Swingin' Soiree Thousands of people will spill into Claude Lane for Bastille Day '99 in honor of the French Revolution, which upended the monarchy, but only some of these will be the 80,000 French expatriates said to be living in the Bay Area. The rest will be ordering daube en croute with Inspector Clouseau accents and smoking Gauloises with the practiced hand of a sorority sister on exchange. The daylong celebration of liberation and libations (not unlike our Fourth of July) begins at noon with the Marcus Shelby Jazz Trio, and continues into the night with sets of French pop and beyond from DJs Alexis, Franky Boissy, and Deep of Radio Nova Paris; Visual Attack will project French films. Restaurants and bars open their doors along Claude Lane, between Kearny and Grant on Bush, S.F. Admission is free with the price of dinner or refreshments; call 392-3515. Deep, Boissy, and a slew of others will also spin at "Bastille Day '99 After Shock," a dance party beginning at 10 p.m. at Ten 15 Folsom, 1015 Folsom (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 255-6767. A screening of Casque d'Or across town, meanwhile, celebrates both Bastille Day and the Bridge Theater's 60th birthday. Jacques Becker's film, on loan and newly struck in a 35mm print, delves into seedy, turn-of-the-century French dance halls, where two men fall for the same girl. It screens as a benefit for the San Francisco Film Society at 7 p.m. at the Bridge Theater, 3010 Geary (at Blake), S.F. Admission is $10; call 931-FILM.
A Wing and a Prayer British director Angus Balbernie was dreaming of flight patterns, film noir, and the murderous treachery of MacBeth when he began work on the musical movement-theater show A Thousand Grey Birds. Composer Mark Growden, whose own live shows and textured original scores share that dark theatrical beauty, collaborated with Balbernie to create a soundscape for traditional and homemade instruments, bodies, and voice. In this very organic creative process, spread over Balbernie's two-month local residency, performers including Kim Epifano collaborators Brenton Cheng and Angela Bausch helped shape the director's theatrical "tasks" into blocks of experimental theater and contact improv so mutable that no one quite knows for sure what will transpire until the show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through July 31) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 289-2000.
Word Up First came Woodstock, then Wigstock and Terrastock; now there's Litstock, a four-hour celebration of the city's literary scene, from North Beach beat to poetry slams. Bear in mind that this isn't Beatstock, although the jazz combo Delectric will provide finger-snapping atmospherics. No, there's a wider range of writing in store, from novelists like April Sinclair (I Left My Back Door Open) to monologuists like Josh Kornbluth (Red Diaper Baby) to commentators like radio host Ian Shoales to cartoonists like K Chronicles author/illustrator Keith Knight, who reveals all in Dances With Sheep. Even journalists will see some action. Each writer gets 10 minutes of stage time to read work, and local publishing houses and indie bookstores will be setting up booths on the sidelines. Tapas bar the Thirsty Bear provides refreshments at the show, which begins at 4 p.m. at the Band Shell in Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free; call 536-8152. Speaking of indie bookstores, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association hosts Books by the Bay, which features booths from 45 of its members. Amid the usual street fair fare (food booths, kids' activities), look for a poetry hour and readings from authors including Anne Lamott, Roy Blount Jr., Po Bronson (who also reads at Litstock), and Robert Hellenga. It begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Pier 32, Embarcadero between Bryant and Brannan, S.F. Admission is free; call 927-3937.
Candid Camera Whether it's a Brazilian shantytown shadowed by an island prison or a Hindu settlement in Bangladesh, the "Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography Awards" sidestep the well-worn routes of tourist travel in favor of lesser-known territory. Like the annual World Press International exhibit, entries are drawn from remote corners of the globe, and chosen for their ability to tell a story through indelible images. This year's winners include American photographer Donna DeCesare, whose Shadow Dreams and New Youth Vision series traces the spread of L.A. gang culture to Central America and the Caribbean; Lebanese photographer Samer Mohdad's My Arabias, on the Middle Eastern Arab diaspora; and Chinese photographer Li Lang's photo essay on a community of mountain people in China. The show opens with a reception at 6 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 27) at Gallery 16, 1616 16th St. (at Rhode Island), S.F. Admission is free; call 665-6637. (A free slide presentation with award winners will be held Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at S.F. Camerawork, 115 Natoma, S.F.)
Merry Old Souls In the grand tradition of Irish wakes and Dia de los Muertos, the Buddhist Bon Festival, also known as Obon or the Festival of Souls, pays tribute to the dead by making enough noise to wake them. Traditionally, the last day of the thousand-year-old Japanese festival is celebrated with the Bon Dance, a dusk-to-dawn party alive with the joyful sound of pounding taiko drums, foot stomping, singing, and clapping. Our local version isn't so protracted, but crowds of women and girls in silk kimonos and men and boys in happi coats will still pay their respects with an outdoor dance that the public, costumed or not, is invited to join. Dance instructors Mme. Michiya Hanayagi and Mme. Yoshiko Fujimoto will show neophytes how it's done. There will be pockets of stillness, too, in the adjoining Tanabata Festival display, an ancient romantic tradition built around the legend of the Princess Weaver Star (Vega) and the Cowherd Star (Altair), whose celestial passion was cut short by the king of the heavens after the pair neglected their chores (teens everywhere, take note). Bamboo branches bedecked with romantic poems and wishes will hang in the plaza at the dance, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Japan Center, Post & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free; call 563-5220.