Mia Sullivan

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“I Am Another Yourself”

Through Sept. 27

Opens Sat/6, 6-9 pm

Hashimoto Contemporary

804 Sutter, SF


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

Follow Phillips on Instagram here

The pedestrian pop of Sylvan Esso


Upon first listen, Sylvan Esso kind of takes hold of you. Nick Sanborn’s melodic, layered, driving electronic beats pair perfectly with Amelia Meath’s blissful voice and artful lyrics. The way Sylvan Esso — the band’s self-titled debut album, which dropped May 13 — is wrapped together feels so intuitive, so ethereal, that it will likely bring you to your feet for an impromptu dance session.

“Hey Mami” will loop in your head; “Dress” will become your jam. And you’ll be in good company this Fri/6 at the Fillmore, when Sylvan Esso open for Oakland’s own tUnE-yArDs.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Meath from the Free Press Summer Festival in Houston on Sunday. She posted up in her trailer for our call after seeing Lauryn Hill’s performance – which, she assured me, was awesome.

So how did Sylvan Esso come to be? Well, for starters, lyricist Amelia Meath and electronic producer Nick Sanborn fortuitously found themselves playing on the same bill at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee one night. They became instant friends. When Meath needed a remix for “Play It Right” — a song she wrote and played with her indie folk trio, Mountain Man — she asked Sanborn to make it and was very pleased with the product.

After collaborating on “Play It Right,” Meath and Sanborn both felt like they should collaborate some more. And then, after some tweeting and planning, Sylvan Esso was born. “It almost feels like magic how good we are at working together,” Meath says.

When I first listened to Sylvan Esso, I felt hard-pressed to assign it a genre. Meath’s lyrics are deep and introspective, and Sanborn’s arrangements are incredibly inventive; but I think the undeniable catchiness of their songs makes Sylvan Esso, essentially, pop. Meath likes to call it “pedestrian pop”: pop music that illustrates universal human experiences and makes you “shake your butt” — and feel emotion — simultaneously.

Meath feels that electronic music has a marketed effect on people; she loves pairing her lyrics and melodies with Sanborn’s electronic arrangements. “I always wanted to make electronic music because I really like that electronic music shakes people; it actually vibrates people at the same rate at the same time,” Meath says.

The duo has many varied sound influences, such as They Might Be Giants, Aliyah, John Lurie/Marvin Pontiac, and Stina Nordenstam. Meath also looked to pop goddesses like Beyoncé and Rihanna while writing the lyrics to Sylvan Esso. “When you write a pop song, you’re trying to make something that’s going to sink into the brain of someone and stay with them after hearing it once,” Meath says.

The duo will be opening for tUnE-yArDs at the Fillmore on Friday, June 6. (They’re in the Bay Area for one night only.) Meath is no stranger to San Francisco, as she used to spend summers here during her teens while training with a Chinese contortionist. (Yes, Meath also happens to be a badass.)

“We have to be in Pasadena the next morning,” Meath says, “but if I were going to be in San Francisco for the weekend, I would walk up Russian Hill, and eat some really delicious food — that’s for sure! Oh, I also always really like to go to Tartine, and then I go to Bi-Rite and spend way too much money on groceries, and then sit in Dolores Park all day long!” She’s an honorary San Franciscan for sure.

When asked what she enjoys most about performing, Meath stressed the communal aspect of live music. “My favorite thing about performing is that you get to be the hinge for the whole room to become a small community,” Meath says.

Sylvan Esso opening for tUnE-yArDs on Fri/6
9 pm, $26
The Fillmore
1805 Geary, SF

Live Shots: Street Joy, the She’s, the Tambo Rays at Milk Bar


Wednesday night, three young, up-and-coming bands gathered at the Milk Bar, an intimate venue on the western edge of Haight Street, to lay down fun, unseasonably warm beats – a welcome contrast to the decidedly autumnal weather.
Street Joy, a LA-based rock trio comprised of Jason DeMayo (vocals, guitar), Scott Zimmerman (drums), and Mike Coleman (bass), kicked off the show with upbeat pop and punkish tunes. These musicians, who organized into a formal band in 2012, describe their songwriting as “that of the cassettes a dad would show his son on car rides to baseball practice.” Sigh, nostalgia.
The highlight was their spirited cover of “Hold Me Tight” — a Beatles release circa 1963 — and the dynamic on-stage rapport between Zimmerman and DeMayo kept me enthralled throughout their set.
The She’s — a teenage girl group whose crooning, feminine, summery sound is inspired by ‘60s girl groups and pop acts like the Beach Boys — followed. While many of their songs sound very similar (at times their set felt like a contagious throw-back daze), their multipart harmonies, which are the crux of their songwriting, felt expert. In addition to playing catchy tracks off of their 2011 release (Then It Starts To Feel Like Summer) such as “Jimmy” and “Fabian,” they played some newer songs, including “Anywhere But Here,” which is somewhat dark and subdued – at least in the She’s universe.
Bassist Sami Perez, guitarists Hannah Valente, and Eva Treadway, and drummer Sinclair Riley (they all sing) have been best friends since kindergarten, and it shows. On stage, they are incredibly in-sync; they even managed to all crouch down and grab their plastic water cups at once point in a synchronized sweep. Yes, their water cups — no booze yet.
By the time the Tambo Rays took the stage at 11:15pm, I was starting to feel pretty exhausted, but Sara DaMert’s spirit and spunk picked me right back up. The group’s alternative percussionist extraordinare, Sara, who at any given moment was either playing keys, drums, cymbals, tambo, or a combination of the four, was the heart of the “chill pop” foursome’s performance. Sara’s brother, Brian DaMert, perhaps the slightly subtler member of the family, laid down entrancing guitar riffs, engulfing the waning audience in a beautiful wall of sound.
The Tambo Rays showcased a surfy rock’n’roll (occasionally hippie-laced) sound onstage; their set was fluid and kept my attention. The highlight of their performance was “Take That,” whose enthused delivery, distinctly summery feel, and sardonic lyrics about Georgia the chicken instantly made me smile.

Jamaican Queens on major influences, ‘Wormfood,’ and Detroit


The Detroit-based trio, Jamaican Queens, makes instantly catchy, hip-hop-influenced, electronic-soaked pop gems and performs them in a dance-inducing glam pop fashion. Although Ryan Spencer, Adam Pressley, and Ryan Clancy have been laying down beats together for less than a year, they have already released a full-length album – Wormfood – hit their hundredth show, and written album number two (which they’ll record once they’ve concluded their lengthy West Coast and summer tours).

I spoke with Jamaican Queens before they opened for Javelin at the New Parish in Oakland last week. After the boys grabbed a few local brews (Anchor Steam, of course), we went up to the roof and talked about their eclectic sound, living in Detroit, and the projects in the works. If you missed the Oakland show, catch them this Sunday at Brick and Mortar as Jamaican Queens could quickly become your favorite new band. (That’s been the case for yours truly.)

SF Bay Guardian How would you describe your sound?

Adam Pressley It’s hip-hop influenced and really abrasive.

Ryan Spencer It’s also experimental, but at the same time in the veil of pop. And lyrically, it’s very glam. We want to make music that makes people feel some sort of emotion – whether it be good or bad.

SFBG Who are some of your chief influences?

RS Most of the vocals I’m influenced by are dramatic – like the way David Bowie sings or the way the London Suede sings or T. Rex.

AP When we were making Wormfood, I started listening to the Magnetic Fields, and I was heavily influenced by what they were doing production-wise.

RS Yeah, they make very exaggerated pop music and can wrap up a huge amount of emotion in a two and a half minute song.

SFBG What type of music do you tend to listen to on your own?

AP I listen to only pop.

RS I listen to some more avant-garde stuff. I like Cambodian music and Jamaican Dancehall. That’s kind of where “Jamaican Queens” came from: Dancehall music. I love that stuff. But I like music that’s all across the board. Reggaeton. Insane punk rock. Everything. As long as it can make you feel something.

SFBG Do you guys have a favorite song to perform?

Ryan Clancy The dexterity and movement our songs require make them all really fun to play.

AP Our songs could be performed by six people, but we’ve got it so that we can all perform two instruments at once, so I’m playing a bass and a drum pad, Ryan Clancy is playing electronic drums and real drums, and Ryan Spencer is playing guitar and sampler. That’s “Water” right there.

SFBG Who’s behind your “Caitlin” video? The cinematography is unbelievable.

RC The cinematographer is our good friend Dan DeMaggio.

RS Our friend Caitlin, who the song is about, is the main character in the video. It’s a really dark story. She was living with Adam at the time, and her great aunt got murdered. A team of con artists started working for her great aunt and then ended up breaking into her house and murdering her. This is the song we wrote for her when she was going through that. It was a really intense time.

SFBG So, what’s it like living in Detroit?

RS I imagine it’s a little bit like Oakland. It’s a really supportive community, and the art and music scenes are very small so everyone knows each other and all of the bands that seem to be cool work together and help each other. Most of our friends don’t really have jobs, so you’ve got a lot of creative people working really hard on their art.

RC Yeah, I think one of the reasons we have such cool videos is because the art and the music scene are very incestuous. Everyone who’s a good photographer is also probably in a band or something.

SFBG What are you guys up to this summer and fall?

RS We’re doing a lot of festivals throughout the summer as well as working on going to Europe for the first time. We’re also making remixes, releasing some vinyl stuff in the UK, and recording a new album, which will be a long time coming because Wormfood just came out last month.

SFBG What do you think of the Bay Area so far?

RS The weather’s amazing, the people are cool, and it’s really liberal. It’s great.

Jamaican Queens
With Maus Haus, Black Jeans
Sun/12, 9pm, $7
Brick and Mortar
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 371-1631

The hawk and the rat: Hugh Leeman’s artistic ‘social experiments’


The artist talks about his upcoming exhibit, depictions of the homeless, and art-related capitalism
If you’ve walked through the Tenderloin, along Market Street, or around SoMa, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Hugh Leeman’s art. (He’ll be showing new work Thu/4 at SOMArts Gallery as part of the “Dial Collect” show.) Leeman is best known for his drawings of the distinct and arresting faces of Sixth and Market’s homeless, which he used to wheatpaste onto billboards and buildings. His iconic work has been characterized as “street art,” but Leeman views his homeless art project through a more enterprising lens.

The power latent in billboards and marketing campaigns – both to make a statement and to expose vulnerabilities held by the viewer – inspired Leeman to plaster his friends’ faces around town. (Leeman met most of the homeless men he’s depicted by engaging in street-side conversation, usually with the help of a trusty pack of Camel cigarettes.) He aimed to get as many eyes on his work as possible by giving away free posters of his drawings and by allowing people to download posters off his website for free. He also screen printed his drawings onto t-shirts and gave them away to men and women on the street to sell for a 100% profit.

“All along, my thought was, ‘I’m not making street art – I’m making advertisements,'” Leeman says. “It was a social experiment into whether we could use the idea behind selling a product, but do it for the betterment of society as opposed to just for the betterment of a corporation. The high aspiration was that you could connect disparate demographics this way.”

Leeman will be exhibiting a piece as part of Dial Collect – a group show comprised of large-scale interactive installations – at SOMArts Thursday, April 4 through Friday, April 26. Leeman’s exhibit will explore disparate demographics – a concept he has explored during his wheatpasting past – social vulnerability, paranoia, and relationships. Leeman’s best friend Blue, who plays harmonica on the street for cash and lives in an alley near Sixth and Mission, and Leeman’s father, an attorney, will be participating in the interactive exhibit.

Blue and his wife Sam inspired Leeman’s mural concept, which will function as the backdrop of his piece. “Over the past several years, Blue’s been telling me stories about this hawk who lives in the alley,” Leeman says. “The hawk’s been swooping down and eating rats and pigeons out of the alley, and the way Blue always tells the story is like: ‘You know, man, I was just fixing my gear shift then BOOM – the fucking hawk ate a goddamn rat!’”

Leeman’s mural depicts a stern hawk with outstretched talons reaching out to snatch up an anxiety-ridden rat to prey upon. He used white paint to depict the hawk and the rat and painted them against a black background. The hawk represents formality and our society’s flawed concept of strength, whereas the rat represents those who “just put their sail up and go wherever the wind takes them.” Leeman sees himself as both the hawk and the rat at times and considers his father and Blue – two men with whom he has an extremely special yet complex relationship – to represent aspects of the hawk and the rat respectively.

“My father has a more structured, formal process within his being than I have ever had or been capable of. And I think the opposite of him is someone like Blue, who has always ran with the wind. I find myself somewhere in between,” Leeman says.

Leeman’s reflection on his existence as an artist in a capitalistic economy – something he’s been thinking about a lot recently – also ties in with his exhibit. The hawk in him wants to market himself, maintain a style, and gain notoriety, wealth, and fame through his work. As an artist, developing a style – and exposing it, often relentlessly – can be key to success, and Leeman says he’s felt pressure to conform. But his more rat-like sensibilities tell him to be free-spirited in his process; to make whatever he feels like making whenever he feels like making it, regardless of what other people want or expect.

“It all started to become more sport for me than art,” he explains, with regard to becoming established in his homeless, philanthropic art realm. “And the sport was all speaking in quantifiers: ‘what gallery do you show at? Who do you show with? How often are you showing? How much do your pieces sell for?’ But this has nothing to do with the beauty of taking off your fucking clothes and dancing” – one of Leeman’s many metaphors for art and the creative process.

Recently, Leeman has been creating free-form paintings of sea life and skulls and depictions of angelic women via blowtorch and cement. When asked what he’ll do next and where his art is going, Leeman shrugs. “I’m just going to do whatever I feel. I can’t really say what I’ll do in the future. If there is one certainty, it’s that there is no destination. Life is just a constant transition and journey through the gray.”

Dial Collect
Opening reception Thurs/4, 6pm, free
Show runs through April 26
934 Brannan, SF
(415) 863-1414

Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom on breaking writer’s block with travel


It seems like the Austin-based Heartless Bastards have made some drastic changes since the release of their debut album, Stairs and Elevators, shedding their punkish irreverence in favor of more candid Americana as illustrated in Arrow, their 2012 Jim Eno-produced release.

I caught up with frontperson Erika Wennerstrom before the band’s Great American Music Hall show this weekend, amid a van ride from Tucson to California to chat about her quartet’s ever-changing sound, her favorite SF food, Neil Young, and Arrow’s traveling backstory:
SFBG How do you think your sound has changed since you started playing under the Heartless Bastards moniker back in 2003, and what type of sound were you going for with ‘Arrow’?
Erika Wennerstrom I really like to try different things – that’s what I enjoy about creating. I don’t try to recreate the same album. I’d like to think I’ve evolved as a songwriter, but I’m very much proud of songs I did on my first album. I’d also like to think that we don’t have one sound and that it’s not necessarily “going” in a specific direction. I have a lot of diverse influences, and I feel like our music is a little all over the place.

SFBG People call Heartless Bastards “garage rock” quite often, which seems kind of limiting and maybe even inaccurate. How do you feel about this characterization?
EW Yeah, I agree that it’s limiting. We recorded our first album really quickly and without a producer, so it kind of has a garage, rough around the edges feel. I’d say it’s still part of our sound, but it’s just one element and there are a lot of other elements. I’ve also gotten “country” a lot in the past several years between The Mountain and Arrow, and I get that but my country influences are more like Neil Young – artists that have a little bit of that country Americana sound but are very much rock’n’ roll artists as well.
SFBG Can you talk about the inspiration behind ‘Arrow’?
EW I had a bit of writer’s block at the time and decided to take some road trips, which ended up shaping the album. I went to the East Coast and the Catskills and stopped through Ohio and Pennsylvania. I also spent time in West Texas and went out hiking in Big Bend. There’s a lot of imagery on the album from my stay in West Texas.
SFBG What’s it like living in West Texas?
EW A lot of it is desert. There’s yellow grass; it’s dry. I find it inspiring out there – all that open space. The songs on the album have a lot of space in them, which is reflective of the imagery out there. I think I tried to channel the desert in Arrow.
SFBG What was your songwriting process like?
EW I approached each song on Arrow individually and hoped they’d all ended up fitting together and flowing. Usually I try to focus on one song at a time or I never get anything done and just have 100 unfinished songs. The album starts out with “Marathon,” which was written for The Mountain, but we ran out of recording space. I thought it was appropriate to start Arrow where I left off.

SFBG Is there anything you’re particularly excited about doing while you’re here in San Francisco?
EW Eating some fresh seafood!
Heartless Bastards
With Johnny Fritz
Sat/30, 9pm, $23
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750

The Spring Standards on genre jumping, Fleetwood Mac, and SF pizza


The Spring Standards kids grew up together on the Delaware/Pennsylvania border and got their start playing small folk festivals and around the campfire back in high school. After a break from their collaboration, Heather Robb, James Cleare, and James Smith found themselves in Brooklyn, inspired to pick up where they left off. They’ve been playing together as the Spring Standards for four years and released double EP yellow//gold last spring.

SFBG So I understand you’ve been on tour for the majority of the past few years. What’s that like?

HR It’s demanding. The hardest part about it is realizing where your regular life is, but luckily touring comes naturally to us. We love getting out, seeing the country, meeting new people, and having weird experiences. We’re still at that level of touring where, on any given night, we could be crashing with complete strangers, which always makes for some great adventure or strange story.


SFBG How would you describe your genre?

HR It’s rock and roll in the sense that it’s free and liberated expression – it’s loud sometimes and raucous and rowdy sometimes – but we also have really deep roots in folk music, Americana, and bluegrass. We’re accessing old school harmony-driven folk rock that was big in the ‘70s. And every so often we decide to totally jump to a different genre and play a heart-wrencher ballad that has nothing to do with rock and roll or a really loud White Stripes song that has nothing to do with folk music.

SFBG Do you try to channel any specific musicians?

HR I think we do sometimes for specific songs. There’s definitely a track off of gold that’s very Fleetwood Mac and in “So Simple So True” I really tried to channel Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Find the Cost of Freedom.” But, for the most part, I’d say we don’t. We have three songwriters, and I think we just sit down and try to follow what our hearts are telling us on a given day, which can really take us anywhere.

SFBG Can you explain the concept behind ‘yellow//gold’?

HR We hear a lot of different things from a lot of different people about what our sound is, but most consistently we hear that it’s all over the map, which we take as both constructive criticism and praise. The idea for yellow//gold came from wanting to have two opportunities to explore really different sides of our identity musically. We started with this idea of color because it felt intuitive, expressive, and not so limiting. Yellow’s more of the folk-based side of what we do, and gold is the rock-based side. We decided to release them together because they make the most sense when you look at them next to each other.


SFBG What excites you most about playing here in San Francisco?

HR We’re excited to follow up on our June show and love the whole San Francisco scene. And there was a pizza shop I was supposed to visit last time but didn’t get to, so I’ll be looking forward to that!

The Spring Standards
With Dylan Champagne, Ed & The Red Reds
Wed/3, 8pm, $8
Hotel Utah
500 Fourth St., SF
(415) 546-6300

Six Organs of Admittance march into battle at Bottom of the Hill


On Saturday night, a small cadre of dedicated fans waited patiently for Ben Chasny’s psychedelic folk project, Six Organs of Admittance, to take the stage at Bottom of the Hill just before midnight. Six Organs is currently touring the West Coast in support of their LP Ascent, which was released last month on Drag City. Members of his other project, the noise rock group Comets on Fire, accompanied Chasny on the album and onstage at BOH.

Lead guitarist Chasny and supporting guitarist Noel Harmonson, bassist Ben Flashman, and drummer Utrillo Kushner effectively drenched the punkish, gently swaying crowd in raw, unplugged, cacophonic tribal noise as they orchestrated spooky guitar symphonies, hard rock riffs, and fuzzed-out surf numbers. About half of Six Organs’ jams possessed an epic “I’m marching into battle with a large horned animal” vibe, and Chasny’s intermittent vocals felt dark, scratchy, wispy, and perhaps slightly demonic.

The band clearly had chemistry and sections flowed seamlessly together, but each musician appeared to be having a wholly immersive experience with his instrument, as if he were, at times, unaware of his co-conspirators. I found it especially hard to stop staring at Kushner because I was intrigued by his ecstatic way with the drums, and also because his gold hawk-with-outstretched-wings necklace was awesome.

While the band’s tendency to break into ear-deadening drone strikes enhanced the show’s overall excitement, they could have, perhaps, turned it down a few decibels. And although the crowd more often favored soft head-banging and slow movements, at one point the guy in front of me unleashed some potentially destructive, solo dance moves that almost took me out at the ankles. But that, again, simply added to the show’s excitement.

After playing his last song with the full band, Chasny quietly reappeared on stage and performed a short, quiet, solo encore that completely juxtaposed the sound of the past 45 minutes. I found this a brilliant way to end the evening. And yes, my ears are still ringing. 




MUSIC After touring on 2009’s Words of the Knife with his band Os Beaches, Mark Matos’ world fell crashing from the cosmos. Internal struggles compelled him to fire his producer and his guitarist; Os Beaches’ practice space that doubled as a crash pad burned down (relegating the fresh-off-the-road group back to van sleeping); and Matos began to develop a destructive relationship with drugs.

When I meet up with him over an extremely tall glass of weizen beer at German restaurant Suppenküche, Matos — an eloquent, bearded 30-something who comes off as much like a shaman as the front person of a psychedelic rock collective — explains how he somewhat-recently hit rock bottom; and how psychedelics enabled him to climb out of a debilitating death hole and build a mountain on top of it.

“I was up all night on cocaine. I hate cocaine. I felt it all slipping away. And I was like, ‘I’m going to take the heroic dose’ — five grams of mushrooms,” Matos recalls. “It’s what the shamans of South America say is the proper dose. It’s not fun.”

Matos says after he emerged from his heroic experience, he felt completely reborn. “I didn’t want to do coke. I didn’t care about being famous, and I really, really felt high. I was so high that people thought I was losing it.”

He says his consumption of the heroic dose, coupled with a series of vision quests, spawned the creation of his enlightened self — Trans Van Santos — and drew him toward the concept of communal musicianship.

The Trans Van Santos identity came to Matos during a vision quest in the desert. He remembers big hands lifting him onto a pyramid, and voices beckoning him to embrace his spirit name, Trans Van Santos.

“Santos is my grandmother’s maiden name, and in our [Portuguese] tradition we often take the matriarch’s name. When I think ‘Santos,’ it reminds me to honor the feminine.”

Coyote and the Crosser, Mark Matos & Os Beaches’ recent release, tells the story of Matos’ transformation into Trans Van Santos and his quest for “the ball of light” — a metaphor for illumination and enlightenment. The band will debut the Coyote and the Crosser live show this week at the Rickshaw Stop.

“This show will be a rock’n’roll extravaganza: loud, psychedelic, and very electric,” Matos says. “The album is a malleable rock opera, so it’s a rock opera in a sense that there’s a narrative structure — a group of [six songs] — but there are other [songs] too. There’s a mythological universe coming across, so certain songs of mine fit into that world.”

With the help of Joel Dean (who’s built sets for Phil Lesh and extravagant art pieces for Burning Man), Matos has constructed visually compelling stage props for his performance, including “the Spirit Molecule Sound Chambers with spinning disco balls hovering inside,” eight-foot tall glowing cacti, and a 13-foot tall dream catcher.

“I think having intention in the visual aspect of [Coyote and the Crosser] will bring people to the point where we can have a shared experience,” Matos anticipates.

Matos’ cosmic alter-ego Trans Van Santos will perform at Starry Plough the following night, which should be a calmer, quieter ceremony. Trans, along with his Trans Band, will explore “Americalia”: a synthesis of American folk and Brazilian Tropicalia.

For his Trans Van Santos other self and Trans Band, Matos says he “kept the direction to a minimum, focusing on the spiritual approach to the material. I want to hear the choices these folks make, to feel the spirit of discovery between us.”

Matos’ mystical transformation has compelled him to share his “acid gospel” with the community. “What I am trying to do with my little corner of rock’n’roll is to treat it as a new psychedelic ceremony,” Matos explains. “That and throw a birthday party for the whole galaxy!”


With Zodiac Death Valley, Little Owl, Ash Reiter

Fri/1, 8pm, $10

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011



With the Bottlecap Boys, The Know Nothings

Sat/2, 9:30 p.m., $7-10 sliding scale

Starry Plough

3101 Shattuck, Berkeley

(510) 841-2082



Sketching Sixth Street: In new show, Joel Phillips renders the unseen


“I’m really interested in the idea of anonymity within a dense urban environment and how the denser an urban population is, the easier it is to be overlooked,” Joel Phillips says over a glass of red wine on a far too windy night in the Mission. His show, “No Regrets in Life,” opens tonight at Satellite66 and will feature seven charcoal and graphite drawings of men and women he’s met on the corner of Sixth St. and Mission.
Phillips, a few months shy of 23, has spent significant chunks of time in Seattle, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and New York. While he was living in New York, he started thinking more about the social dynamics of cities and how some people tend to get lost in the mix. “In New York no one really looks you in the eye, everyone brushes past you and moves past you,” Phillips says.

In an effort to counter this surplus of vacuous interactions, Phillips started asking one in every ten people he met on the streets of Manhattan if he could take their photo. “The response [was] overwhelmingly negative,” Phillips recalls. “Probably 85 percent of the people said ‘Fuck off, leave me alone, get out of my way, what the hell do you want my picture for?’”

But the ones who willingly posed in front of Phillips lens “were a very particular subset of the population — people who had time and were looking for interactions.” Phillips recalls conversing with Richard, a homeless man who became the subject of his first life size drawing, for three hours before taking his photo. “He had the most amazing story. He had been everything from a horserace photographer to a foot soldier in WWII in General Patton’s division.”

After graduating with an art degree from Westmont College, Phillips moved to San Francisco for a graphic design position; and for the city’s rich imagery and artistic potential. “Part of the reason I fell in love with San Francisco was its amazing diversity of people and how you can look at all these people on the street and really see stories, particularly in their eyes and the lines on their faces.”

Phillips fortuitously fell into an artist homeshare-studio space on the corner of Sixth and Mission — a massive building with high ceilings, large windows, and not much insulation. “I hadn’t really done my research on the corner,” Phillips says. “There’s a lot of homelessness and drug dealing, [and] I didn’t know until I moved there that it was one of the most crime-ridden corners in the city. But it’s a very communal corner in a strange way.”

Since moving to Sixth and Mission less than a year ago, Phillips has rapped with, photographed, and drawn a number of people on his corner.

Phillips says Spaceman OT, a man he approached and decided to draw, was “one of the most lively people I’ve ever met.” Spaceman “wears a life vest at all times in case of a flood, a bicycle helmet, and snowboard goggles. He bargained me into buying him lunch in exchange for a picture, so we hung out and he was just the most fun person — he was dancing around on the sidewalk, sweeping up things, he has these lightsaber battles with his broom — he pretends he’s Darth Vader.”

I’m really interested in “taking people we don’t know how to interact with on a day-to-day basis, particularly people who may be homeless, they might not be homeless, but don’t seem like they’re easy to approach, whether they’re talking to themselves or whether their coat has a hole in it, . . . out of that dark unlit area they’ve fallen into socially and bring[ing] them into a spotlight by obsessively rendering them.”

Phillips’ passion for people comes through within the span of a short (or in our case very long) conversation. “I’m not necessarily trying to make a statement about homelessness in general. I’m really just trying to take my own artistic process and apply it to these kind of people I find really interesting and amazing,” he says.

No Regrets in Life
Opening reception 5/11, 7-11pm
Through June 4
Satellite66 Gallery
66 Sixth St., SF.

Green shopping guide: 6 earth-conscious fashion outposts


We’ve been shopping green for a week now — check out our previous guides to housewares, kid’s stuff, gardening resources, and local beauty

Let’s face it. Finding an oversized sweater in your mom’s closet that looks good on you tends to make you feel better than purchasing one at a corporate retail store because (a) you hate homogeneity, (b) you like saving money, (c) you’re rocking something straight out of the 80s, and (d) you’re relieved of the guilt associated with buying an item produced overseas. Here are a few suggestions on where to shop locally for you tree-hugging, fashion-conscious souls.


Static showcases an extensive collection of vintage clothing, shoes, and accessories from the 1920s to today. We’ve never seen so many fur-lined jeans jackets, wearable pieces of grandma jewelry, and rad, antiquated boots in one spot.

Sunday-Thursday 12pm-7pm; Friday-Saturday noon-8pm. 1764 Haight, SF. (415) 422-0046, www.staticvintage.com


If you’re looking for a vintage sweater that says, “I just threw this on haphazardly because I don’t really care how I look” (but you actually look awesome in a mysteriously sexy, I’m post-showing cleavage way) look no further than No. This is one of those places where you take 15 things into the dressing room and, annoyingly, like most of them. 

Monday-Sunday 11am-7pm. 389 Valencia, SF. (415) 252-9982

Foggy Notion

Alissa Anderson of mittenmaker opened the doors of her Inner Richmond shop last month. She sells her own eco-conscious creations as well as green products from other, mostly Western United States-based designers and craftspeople — like Captain Blankenship fragrances made with local biodynamic grape alcohol and Daughter of the Sun recycled leather crystal pendants. 

Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 11am-6pm; Friday-Saturday 11am-7pm. 275 Sixth Ave No. 101, SF. (415) 683-5654, www.foggy-notion.com

Mystery Mister

The apparel and accessories at this Haight Street gem span the eras between Victorian and ’80s. You may feel the urge to buy a lace-trimmed bonnet. Indulge it. 

Monday-Sunday 11am-7pm. 1506 Haight, SF. (415) 552-4226, www.mysterymister.com

Retro Fit Vintage

An ideal place to piece together a costume for Halloween, Bay to Breakers, or your average Friday night in San Francisco. 

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 12pm-7pm; Friday-Saturday noon-9 pm. 910 Valencia, SF. (415) 550-1530, www.retrofityourworld.com

General Store

A carefully curated clothing and handmade craft shop located in the Outer Sunset. Locally made items include Tellason denim, Joshu+Vela backpacks, and Tanya Maydoff natural fiber wool caps and hand warmers. 

Monday-Friday 11am-7pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-7pm. 4035 Judah, SF. (415) 682-0600, www.visitgeneralstore.com

Green shopping guide: 8 shops to jump-start your spring garden


You can turn your slice of this concrete jungle into jungle, with a bit of elbow grease and ingenuity. Oh, and resources might help, too. Whether you’re looking to build a succulent-laden sanctuary, an extensive drip irrigation system, or a simple window box, our local gardening centers and shops have you covered. Come for the enthusiastic and knowledgeable staffs, quirky clientele, and a chance to momentarily forget you live in a hectic city.

Flora Grubb Gardens

For those of us who like our plants and gardening implements flawlessly presented to us, Flora Grubb’s where it’s at. A gardening virgin won’t escape this place without picking up something beautiful and fertile.

Mon.-Sat. 9am-6pm; Sun. 10am-6pm 1634 Jerrold, SF. (415) 626-7256, www.floragrubb.com


Let’s face it, succulents are sexy. Find your ideal water-retaining plant at this Bernal Heights spot. Note: succulents make great gifts for people who inadvertently tend to kill plants due to irresponsible and spotty watering practices.

Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 402 Cortland, SF. (415) 282-2212, www.thesucculence.com

Paxton Gate

Part beautifully curated plant shop, part just as beautifully curated animal bone and rock store, Paxton Gate provides ideal materials to build the best terrarium of your life or the lush garden you’ve always wanted. They also have a taxidermied unicorn.

11am-7pm 824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, www.paxtongate.com

Berkeley Horticultural Nursery

Whether you’re looking for a Persian mulberry tree or sugar moon roses, the friendly and knowledgeable staff here is well-equipped to help you craft your dream garden.

9am-5:30pm Closed Thursdays. 1310 McGee, Berk. (510) 526-4704, www.berkeleyhort.com

Flowercraft Garden Center

If alpine poppies, snapdragons, and marygolds make you giddy, head over to Flowercraft. Their selection of flowers, succulents, and soils is quite extensive. 

Mon.-Fri. 8:30am-6pm; Sat. 8:30am-5:30pm; Sun. 10am-5:30pm 550 Bayshore, SF. (415) 824-1900, www.flowercraftgc.com

Urban Farmer Store

This three-store chain specializes in resources for drip irrigation systems and rainwater harvesting.

Various Bay Area locations. www.urbanfarmerstore.com 

Sloat Garden Center

The Bay Area’s largest independently owned nursery, with tons of locations so that when you break your spade mid-row, you’ll be able to scoop another in no time at all. Be sure to check out their pottery selection. 

Various Bay Area locations. www.sloatgardens.com

Plant Warehouse

Plant shopping paired with wine tasting in Nob Hill. Sounds about right, no?

10 a.m.-6 p.m. 1624 California, SF. (415) 885-1515

Peter Whitehead manipulates strange and beautiful sounds using unlikely materials


“When I hear instrumental music, I often see how it’s designed – the movement of the different shapes in space; the changing of colors,” says Peter Whitehead, a San Francisco-based musician-visual artist who makes instruments out of found materials and visual art that represents his world of sound.

Whitehead began making instruments as a way to develop truly unique sounds; sounds he’d never heard before. “The process of creating an instrument that produces its own unique and beautiful sound is almost like alchemy to me,” Whitehead explains. “You take an array of everyday, familiar materials and put them together, and they are transformed into a system that can speak for itself as well as become a conduit for your own personal expression.”

His instruments include the Spoon Harp, Ektar, Buzzing Bass Lyre, Spiral Corrugahorn (to name just a few), and his materials have ranged from kitchen spoons to bicycle wheels to weedwacker line.

The Brightness of the Day . . ., an exhibit of Whitehead’s handmade instruments, along with his collages and paintings, opens this Friday at Gallery 60Six. Whitehead’s visual art illustrates pattern and variation – important elements of musical composition.

The exhibit bears the name of his new album, The Brightness of the Day is Bigger Than the Bed, which was released earlier this year and is a compilation of songs that have been commissioned for dance performances and films.

This album’s songs certainly lack stylistic cohesion and at times feature noises not usually associated with music  – a testament to his belief that all sounds are interesting.

Take “Wash (Short Cycle),” which was originally commissioned for a giant washing machine exhibit at the Children’s Creativity Museum. Whitehead produced a noise akin to someone screaming “wheeee!” coupled with high-pitched beeps over a deep accordion-like sound that calls to mind some type of twisted carnival. Whitehead tacked the piece onto the end of his album against the advice of others. “It drives people crazy,” he says with a chuckle, “but I wanted to put it on.”

“Wash” demonstrates Whitehead’s inspirational artistic perspective –   you can create beauty out of the mundane, unassuming, and strange. “I was always drawn to sound [with] lots of harmonics – drums and buzzing sounds; things with a slight amount of distortion in them,” he says.

But some tracks on the album are milky and melodic, like the piece Anna Halprin commissioned (aptly titled, “For Anna H”). And others feel like a sexy blast of electronic sound.

“[The Brightness of the Day Is Bigger Than the Bed] is unusual in that I started using [more] electronics,” Whitehead says. He also explained that his frequent use of conventional instruments (about 50 percent of the instruments on the album are his own and 50 percent are conventional) makes it an atypical work for him, as in the past he’s created albums in which 90 percent of the featured instruments were his creations.

Whitehead will be exhibiting about 30 of his instruments at Gallery 60Six, and while he’s shown instruments and visual art in museums and galleries in the past, this exhibit will be his first time bringing together the various aspects of his music, visual art, and instrument building for one show. He’s also planning on playing an experimental instrument or two at the opening. Watching a grown man make a water bottle attached to a spoon and steel string sound good is probably not something you’re going to want to miss.

The Brightness of the Day . . .
Fri/23, 6 p.m., free
Gallery 60six
66 Elgin Park, SF

7 spots for wine and wi-fi


Are those cubicle walls closing in? For those of us who prefer to pair our work with a side of wine, here are some places to consider retreating to when the office begins to feel stale.

The Grove

Curl up in a comfy chair or communal wooden bench with a glass of red wine at one of this quaint café’s three locations, and you won’t want to leave. 

Mon.-Thu. 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-11 p.m. 2016 Fillmore, SF. (415) 474-1419

Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-11 p.m. 690 Mission, SF. (415) 957-0558

Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-11 p.m. 301 Hayes, SF. (415) 624-3953

Matching Half

Bright, airy Nopa neighborhood café that serves Sightglass coffee, sought-after almond croissants, and a small selection of red and white wines; a quintessentially San Francisco café conducive to productivity. 

Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. 1799 McAllister, SF. (415) 674-8699, www.matchinghalfcafe.com

Coffee Bar

This chic Mission spot has a frequently rotating list of wines from Spain, New Zealand, Napa, and beyond. The barista recommends the citrusy, medium-bodied Hunter’s sauvignon blanc. 

Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. 1890 Bryant, SF. (415) 551-8100, www.coffeebar-usa.com


Last year our readers named this warm and cozy Noe Valley space the best wine bar in the city. Its wine list has been carefully curated, and its price list won’t break the bank. Try the much-hyped Sexual Chocolate California red, and get back to us. (Half-glasses start at $4.50.)

Wi-fi hours are limited to weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. 1551 Dolores, SF. (415) 824-5524, www.noeteca.com


Happening Divisadero Street wine bar with a lengthy list of West Coast and foreign selections. Best bet is to stroll over on a Wednesday night for grub from the Fogcutter Food Truck or Thursday for pizza from Pizza Hacker. 

Mon. 5:30-10 p.m.; Tue.-Thu. 5:30-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5:30 p.m.-midnight; Sun. 5:30-10 p.m. 359 Divisadero, SF. (415) 621-4132, www.vinylsf.com

Press Club

If you like your wine coupled with an environment that’s quite swankier than your average SF café, Press Club’s the call. Most of the bar’s wines are from Napa and Sonoma, and its menu features seven themed flights.

Mon.-Thu. 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. 4 p.m.-12 a.m.; Sat. 2 p.m.-midnight. 20 Yerba Buena Lane, SF. (415) 744-5000, www.pressclubsf.com

Bean Bag Café

Fun, friendly café a drunk stumble from The Independent. Come for the scene and the $4.50 glasses of zin or cab.

Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. 601 Divisadero, SF. (415) 563-3634

Moment of Zen



MUSIC When I spoke with art legend-cult hero Laurie Anderson — known for her experimental music involving invented instruments and poetry — her soothing manner caught me off guard. She’s critical, yet positive; accomplished, yet humble. She’s also somewhat of a Zen goddess (although she’d probably dislike that tag).

The lasting impression of her visit to Hope Cottage, a retreat tucked into the pastoral hills of the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Marin County, will bring Anderson to the 142 Throckmorton Theater this week for a conversation with San Francisco Zen Center’s senior dharma teacher, Tenshin Reb Anderson. The event directly benefits the restoration of Hope Cottage — a Bay Area refuge that has recently fallen into fiscally prohibitive disrepair.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: What drew you to the Hope Cottage restoration project?

Laurie Anderson: Hope Cottage itself. It’s such a beautiful place. I went there with my dog, and it was sort of an experiment to see if I could learn to communicate with her better. I heard dogs could understand 500 words, and I thought, ‘I wonder if I go to an isolated place and spend a lot of time with her, we can learn to talk?” It was a lot of fun.

SFBG: How did Buddhism become an important part of your life?

LA: I first started doing meditation in the ’70s, and it was just a way to train my mind to not be so crazy. I realized a lot of painful experiences are stored in the body in a coded and interesting way and that when you meditate, you can find those places. I found that really fascinating and helpful.

SFBG: Do you have any advice for people interested in getting into Buddhism? I’ve tried to meditate, but I can’t sit still for long enough.

LA: It’s very difficult to do. Then you realize if you try and break it down into smaller pieces, it becomes a little bit more possible. We live in a culture that’s so obsessively dedicated to getting stuff done. The last time I was out at dinner, I realized, we were all reading our emails! I said, ‘Read [your] last two emails. Let’s see what we’re spending this time doing.’ We did, and they were idiotic. I thought, ‘Whoa, this is what I’m giving up human contact for?’ You have to be really careful about that stuff. It can eat you alive.

SFBG: What have you been up to artistically?

LA: Right now, I’m interested in painting — something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I started just making a lot of music and films. One of the reasons I came back to [painting] is because of scale. It’s really fun to work with physical things that don’t necessarily fit on your computer screen because we pretty much live in a world of screens, and you think, ‘If I’ve seen it there, I really understand it.’ And that’s not true in the world of painting.

SFBG: What made you transition from fine art to performance art in the first place?

LA: I like stories, so I was trying to record things and put them into talking sculpture boxes or something, and I thought, ‘Wait a second. Why don’t I just say them?’ One of the great things about the so-called multimedia artist is that you can do a lot of different kinds of things and no one can say, ‘You’re a painter, you shouldn’t be writing a novel!’ So, it gives you a little more freedom to stay out of your box because, you know, artists just get put into boxes and are supposed to stay in them.

SFBG: It seems like you’ve completely transcended that.

LA: Well, I don’t know that I have because it’s difficult to move from one thing to another. You can try, but here come the art police saying, ‘Stop doing that! Why are you painting? You’re a filmmaker! Where’s your sense of propriety?’ You’d think when you live the life of an artist, you live the life of freedom, but it’s not quite like that.

SFBG: So, what projects do you have in the works?

LA: I’m working on a book of stories, an exhibition of paintings, a new show — a bunch of different things. It’s fun to work on them all at once.

SFBG: And you recently performed a show in Taiwan? How was that?

LA: I can’t say I speak Mandarin at all, but I found it really exciting to work with a translator. You know, English is such a complicated language that you can write one thing and it means five things, so when it’s translated into another language, particularly Mandarin, you have to choose which one of those things you really want to have emphasized.

Spending this last week in Taiwan, I realized how completely different their culture is from ours. But, if you can make a joke in Mandarin and people laugh, then it is sort of one world, you know?<0x00A0><cs:5>2<cs:>


Benefiting Green Gulch Farm’s Hope Cottage

Thurs/15, 7 p.m., $50

142 Throckmorton Theater, Mill Valley




Outerlands: Serving sunshine by the seashore


Speaking with surfing-baking co-owner Dave Mueller about the Outer Sunset hotspot

I’m on the southeast corner of Judah Street and 45th Avenue—roughly five blocks from the cold, churning sea—on a bright winter morning. Outerlands will open for lunch in an hour, and the restaurant’s chef and a couple of employees are swiftly making preparations. Dave Muller offers me a cappuccino, which he whips up seamlessly, and asks if we can chat outside in the sun.

Muller co-owns this cozy Outer Sunset eating space known for its savory soups and sandwiches, handcrafted bread, and earthy atmosphere with his wife, Lana Porcello. Muller and Porcello had teamed up on visual art and music projects before Outerlands, but Muller calls the restaurant their most 50/50 artistic collaboration.

Noticing a need for food in this remote San Francisco neighborhood pressed up against the Pacific, Muller and Porcello set out in 2008 to design and build a soup kitchen of sorts. “We planned on serving a few soups a day and fresh-baked bread,” Muller says, smiling. “Simple.”

Muller is the man behind Outerlands’ thick, delicious slabs of levain bread. He originally considered buying bread instead of baking it, but Tartine’s bread-maker Chad Robertson, whom Muller met through surfing, encouraged him not to. “You can just make your own bread,” Robertson said. “I can show you how to do it. It’s not that hard.” 

Since Outerlands opened its doors in 2009, the intimate sea dwellers’ escape has evolved into a destination for foodies traveling from east of Golden Gate Park, New York, and Sweden alike. Muller designs and mixes cocktails in addition to making his bread, and the couple employs a full-time chef (Brett Cooper) and a pastry chef (Zoe Dering). Despite the buzz, simplicity remains at the heart of their enterprise.

“We find the best ingredients and cook them as simply as possible to bring out their natural flavors,” explains Muller. Outerlands sources its ingredients locally and is currently operating at 98 to 99 percent organic.

Keeping prices as low as possible—a grilled cheese sandwich brushed with garlic oil goes for $5—Muller is committed to serving the Sunset wholesome, handcrafted food you’d probably have to pay more for across town. “I love having a connection to my community and having something to contribute that I believe in—food that’s healthy, stimulating, and sustainable,” says Muller.

Muller’s background in art, farmers’ markets, and surfing helped inform the concept behind this eight-table restaurant built from wood. Although Muller says he didn’t do much research when he was building Outerlands and simply “did what made sense,” he considers Big Sur an aesthetic influence, as well as things his friends have built.

Outerlands seems to have been born out of a desire to build a sanctuary: the perfect place to share a meal. Muller says they wanted to create “a healing environment—a place you could go to and feel nourished.”

I think they’ve succeeded. Eating at Outerlands sort of feels like your mom has made you your favorite dish and is serving it to you—along with an expertly mixed antifogmatic—while you’re warming your feet by a fire after a four-hour surf session and conversing with the most compelling person in the world; or something to that effect.

Outerlands serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday. The dinner menu features savory meat dishes, e.g. cumin crusted pork tenderloin and braised shank with cranberry beans, smoked dates, cabbage, and juniper, as well as mouth-watering vegetarian options like the fresh cavatelli with wild mushrooms, winter squash, rapini, and parmesan. Brunch favorites include the bacon-stuffed dutch pancake outfitted with organic maple syrup drizzle, along with lemon ginger apple cider.

The wait for one of the eight tables can be long on the weekends, but the expansion that’s in the works may make it a bit easier to get in. They’re knocking down the wall between Outerlands and what was formerly Wo’s Restaurant, building a bar, and adding over 20 seats this summer.

I thank Muller for his time, and wander into Outerlands to snap a couple of photos. It’s 11 a.m. on a Thursday, and the place is already starting to fill up. Muller quickly disappears into the restaurant’s treehouse loft to continue putting in the hours he calls “excruciating, but worth it.”


Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (lunch); 6-10 p.m. (dinner);

Sun. 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (brunch)

4001 Judah, SF

(415) 661-6140




Snap Sounds: Islands




Nick Thorburn started constructing A Sleep & A Forgetting alone, on a piano, while processing a painful breakup. His soul-exposing lyrics carry questions and incredulity. Although there aren’t many uplifting spots in here — literally every song is sad — his voice oscillates between sunny and depressive, heartfelt and sardonic. Quite a conceptual turn from Islands’ last album, Vapours, which featured upbeat, carefree love songs.

In a daring act of honesty Thorburn, who says he’s “always hidden behind devices and humor” in his music, directly places himself in “This is Not a Song” through a third-person reference (“Nick, if you ever learn, it never shows”). The final, and perhaps most impactful, track — “Same Thing” — simulates a hanging sense of hopelessness and craze-inducing monotony via robot-like drum machine. A resigned melancholy permeates this album and leaves you meditating on love’s foreboding nature.


Please enjoy these dancing skeletons:

Noise Pop Photo Retrospective, with Plastic Villains and Cool Ghouls


The 20th anniversary of Noise Pop is oh-so-close to upon us. In celebration and commemoration of how far the festival has come, and of the musicians who’ve made Noise Pop a much-anticipated Bay Area tradition, Bottom of the Hill will be hosting a retrospective photo gallery. The exhibit’s opening reception takes place Tues/7 from 6 to 9 p.m. and is free to the public.

Noise Pop producer Stacy Horne says Bottom of the Hill is an ideal home for the Photo Retrospective because the venue just celebrated its own 20th anniversary and has been an important Noise Pop venue throughout the years. (Bottom of the Hill has been hosting Noise Pop shows since 1994.) The gallery will be up in Bottom of the Hill’s back room from tonight through the last day of the festival (Feb. 26) and will include photos of former Noise Pop acts that have since achieved widespread acclaim such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Flaming Lips, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Photographers include Eduardo Acorda, Marlu Aufmuth, Jeanne Ellenby, Peter Ellenby, Charlie Homo, Sheila Menezes, Paige Parsons, Mike Rosati, Julie Schuchard, Shoka Shafiee, Matt Seuferer, and Deb Zeller.

Noise Pop, which began as a nightlong music festival at The Kennel Club (now The Independent) showcasing five bands, has developed into the largest independent music festival in San Francisco. It has also evolved into a comprehensive independent culture event that exposes Bay Area art, film, and design in addition to music. The Noise Pop festival officially kicks off Feb. 21.

In the Noise Pop spirit of exposing the young, up-and-coming, and local acts, performances by Plastic Villains and Cool Ghouls will follow Tuesday’s reception.

Plastic Villains, which formed fewer than six months ago and received “The Deli’s Bay Area Band of the Month Award” in November, is comprised of mostly USF undergrads that practice and record their “psychedelic garage rock blues hop” jams in their garage.

Cool Ghouls, also a San Francisco-based band, describe their sound simply as “rock-n-roll” and attribute the creation of their modern doo-wop goodness to tall cans, 40s, blunts, and crime.

Let the Noise Pop festivities begin.

Noise Pop Photo Retrospective
With Plastic Villains, Cool Ghouls
Tues/7, 6 p.m., free
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF