When she’s performing on stage, it’s easy to forget that Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor is only 17 years old. The New Zealand singer known as Lorde was launched into international fame when her first single, “Royals,” became radio’s most played song last summer. What began as the summer’s catchiest tune quickly turned into an overplayed hit that even Lorde herself tried to ban from the radio.

From the first song of the set, Lorde commands her audience into a deep trance with “Glory and Gore.” She walks to the center of the stage, where she meets the microphone, and dives right in. A single spotlight shining from above shadows the singer’s face as she chants the opening verse. All you have is her voice, the silhouette of her long curly mane and hints of spastic movements. The awkward dancing is utterly relatable, a combination of an epileptic fit and teenage white girl dance that I’ve certainly been a victim of. In the split second that the bass drops, strobe lights shine directly onto Lorde’s face. When the strobes hit, she sings out to the audience, dramatically unveiling her signature pale complexion and dark lipstick.

Lorde. All photos by Charles Russo.

Curly-haired, black lipstick-sporting clones squeal in excitement after her opening song. The curtain rises as Lorde launches into “Biting Down,” the darkest track on the extended issue of her debut album, Pure Heroine. The trance-like song is layered with deep synths and repetitive vocals. “It feels better biting down,” she repeats over psychedelic instrumentals. Her two-person band sports an all-white ensemble. The keyboard player and drummer’s outfits resemble straightjackets, furthering the correctional institution feel. White kaleidoscope lights project out to the audience, onto the ornate walls of the Fox Theatre and onto the ostentatious chandelier balancing above stage. The monochromatic strobe lights and costumes put all eyes on the lady in red. Tonight, we are in the Dark Lorde’s world and she is the ruler.

“It’s so good to see you again,” she croons. Last time she was in San Francisco was for Not So Silent Night; this time, it’s for the last leg of her US tour. “Beautiful city by the way, so green.” A definite reference to the city’s favorite pastime.

With “Buzzcut Season,” three screens display a daze of water reflections. The poetic lyrics written by the singer herself builds imagery of serenity and solace. Lorde hides behind a sea of lights. Her silhouette sways back and forth in a dreamlike state. She brings us away from the dreariness of the world and into the beautifully twisted realm of her dreams. Lorde glides her hands through the air to the rhythm of the music. The deep trance sets in with “Swinging Party,” a track that exposes the natural vibrato of Lorde’s dark voice over soft synths. Mirrored projections of Lorde’s performance hit the screen, creating a kaleidoscope of her face.


The visuals build throughout the show, from all-white lights to rich purple, red, and orange hues that saturate the stage. Smoke machines create a dark playground for the young ruler. Lorde comfortably plays with the shadows, dances in the smoke, and hides from the light. She touches the security blanket that is her hair and whips it back and forth as she bends over in song.

The familiar horn of the opening of “400 Lux” signals my favorite song. The bass drops, and visuals of moving landscapes hit the screen as she belts out exceptional vocals. “We’re never done with killing time / Can I kill it with you?” The poetic lyrics dismiss any feelings of unworthiness — she likes you. The Lorde then covers Son Lux’s “Easy” as she sways in and out of the eerie smoke. Later, the spectacular rendition of “Royals” makes the song bearable, retrieving memories of summer bliss. The slight remix carries entrancing vocals and repetitive verses. Her voice echoes phenomenally through the hollow hall, and giant ornate digital crowns are displayed on the screen during the chorus, cementing Lorde’s title as our ruler.

“Oakland, you’re here,” the Dark Lorde hums affectionately. The crowd wails back in admiration. “You sold out this theater tonight, because you’re 17 or you’re 15 or you’re 22. You’ve gone through it. You understand what it’s like to feel like this. And I’m so lucky that every night I get to play in a different city, a different theater full of people who understand what I’m talking about…who get it. There is nothing more important that that connection.”


After singing “Ribs,” Lorde dives into her finale. She performs her third single, “Team,” which becomes a psychedelic rave. A rain of purple, white, and pink lights shower the stage and the singer sneaks offstage in a mesmerizing 30-second interlude of instrumentals and beautifully entrancing lights.

She reemerges, not in her plebeian jumpsuit but in an ostentatious metallic lamé number. Lorde opens her arms to reveal a gold gown with a long gold cloak attached to her hands. The cape gives her gold wings — only the best for our queen. Like a phoenix, the awkward teenager dies and is reborn into full-fledged royalty. She belts out the chorus to “Team” one final time. Shots of Lorde-stamped confetti jet into the air, floating majestically down to her worshippers.

Lorde closes the show fittingly with the final song from Pure Heroine, “A World Alone.” The stark guitar, dreamy beats, and symbolic lyrics bring the sublime performance to its end. “You’re my best friend and we’re dancing in a world alone,” she tenderly sings to the crowd. The 15-year-olds, 17-year-olds, the 22-year-olds gaze at the teenager onstage, mesmerized by her honesty, poetic genius, and ability to transcend puberty. If only we could all come out of our awkward teenage years in a gold lamé cape.

“These stories are ours, too” — South Asian women’s collective celebrates a decade of ‘Yoni Ki Baat’


Growing up in San Francisco, I was never sheltered from sexuality. Whether it was the naked runners at Bay to Breakers or the same-sex lovebirds kissing on street corners, there has always been an honest dialogue about love, sex, and gender in my hometown. But that makes it easy to take for granted.

For over a decade, the South Asian Sisters, a Bay Area arts collective, has been cultivating a community of diverse and progressive women of South Asian origin who want to talk openly about sex. While to many outsiders India is the land of Kama Sutra and tantric sex, to those who grew up in South Asian communities, the openness just isn’t there. Talk of sexuality comes in the form of rumors, whispers, and shameful glances, explains Vandana Makker, a member of the South Asian Sisters.

In a grassroots effort to build a candid conversation about these taboo issues, South Asian Sisters has grown into a national movement inviting an open discussion of gender and sexuality — empowering women of South Asian descent across the country. Their efforts come to a head with the yearly rendition of Yoni Ki Baat, a live performance of Vagina Monologues-inspired sketches. The show is comprised of a dozen or so performances by South Asian Sisters, all aimed at bringing light to the silent oppression that’s been going on in South Asian culture for centuries.

This weekend’s shows, on March 22 and 23, will mark Yoni Ki Baat’s 10th Anniversary with three special performances at the iconic and historic Women’s Building in the Mission. Whether painful, funny, disturbing, or powerful, each performance furthers the honesty so vital to these women. I reached out to the diverse women from the South Asian Sisters collective to better understand what this project means to them. 

SF Bay Guardian Why is Yoni Ki Baat important to you?

Creatrix Tiara: Born and raised in Malaysia, I found it difficult to find a community of people who were willing to talk about issues like gender, sexuality, and race openly and freely — especially as a Bangladeshi, a much-maligned racial minority in Malaysia. Joining YKB was really refreshing and helpful in finding people who could relate to feeling liminal in those areas — having to navigate cultural norms versus wider societal taboos and stereotypes, never quite fitting in one world or another. People don’t tend to associate South Asians with a lot of issues around gender and sexuality. How can South Asians be kinky? Queer? Into masturbation in strange places? Unthinkable. YKB shows that hey, these stories are ours too, no matter what anyone says.

Micropixie: Growing up in London at the time that I did, and then later moving to Paris, and then back to the UK, I did not have a community of progressive, feminist, radical South Asian women around me. In fact I did not know such a type of woman even existed until I moved to San Francisco 10 years ago. It was wonderful to see my first Yoni Ki Baat 7 years ago and then later join the team of organizers. I love the stories and relate to all of them even those that do not pertain to my personal experience. But I especially love the women in the show, both the performers and the writers…talking about sex, sexuality, and actually so much more. It’s a brave thing we are doing, and for some of the girls it’s the first time they are on stage; personally, my own family was horrified!


Indira Chakrabarti: The show is especially important to me since I wrote for the first show a decade ago! Then, I wrote and performed for the second one. It is so meaningful to me to be back. I fell out of touch for a variety of reasons but have always believed in the importance of providing this space for women, especially South Asian Women, to have their true voices heard.

Anjali Verma Ruvalcaba: When I first auditioned for YKB I was a 20-year-old college student at UC Berkeley with a newly shaved head. I was already facing stigma and criticisms from both family and friends for wanting to experiment and “discover myself,” so to say that I was nervous going in to it is definitely putting it mildly. Once I got there I was welcomed by such open, kind, genuine, friendly, and loving faces that I knew I had found a very sacred place to call my own, finally, and I haven’t looked back since as this will be my 9th year performing. YKB gave me my first and only set of older sisters to look up to, who understood me, accepted me, inspired me, and kept challenging me to strive for my goals, and whether near or far now, they have all helped mold me into the stronger more honest and more grounded version of my self that I am today, for which I’ll be eternally grateful.

Amruta: There are not many spaces where we, as women, are free to speak within and from our cultural context—where we are best understood, especially if this context involves one or more terribly different cultures. Within this rich diversity, each of us represents an intersection of colors, cultures, places and languages. To have this opportunity, to be yourself amidst this diversity, and at the same time to once a year slip into another’s skin and extend our empathy, is rare. YKB is an invaluable space where we have this opportunity to present, from a woman’s perspective, the multiplicity of the South Asian diaspora.

Barnali Ghosh: The pieces in YKB challenged my assumptions of who South Asian women are as well as assumptions I had about myself and what I was capable of when it came to speaking about these taboo issues. I have met and become friends with so many brave women through being part of the production. Performers are both amateurs and professionals and often women for whom it is the first time doing any kind of performance. There is no director and the cast provides the feedback, support and guidance that allow all of us to find our voice. This kind of non-hierarchical process is not something most of us are used to. But if we trust in it, it works out most of the time and in the case of YKB, in mind-blowing ways.

Neha Shah: I was thrilled to discover YKB about five years ago. I was in Washington, D.C. then, brought my mom to the show where I performed someone else’s piece. Her attending the show was a turning point in our evolving relationship and her realization that I am being an independent young woman. I think it broke the awkward barriers that are typical of Indian parent-child relationships where you just don’t discuss dating and sex.


SFBG What are you most excited about for the 10th anniversary performance of Yoni Ki Baat?

Creatrix Tiara: The piece I’m performing [The Word of Violence] is one of the earliest pieces in YKB’s history, but the writer has never been able to see it performed live. She’ll be attending this show and will see it performed for the first time. It’s nerve-racking but I hope I am able to give her piece the love and justice it deserves!

Anjali Verma Ruvalcaba: I am excited to simply be celebrating this with everyone who’s written, performed, and witnessed the show. There’s a lot of heart, blood, sweat, and tears that goes into this year after year. It’s all 110 percent volunteer-driven and based, which I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am because without that drive, or passion, we cannot build the emotional space needed to support one another through this process and then convince folks of our stories, be they ours or someone else’s, on stage for the world to see.

Bernali Ghosh: For me personally, I am excited about reprising a funny piece I did 2 years ago. Before I performed it for YKB I didn’t know that I could do humor as a performer. Humor can be really important to healing and way to balance some of our more serious topics, so I am looking forward to sharing laughs with the audience again!

Vandana Makker: Each piece holds a special memory for me, and it’s like looking through an old family photo album and reminiscing about all the things we’ve been through. I’m so proud of the show and what it’s grown to become and can’t wait to give it a proper birthday party.

Amruta: Yoni Ki Baat is the simple message emerging from this dizzying diversity. I am excited to be part of this established tradition that has repeatedly brought to the fore an array of experiences with which we can all empathize

Indira Chakrabarti: I’m anxious and nervous to perform my piece after a decade-long hiatus but am so cozy in a warm hug of support and encouragement from my sisters.

Neha Shah: This an amazing milestone for the movement. Social change via the arts is a necessary and effective way to bridge disparate ideologies—the diversity of voices that YKB has brought together is not a small feat. It reminds me of my favorite quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Yoni Ki Baat 10th anniversary shows

Sat/22, 6:30pm; Sun/23, 12:30pm (this show open to those who self-identify as female) and 5pm
$15 advance, $20 at the door
Women’s Building
3543 18th St, SF
Yoni Ki Baat online


I watched Rebelution next to Dusty Baker


“Put in this story that you watched Rebelution next to Dusty Baker,” said Dusty Baker. As I stood against the railing on the upper level of the Independent Tuesday night, I was unknowingly chatting up the former San Francisco Giants’ manager. The baseball legend chuckled at my slight embarrassment at not recognizing him. He leaned over the railing as he talked about supporting live music and coming here with his best friend from 2nd grade. We overlooked a sold-out room, filled to the brim with an eclectic group of high school and middle-aged reggae lovers.

Rebelution opened the show with a tight guitar riff before the rest of the band jumped in with drums, bass, keyboard, and saxophone — a signature Rebelution move. No fog machine needed, dozen of joints lit up within the first minute creating a hazy shadow around the musicians. If you weren’t high before, you certainly would be through second-hand smoke alone — which got me wondering, is Dusty Baker high right now? Within the first song, my thoughts turned to nostalgia for simpler times.


Disclaimer: Rebelution has been a long time favorite band of mine. I remember listening to the sweet reggae songs on road trips down the coast during high school. In college, I drove through the night to see the band play at Lollapalooza. My ringtone still to this day is the first 30 seconds of “Safe and Sound.”

The band’s front man, Eric Rachmany, started the show off with the crowd favorite “Attention Span.” Images of lazy afternoons and thoughts of making the world a better place overtook me. “It’s a pleasure to meet ya,” he sang.

It really was a pleasure for him. The SF native was genuinely pumped to be playing in his hometown. At every bridge, transition, and break between songs, Rachmany called out to the sold-out venue. “How are we doing San Francisco?” The crowd cheered back with matching enthusiasm. This mutual delight in each other’s presence is such a rare occasion in live music nowadays; Rebelution has a riveting stage presence.


Beyond Rachmany, the keyboard player Rory Carey softly caressed the keyboard offering harmonious beats to Wesley Finley on the drums. Carey’s long blonde locks flowed side to side as he swayed back and forth over the keyboard. Standing well over six feet tall, the timid bassist, Marley D. William, occasionally stepped out from the shadows and commanded the stage. And the excellent touring member Khris Royal stole the show by blowing insane saxophone melodies that matched up perfectly with Rachmany’s guitar.
“He used to play guitar in the hallways at Drew,” said Adam Swig, a high school friend of Rachmany’s whom I met at the show. Rachmany grew up in the Sunset and went to the Drew School. “I was like ‘Man, that’s cheating. Girls are here.’” It’s no doubt that Rachmany is a babe magnet. With his soothing vocals and honest energy, the lead singer had girls in tube tops fawning over him. To be fair, dudes in backwards baseball caps, graphic T-shirts, and oversized hoodies partook in the fawning, especially during his epic guitar solos.


While the vocals and instrumentals were perfectly on par, Rebelution’s performance was not only about music — it was about community. The Santa Barbara band opened for Israel Vibration at the Independent back in 2007, after independently releasing its first full-length album “Courage to Grow.” Since then, the band has played all across the California coast and around the country, selling out local venues and opening music festivals. Two years later, Rebelution founded its own record label 87 Music, named after the band members’ address while at UCSB, where they met. With three albums, an independent label and an upcoming fourth album, the reggae band found its way back to its roots at the Independent in celebration of the venue’s 10th anniversary.

With just a few simple strums of the acoustic guitar, Rachmany quieted the room for “Feelin’ Alright,” the band’s most popular single, about releasing hatred and surrendering to the music. The soft strings reverberated around the hall. To no one’s surprise, the entire crowd joined in with vocals. “I’m trying to pick up the soul’s intention to soak in music relaxation,” he sang.


“They are probably the most successful ‘true’ independent touring band,” said Swig about his high school buddy’s band. Bias aside, the band’s success can be measured by the community love. As Emma wrote last week, the Independent is at the heart of the city. Much like the Divisadero venue, Rebelution relies heavily on the community, which was clearly seen at last night’s show, from Dusty Baker showing support to a surprise performance by Zion I. The show wasn’t about Rebelution; it was a celebration of live independent music. Rachmany spit a verse during Thrive’s opening set. The trumpet player of Brass Magic (first opener) played alongside sax player Royal during “Roots Reggae Music,” a new song from Rebelution’s upcoming album.

At the end of the set, Rebelution performed a wonderful two-song encore, including “Green to Black” with complementary green lights. Basking in the green-soaked room, the audience roared with excitement and the fan-made smoke machine started up again. Rarely have I seen such pure happiness and tranquility in this condensed space. It didn’t matter that the show was almost over, it happened. Waves of enlightenment overpowered Rebelution’s fans, including myself.

“We appreciate your energy,” yelled Rachmany through the thick fog. The crowd cheered back. From the light tunes of “Lazy Afternoon” to the socially conscious lyrics of “Good Vibes,” Rebelution’s intention was to bring honest joy to San Francisco, and I couldn’t get enough of the good vibes.

Sole-searching: get to know local shoe designers Freda Salvador


Freda is mysterious and anonymous.

She walks the hills of San Francisco with purpose. Her style is classic, a bit androgynous, with flair for edginess. She’s always up for new adventures. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She’s fashion-forward but she values comfort, veering away from the misconception that beauty is pain. She loves rock ‘n’ roll. She’s a San Francisco chick through and through.

Freda Salvador is the creation of San Francisco residents Cristina Palomo-Nelson and Megan Papay. Combining their mutual obsession for Frida Kalho (“more like her badass persona than her folkloric art”) and Palomo-Nelson’s El Salvadorian origins, the duo created footwear brand Freda Salvador. They launched the company two years ago with the intention of bringing contemporary artisan shoes to Bay Area Fredas.

“We wanted to create a fictional character that’s bigger than us,” explains Palomo-Nelson in the company’s Union Street design studio and flagship store

The Freda Salvador store is a combination of the pair’s personal styles: Palomo-Nelson sticks to the classics with an edge, wearing an oversized blazer, a simple white blouse, ripped jeans and the line’s popular black “Star” Jodhpur ankle boots. She comes from a shoe-making family in Central America; her studies in fashion and footwear design brought her to Milan and then San Francisco, where she’s lived for 13 years.

Her blonde counterpart, Papay, veers toward a simple bohemian look with paint-stained jeans, a boxy sweater, a chunky statement necklace, and her favorite “Roam” lace-up combat boots with studded welt. Papay hails from the East Coast, via Delaware, Virginia, and New York City, where she began her fashion career in celebrity styling for Calvin Klein, then at top fashion public relations firms. Her husband’s job moved her to San Francisco, where she began working at a comfort footwear company. The soft-spoken designers met there, working together for a year.

“The chemistry was really great,” says Papay. “Our desire to create the same aesthetic of shoe was there so we decided to do our own thing and launch Freda.”

With Palomo-Nelson’s background in footwear construction and Papay’s experience in fashion trends, the footwear brand has become a household name in the industry. Seen on the heels of fashion bloggers, in magazine editorials, and on fashion must-have lists, Freda shoes balance high fashion aesthetics with no-fuss comfort.

“A big source of our inspiration comes from men’s shoes,” says Palomo-Nelson. “Easy, classic, concentration on lines and materials.”

“And wearable details,” adds Papay. “In ladies’ fashion, the details are a little bit bizarre to the point where they’re not wearable or understandable. In men’s shoes the flair is always wearable because no boy is going to sacrifice anything for style.”

The designers prefer to stick to classic shapes like Jodhpur boots, oxfords, and loafers and incorporate some sort of edgy detail: removable bracelets and harnesses, mixed leathers, haircalf accents, and studded soles. 

With San Francisco consumers in mind, the designs rely heavily on comfort. Each shoe is entirely made of leather with padded footbeds. “They’re made to be put on at 7 o’clock in the morning and taken off at 11 o’clock at night,” says Papay. “Our shoes are perfect for the city, walkable and urban.”

The beauty of the shoes also lies in the craftsmanship. Palomo-Nelson and Papay travel to Italy twice a year to pick out leathers for the next season. They then design the shoes in San Francisco based on trend watching and trips to New York Fashion Week. After that, they travel to Spain for production. The shoes are handmade in a small family-run factory in Elda, Spain.

“We truly are blessed. We live in one of the best cities in the world. We travel to New York for shows all the time and then Italy and Spain for our production,” says Palomo-Nelson.

The San Francisco flagship store is the company’s only retail location and doubles as the pair’s design studio. With wood paneling and staircase, the store mixes a rustic, comfort atmosphere with modern simplicity. The shoes are aligned on metal shelves and vintage bookcases in the first room. A small Dia de los Muertos-inspired shrine to Frida Khalo sits on a shelf in the corner. On the walls of the second room are framed old black and white photos. In the third room — the design studio — a giant mood board with color swatches, fashion editorials and a large painting of Frida Kahlo hangs above a large wooden table.

“It was in our five year plan,” says Palomo-Nelson about setting up a retail location. “But I think it’s the best thing we could have done. We really built a presence and a brand point with our physical location where people can experience not just the shoes but also the aesthetic of who we are and our designs.”

At the store, the designers will occasionally get phone calls asking for Freda. They also sell T-shirts with the question “Who is Freda Salvador” printed. But there is no answer: This mysterious woman was created so that women could build their own idea of Freda based on their personal style and inspirations.

“We’re like, ‘No, there actually is no Freda,’” says Papay. “But it’s good. It’s meant to be that way.”

Live Shots: WATERS is stormier than expected at Brick & Mortar


Live shows are an opportunity for musicians and music lovers to share an experience together. After all, you’re standing in the same room. Brick & Mortar Music Hall is a treasure trove for musicians. The small space offers an intimate setting that gives musicians the chance to embrace their audience.

I stood five feet away from WATERS’ lead singer and frontman Van Pierszalowski Monday night and not once did I feel embraced.

Skip the foreplay. WATERS jumped right into a distinctly scruffier and rowdier sound, playing brand-new music from its upcoming album set to be released in April. When two beardy, flannel-sporting men in the audience started running into each other within the first minute of WATERS’ set, I was afraid that this wasn’t my scene. But the two human pinballs quickly stopped before the end of the first song, after fellow audience members ignored the unwelcome cavorting.

“Thank you everybody. The name is WATERS and we’re from San Francisco,” Van said apathetically. After the dissolution of indie rock-folk band Port O’Brien, Van created WATERS. But similarities between the two start and end with the vague nautical allusion. Where Port O’Brien sailed toward hazy folk, WATERS capsized into rowdy rock.

The first half of the rambunctious set consisted of unheard songs off the band’s noisy sophomore LP while the second half was dedicated to the slightly less loud songs from Out In The Light, the band’s debut album; all of it was heavy guitar riffs and booming drums. A somewhat out-of-place female keyboardist played quietly in a dark corner, offering sweet harmonies that added a much-needed contrast to the harshness in Van’s voice.

Bangs calculatingly side-swept over his right eye, Van lightly rocked onto his toes when he sang. It was in those moments that I felt the disconnect melt away. But rather than building on that passion, Van would often sever the mood by rocking out alone on stage— creating an awkward feeling of detachment between the band and the crowd. Seemingly unaware of his relatively mellow audience, Van built up on boisterous vocals and turbulent beats as girls wearing black lipstick and acid-wash jeans swayed in the front row and cute boys with beards and suede jackets bobbed their heads up and down.

“I’m in love with every single one of you people,” Van admitted mid-set. The false grab at intimacy made me feel like a high school girl cornered at her locker by a boy professing his unrequited love. The singer asked if anyone would be coming to the next shows during his month-long Brick & Mortar residency. A few hands flew up, several pathetic howls echoed in the room. He asked again (“Just put your hands up to make me feel better.”) Several additional hands shot into the air.
The best part of the WATERS set was the last song, not only because it indicated the end of a generally lackluster show, but also because the acoustic version of “Mickey Mantle” was Van’s first demonstration of genuine emotion. The final song on Out In The Light is a soft, acoustic guitar-driven tune.

Van attempted to quiet the audience and urged us to huddle close to the stage so that he could play without amplification. Welcome to the Van Pierszalowski Show. The other band members sunk into the background as Van balanced on the edge of the stage.

Imploring the audience to shout rather than sing the chorus with him, Van commandeered the audience into enjoying the final song. The lovely female keyboardist chimed in at the chorus and the bassist occasionally strummed his unplugged instrument — two welcome breaks from the shouting. But even Van’s attempt at connecting with the audience was interrupted by accidental microphone feedback mid-song.

I promise I wasn’t in a bad mood before heading to Brick & Mortar. On the contrary, I was rather excited about WATERS. As a fan of Port O’Brien, I had a lot of hope for the local band. The story of how WATERS was born, in particular, intrigued me: Post-breakup and in search of inspiration, Van traveled the world to decidedly graceful landscapes — the ethereal Alaskan coast, the frigid Norwegian fjords, and his seaside hometown in California. With a beautiful name like WATERS, it’s difficult to grasp how such a harsh sound comes out of solitary travels to exquisite coastal settings. Unlike the graceful flow of rushing rivers and crashing waves, WATERS remained detached throughout its first show at Brick & Mortar. Despite the attempt to connect with nature and music, Van just seemed out of place.

Live Shots: Yuck finds its voice at The Independent


“I remember the last time I was here the room was filled with the smell of weed,” said Yuck’s lead vocalist Max Bloom with his charming British accent, facing yet another thick fog looming over the audience. “I feel like I’m getting high out of proximity.” The herb-filled air wasn’t new to The Independent, and this wasn’t Yuck’s first time in San Francisco. But the band that showed up there Wednesday night [1/30] was a very different band than Yuck has been in the past.

Since April 2013, the London-based indie rock outfit has been forced to regroup and reinvent itself after frontman Daniel Blumberg’s departure. Yuck’s signature lazy ’90s grunge lo-fi sound from its eponymous debut LP has apprently departed with Blumberg; instead, the band has adopted a calmer tone that highlights strong instrumentation as opposed to their earlier focus on smooth vocals. 

Opening the show with the upbeat rock number “Middle Sea,” from its sophomore record Glow & Behold, Yuck started out the show with genuine enthusiasm, matching the stoner crowd’s mood. Like I was, many people seemed anxious to see how well the band would fare sans Blumberg’s Elliott Smith-like voice. If you’ve listened to Glow & Behold, you’ve already noticed the pleasant SoCal intonation in Bloom’s voice. Whether intentional or not, the inconsistency in Bloom’s vocals was amplified during the show, casting an uneven, melancholic tone to both Glow & Behold and Yuck songs. 

Bloom’s promotion to lead vocalist also made room for guitarist Ed Hayes, Yuck’s newest member. Wearing a washed out Pac Man T-shirt, the sprightly guitarist offered backup vocals to Bloom’s deep yet delicate voice and rocked out during “Lose My Breath” — an energetic tune with a soft melody. Bassist Mariko Doi joined in occasionally with backup vocals, offering a contrasting strain to the guitarists’ deep voices.

Throughout the night, Yuck’s vocals remained uneven, with Bloom relying heavily on the backup vocals from Doi and Hayes, despite Doi’s soft — at times inaudible — murmur. Although her instrumentals were perfectly on point, Doi’s solo rendition of “The Wall” seemed lacking in passion and vibrato. Things picked up when drummer Jonny Rogoff began singing along in the back, bringing excitement when it was needed.

While it’s rare for young bands such as Yuck to carry on without one of its founding pillars, the indie rockers don’t seem fazed by the change. Bloom, Hayes, Doi, and Rogoff played in unison with lots of noise and energy, working together rather than as separates. Sure, they’re still working out the kinks with vocals, but overall, the change seems for the better. Even though Bloom has stepped up to the plate as frontman, Doi and Hayes carried their own, shining in the spotlight at various times during the night. Even Rogoff had his moment when fans cheering for the encore began chanting his name. “Jonny, Jonny, Jonny…” The band came back on stage, but only after Rogoff asked to hear the chant again. “You just made his day,” said Bloom before jumping into “Memorial Fields” from Glow & Behold, the closest thing to the band’s old lo-fi.

One major disappointment: Yuck didn’t play one of its most beautiful songs, “Shook Down.” The mellow lyrics and soft beat are a highlight from the band’s debut LP and a major crowd-pleaser. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt like there was something missing at the end of the show. Maybe it was “Shook Down,” maybe it was Blumberg…either way, Yuck’s reinvention is worth appraisal. Despite the band’s recent reformation, Yuck is not lacking in passion. They might still be struggling to find right voice, but the foursome’s trademark ’90s grunge vibe was ever so present, and their future seems promising — as evidenced, especially, by a brilliant cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent.” Blumberg who?

Tee time: a peek inside Urban Putt, the Mission’s indoor mini-golf course


On the back wall of the main room of the old Victorian building at 1096 S. Van Ness is a sculpture of two creepy angels. One holds the other in its arms, their wings keeping them up. These angels are part of the original construction of the building, back when it functioned as a mortuary. Perhaps due to the haunting angels, perhaps due to the thought of a dead body storage center, the building has sat empty on the corner of South Van Ness and 22nd Streets for 15 years.

Today, the angels are still there and the building’s new owner has no intention of taking them down. “We will preserve as much as we can from this old look,” says Steve Fox, the man behind San Francisco’s first indoor mini-golf course, Urban Putt, set to open in April. The “high-concept” course will feature a restaurant with “eclectic California comfort cuisine” upstairs and two bars with a “creative bar program,” according to Urban Putt’s most recent press release. 

Urban Putt is not your traditional mini-golf course. The fantastical, technologically advanced, steampunk-y 14-hole course (four short of the customary 18 due to space constraints) will be composed of high-tech gadgets, countless buttons and nobs, and a few obligatory tongue-in-cheek twists (see: the “TransAmerica Windmill”) contained within its homages to San Francisco landmarks. 

A replica of the Painted Ladies shakes in a simulated earthquake at the first hole. At the “Musical” hole, the golf ball is catapulted toward the ceiling before bouncing delicately on drums and a cymbal. A two-hole underwater area pays homage to Jules Verne: an intricate submarine embellished with control panels and levers — although the 150 motion-sensor LED floorboards (imitating the lights of phytoplankton) are exceptionally post-Verne. Next to those wistful angels, the “Day of the Dead” hole honors the building’s previous tenants.

With a name like Urban Putt and its kitschy concept, it’s tempting to call out the spot as yet another example of gentrification in the Mission. Can’t you just see the hordes of trendy techies lining up to play putt-putt before hitting up the Make-Out Room on a Saturday night? (Because you know they will…)

Fox, a longtime mini-golf fanatic, was prepared for the criticism. “The very first note we got was like ‘the nerve of these people.’ It was written up on the Chron that we were doing this,” he says about the initial backlash. “We had signed the lease two days before.”

So Fox put up his phone number outside the building to encourage any and all complaints about Urban Putt. He also set out to connect with the neighborhood, reaching out to the community when he started hiring. “I think they realized that I had every intention of not being some sort of carpet bagger,” says Fox.

For Fox, Urban Putt is a longtime dream. A lousy golf player himself, the former editorial director of PCWorld and editor in chief of InfoWorld is an avid putt putt player. Since the 1990’s Fox and his wife have been hosting mini golf parties at their house. So what happens when you grow old and have a lot of money? Make your dream come true.

“My theory in all of this, having spent years and years running organizations — albeit editorial organizations, not mini golf — is if you don’t have expertise, go out and find the best people you can and have them do it,” says Fox. 

With experience that spans Burning Man, Maker Faire, the Exploratorium, and even MythBusters, the members of the design and construction team have an expansive background in creativity and innovation. “We have a group of people with real expertise in these areas. You can get that in San Francisco. There’s a lot of places you couldn’t find that. There’s that kind of wonderful talent base,” says Fox. At their disposal: the $17,000 3D printing ShopBot. Claiming it as one of their competitive advantages, Fox explains that the in-house printer will help his team can easily innovate, make changes, and repair the course over time.

Despite UrbanPutt’s extravagance, Fox maintains that the wonderland will be accessible to both children and adults, as well as both techy transplants and long-established local residents. His mission to keep games affordable ($8 for kids, $12 for adults) and to retain the vibrant local culture demonstrates his dedication to the city. Much of the building’s original construction will remain the same: the historical exterior, the metal front gate, the Victorian sconces, and the two angels at the back wall.

“People get that I am really of this neighborhood,” says Fox. “I think they’re responding well to that.”