It's been a busy year for the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. After working tirelessly to raise funds for the #ReviveTheGrand campaign, the foundation is debuting the Grand Theater's vast, renovated space that will be used for art and tech exhibitions, philanthropy, and community outreach programs. The foundation has provided workshops that not only teach tech and digital media skills to an incredibly diverse range of residents, but inspire creativity through these tools. Despite the ongoing head-butting between artists and tech companies in this city, there is art, not just apps, to be made with our amazing advancements in technology. This Gray Area Festival will kick off a new era of important community resources by gathering artists and philanthropists to discuss the impact art and tech can make on culture. There will be a conference, performances, workshops, and a large-scale exhibition — and Thursday night's opening with renegade art organization F.A.T. GOLD is free.
The Gray Area Festival begins at 7 p.m. and continues through Sunday at Gray Area Art and Technology, 2665 Mission St., S.F. Opening is free; weekend admission is $25-$250; grayareafestival.io. More
In the past 30 years, light artists have reimagined an art form that has always had the ability to turn the night sky, or a simple window, into luminescence. Last fall, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts turned its southern glass wall into a parade of sound-sensing lights, Lightswarm, that changes with the movements of nearby people and things. Future Cities Lab, the San Francisco design company behind Lightswarm, has originated another notable light sculpture. Located by the YBCA's steps at 701 Mission, Murmur Wall will light up in arresting ways as it incorporates local trending search engine results and social media postings. Onlookers can offer their own contributions, which will feed into the Murmur Wall's data stream and light up the sculpture. What's trending in San Francisco? If you're walking by the YBCA, you can see firsthand — at least through light patterns that reflect the city's volatile internet habits.
Murmur Wall debuts Thursday at 6 p.m. and continues through May 31, 2017, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F. Free; 415-978-2700 or ybca.org. More
For the past seven years, Gray Area has been working to foster and develop relationships between the arts, technology, and music communities in San Francisco by hosting seminars, workshops, and outreach initiatives. They've also hosted some killer events, culminating in this weekend's Gray Area Festival, their largest yet, featuring a slew of panels, keynotes, and discussions with arts and tech luminaries. They're also hosting live performances by artists across the electronic music spectrum: On Friday, dark ambient pioneer Lustmord joins forces with analog synth wizard Alessandro Cortini for an evening of enveloping, psychedelic atmospheres; and on Saturday, American beatmakers Shigeto and Teebs will kick the tempo up and bring the grooves out. Both nights feature collaborations with visual artists, so expect full-scale audio-visual experiences the whole weekend. All of it goes down at Gray Area's newly renovated space in the Mission, the Grand Theater, which is a sight to be seen unto itself.More
Rising Appalachia's singing sisters Chloe Smith and Leah Song dig into the mountain string band traditions with a 21st century pickaxe. Think Gaia hippie love meets conscious hip-hop meets modern primitivism. Releasing a half-dozen albums and globetrotting for years on their own, they are DIY and community-conscious to the marrow. Drawing on ancient sources of strength — the human voice, the almighty groove, and a close-knit family of artist-educator collaborators — the duo aims for a ritual healing experience with its music and inspirational lyrics (from "Spirit's Cradle": "I believe in the goodness/of humankind"). Rising Appalachia's brand new CD, Wider Circles, benefits from the soulful contributions of percussionist Biko Casini and upright bassist/baritone guitarist David Brown, whose palpable grasp of space and time uplifts the sisters' magical voices and spare accompaniment on banjo and fiddle. Updates on old-time classics like "Fall on My Knees," "Cripple Creek," and "Bright Morning Stars" connect with the ancestors and come across as a shared spiritual journey. These tunes are raw, deeply rooted, and winged. It's a rare combination of forces.More
Producing electronic music is more accessible than ever these days. All it takes is a laptop, a bit of software, and a tutorial or two and you're up and running — although results may vary. For the most part, this widening of the field is a good thing — there are a lot of young, talented electronic musicians doing their thing on a shoestring budget, sometimes to amazing effect.
But there's something to be said for hardware. Hardware synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers all possess their own eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, which produce particular timbres that software will simply never be able to replicate. Certain electronic musicians have worked with hardware for decades, and have developed a symbiotic working relationship with it, understanding the machines inside and out: Enter Jonah Sharp and David Moufang (aka Move D), together known as Reagenz.
These two are some of electronic music's old guard, their histories reaching back into the early '90s. Sharp is a longtime San Franciscan responsible for some of techno's finest moments under the name Spacetime Continuum (and others); Moufang is a German, from Heidelberg, with a mile-long discography encompassing spaced-out ambient, cerebral techno, and beautiful deep house. They met in San Francisco in 1994 and shortly thereafter began working together as Reagenz, a project that persists to this day.
Reagenz is all about improvisation — setting up a bunch of gear and letting the machines sing with no plan ahead of time. Their live sets ebb and flow, with upbeat dancefloor grooves bleeding into shimmering deep ambience and back again. They're truly a treat for the ears (and eyes — watching them work together is half the fun). Move D is a phenomenal DJ to boot, and he'll be closing out the night with deep house and techno selections, while As You Like It residents Sassmouth and Mike Gushansky get the party started.More
Two of the biggest DJ-producers of the last decade are coming together, high school reunion style, this Friday at Mighty. Both Skream and Scuba launched their careers at roughly the same time (2003) in England, as they began developing a unique, bass-heavy sound that would soon come to be known as "dubstep" (which meant something quite different back then in England than it does in America today). These days, they've moved on from that sound: Scuba is exploring atmospheric techno and Skream has started to produce funky disco-house. Their selections (as DJs) roughly match the kind of music they make these days, as Scuba hews towards deep-space techno and hypnotic tech-house, while Skream is fond of bass-heavy U.K.-styled house music with a bit of disco to whet the appetite. Lights Down Low's resident DJs Corey Sizemore and Richie Panic will be on hand to get the party started, per usual.More
502 Jefferson St., 415-441-9329
What began as a group swim session around Fisherman’s Wharf in 1877 has turned to into a hardcore recreational challenge suited only for the strongest men and women of the City by the Bay.
The first thing K.Flay did after returning from South By Southwest was go to the Oakland farmer's market with her mom. When she talks about her shopping trip, K.Flay — the rapping alter ego of 27-year-old Kristine Flaherty — casually refers to Oakland as "home." But "home" has been a nebulous concept for Flaherty for a while now: She grew up in suburban Wilmette, Ill., attended Stanford University (where she double-majored in sociology and psychology), spent three years in San Francisco, and resided in Oakland for a year. Now she's signed a major label deal with RCA, which has her in Brooklyn for the moment.
Between moving cities and touring, Flaherty says that she feels like she's "living in this weird suspended reality," both physically and in her head. But she credits this state of flux with keeping her music eclectic and her writing perky — traits RCA hopes to push to the fore this summer when it releases her debut album proper.
Before inking her record deal, Flaherty had been releasing music on the Internet. Her MASHed Potatoes mixtape from 2009 had her rapping over songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Gossip, and Ludacris, featured guest verses from West Coast indie rappers Eligh (of Living Legends) and Zumbi (of Zion I), and included a ditty confessing an addiction to Vanilla Coke. (A 2007 interview with her college paper, the Stanford Daily, has her picking Fischerspooner, Lily Allen, and Fiona Apple as her iPod staples.) The style of building her raps on top of songs from the indie-rock and dance worlds has pitched Flaherty away from the traditional hip-hop scene, and into an alternative zone. The fusion of styles continues on her latest EP, Eyes Shut, which leans heavily in an electronic direction and even features production by Liam Howlett of fiery British post-rave unit The Prodigy.
Their connection happened naturally. "Essentially, a friend of mine played Liam some of my music and he was excited about what I was doing and wanted to link up," Flaherty says. We got on well, and our styles of production and ways of working are similar: I like to be in a little room by myself working on things, and he does too." The fruits of those sessions, which went down at Sarm Studios in Notting Hill, London, are the lead EP single "We Hate Everybody" and the track "Stop, Focus." Over Howlett's abrasive beats, Flaherty showcases her playful voice and packs her lyrics with personal asides and brainy culture references: A fondness for Cheerios in soy milk mingles with a mention of Jennifer Egan's novel A Visit From The Goon Squad.
Flaherty's online persona reinforces this image of her as a smart aleck who happens to rap. Her website includes a series of book reviews, with such titles as Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Delivered via video, she interjects her literary commentary with images and bursts of music that flash quickly on the screen — a topless photo of the soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo lounging like a lothario, juxtaposed with a house-wife declaring, "Marriage is a stifling hetero-normative institution." This knowingness also seeps into her (unofficial) remix of Kreayshawn's "Gucci Gucci," which riffs on the song's line about working at Arby's by setting the music to footage of Flaherty wolfing down a burger at In-N-Out.
This ability to make rap songs that come off as both clever and kooky is a specialty of Flaherty's — and something her record label is keen to market. "I think there's probably a natural desire for any major label to make you a little bit more pop and more accessible and less weird," she says. "For the most part, I think people [at RCA] were excited about the little pop elements that I already had, but what I'm trying to do is be a little weird and eclectic in certain other ways."
Flaherty is far from alone in having a record label seek to emphasize her pop appeal. Nicki Minaj, the most successful female rapper at the moment, releases songs that are performance stunts as much as straightforward rap tracks. Following in her wake, the crossover appeal of Kreayshawn's "Gucci Gucci" and the Oakland rapper's hipster look helped persuade Columbia to offer up a six-figure deal for her services. And Harlem's Azealia Banks appears to be the next hot property, after the success of her bouncy, uptempo "212."
Musing on her own appeal, Flaherty insists that her marketability is natural, not forced. Her music is a reflection of her day-to-day life, so her upcoming album will attempt to sum up the thoughts and experiences of a twentysomething college graduate living in a metropolitan environment — including trips to the farmer's market and filling an iPod with eclectic music. As she puts it, "At the end of the day I just use hip-hop and rapping as a medium to kinda put out my weird message."
Thu., April 5, 10 p.m., 2012
Last night U2 performed the first U.S. date of it’s Innocence + Experience tour at SAP Center in San Jose. All four band members were present despite recent injuries sustained by both Bono and Edge. The sold out show took audience members on a walk down memory lane as the band revisited their roots. The innovative stage and lighting used gave the arena show an intimate feel, and engaged audience members in all sections of the venue. Photographs by Sugarwolf.
The 103rd annual Bay to Breakers 12K race was packed on Sunday despite the cold weather. With a starting point a few blocks from The Embarcadero, people dressed as bananas, Elvis and everything in between ran west through the city and finished at the Great Highway where breakers crash onto Ocean Beach. Photographs by Christopher Victorio.