No need to limit your al fresco arts activities to Stern Grove. The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival ensures that you can get some fresh air and take in a few of the Bay Area's cultural treasures year round sometimes even on your lunch break. The festival features over one hundred free events, ranging from dance, theater, and music to site-specific installations and just about anything else you'd care to gawk at on your way to work or a movie. This afternoon, soak in the sounds of Los Vasallos del Sol and the Venezuelan Music Project. The two groups offer a distinct melting-pot aesthetic that's well-suited to the hybrid sensibility of the Bay Area arts scene. Los Vasallos del Sol (which translates to "vassals of the sun," a nod to the music's partially pre-Columbian origins) hail from Venezuela and navigate fluidly between percussive African rhythms and syncopated, maraca-shaking tunes. The Bay-Area based Venezuelan Music Project similarly probes the roots of Venezuelan music, encompassing everything from lyrical calypso to propulsive urban music. The vocal techniques are just as varied, but it's the four-string Venezuelan cuatro (known as the "guitarilla renascentista," or the little Renaissance guitar, in the olden days), which is typically the rhythmic core of all Venezuelan music, that'll make you suspect where the term "heart strings" comes from.
Sat., May 10, 1 p.m., 2008