The San Francisco Street Food Festival was another success this year. Dozens of vendors with original, unheard-of creations, such as deep fried mac and cheese on a stick, black pea paste pancakes, and Korean quesadillas. Then there was the comfort foods we've grown accustomed to, like creme bruleé, shrimp rolls, and pound cake. Photographs by Mabel Jimenez.
Performing artists know few things can truly live up to the experience of a live performance; the bustle of the tech crew, the nearly blinding stage lights, the nerves that come along with sharing work with an audience. South of Market's Museum of Performance and Design captures a bit of this enigmatic energy with its newest exhibition, "Instant Love." Via snapshots, sketches, and selfies taken from rehearsals and backstage by some of the greatest performers of all time (including sweet drawings by legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova), "Instant Love" is an intimate look at the moments theatergoers rarely get to see. The pieces, including submissions from local performers, are overseen by the Museum of Performance and Design's executive director (and former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer), Muriel Maffre. And if anyone is going to curate a collection of backstage moments, who better than Maffre?
"Instant Love" starts at 5:30 p.m. and continues through March 21. More
There are few things in this world as adorable as a child singing and dancing to Bob Marley songs. His songs of protest, his songs of freedom, they all sound that much more poignant when coming from the mouths of innocent youngsters. If you have children, they either like Marley songs, or they haven't heard them. So either way, the play Three Little Birds is an essential musical theater experience for you and your kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, students, neighbors' kids, etc. The adventure tale of 11-year-old Ziggy, set in Jamaica, taps into the steadfast yet laid-back vibes of the titular song, teaching young ones that "every little thing is gonna be all right." The play, based on a work by Marley's daughter Cedella Marley, is recommended for kids 4 and up.More
At this point, MGM’s 1939 The Wizard of Oz is so inextricably tangled up with L. Frank Baum's novels that any new adaptation of his work inevitably references the visual motifs, characterizations, and music of Victor Fleming's film.
Despite its distributor's best efforts, Christian Petzold's Barbara was not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Oscars -- and even if it had made the cut, it probably wouldn't have bested Haneke's Amour.
If you're going to go out, go out on a high note. After five years of throwing parties and two years of putting out records by Bay Area electronic musicians, Icee Hot is calling it quits. To celebrate the occasion, organizers are throwing a party quite unlike anything the Bay Area has ever seen before — a 28-hour nonstop affair that is, by rights, more accurately a miniaturized music festival than a mere "party."
The man headlining this whole thing is one of techno music's founding fathers: Robert Hood, one of the original members of Detroit's Underground Resistance record label and artist collective (alongside Jeff Mills and Mike Banks). Describing Hood's contributions to techno and electronic music in general is impossible in such a small space, but suffice it to say that, over a career spanning some 25 years, he has never been more well-regarded than in the present moment. Hood's minimal, hard-driving, melodic, and deeply spiritual techno has been all over club dancefloors for the past couple of years, driven by his anthemic "Never Grow Old," in which an insistent synth melody chimes on over a sample of Aretha Franklin's crystalline, searing voice. It's an electric tune, encapsulating all of the transcendental power of techno in a single eight-minute piece. When Hood plays it — and he almost assuredly will — be warned, because the roof of Public Works might just come down.
Co-headlining is Andy Stott, a Brit who has been quietly producing some of the world's most innovative electronic music for the past decade or so. He turned heads with We Stay Together/Passed Me By, a sludgy, moody double EP, but his 2012 album, Luxury Problems, launched him to international stardom. It's a masterpiece, leavening the darkness of the EPs with warmer melodies, female vocals, and the occasional breakbeat. His just-released album, Faith in Strangers, is more obviously rooted in the house-techno continuum but is no less experimental. He's a superb live performer, presenting new tracks alongside reworked older ones with an eye on the dancefloor.
He's joined by an array of superb DJs, one of whom (Kowton) will be making his debut San Francisco appearance. Gerd Janson leads the pack; as head of one of the world's best and most diverse record labels (Running Back), his taste knows no bounds. Kowton is one of England's most mind-bending producers, channeling the raw, gritty spirit of dubstep and grime into a techno paradigm. There's a whole parade of New Yorkers: Joey Anderson, one of the city's finest deep house practitioners; Anthony Parasole, who produces and DJs no-holds-barred techno; Galcher Lustwerk, a dubbed-out deep house producer with a mesmerizing voice; Young Male, who produces "working-man's techno," simple, heavy and melodic; and Contakt, resident DJ at NYC monthly party Turbotax. Up-and-coming Canadians Pender Street Steppers and Hashman Deejay will be deploying their woozy, new-age house and disco, and similarly-minded compatriot Maxmillion Dunbar, from D.C., will join them. Last but not least are Bostonians John Barera and Will Martin, two new producers making a splash with their sample-heavy deep house, who will be performing live.
Then there are the locals: Icee Hot residents DJ Will, Shawn Reynaldo, Low Limit, and Ghosts on Tape are joined by Honey Soundsystem's Jason Kendig and Jackie House, and Matrixxman & Vin Sol will be making an appearance as well. Set times will be announced shortly before the party begins on Saturday so partygoers can plan accordingly. Stay hydrated, stay caffeinated, and stay till the bitter end. Goodbye, Icee Hot.
Icee Hot's 5-Year Anniversary & 28-Hour Final Goodbye Party runs from 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, until 2 a.m. Monday, Jan. 26, at Public Works. For more information, read the online interview with Icee Hot DJs Shawn, Ryan, and Will.More
Since 2008, Circus Bella has been keeping San Franciscans entertained with its throwback circus techniques. Trading the idea of a big top for something a bit more intimate, the local troupe is making its way to the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco for one day. Even for those who have seen Circus Bella's contortions, hula-hooping, trapeze, or juggling, it's hard to anticipate just how spectacular these feats become when viewed at such close proximity. Feats of strength become hold-your-breath-and-pray-for-the-best terrifying. And clown acts — well, those become terrifying, too. Local composer, pianist, and accordion player Rob Reich performs the original score. As with most of the programing at the Jewish Community Center, Circus Bella is perfect for families — though just to err on the side of caution, it's probably a good idea to discourage any excited children from sword-swallowing or fire-breathing once they get home.More
We were all crushed when Lila Thirkield announced that, after nearly 20 years, she couldn't keep the Lexington Club going. The last dyke bar in S.F. Crushing. While we expected New Year's Eve might be the Lex's death knell, we've been given a vague promise of a couple more months, so look alive, people. The Lex's final art show opens Jan. 28 with "A Photo and Flyer Retrospective," including the growing #lexbathroomselfie collection, and tonight promises an after-party to remember for Shot for Shot: The Lexington Club on Screen. The program, put together by local film teacher Elena Oxman, offers clips from the movies that Thirkield has allowed to be shot in her bar, including Oxman's own urban adventure Lit and Jackie Strano and Shar Rednour's pitch-perfect How to Pick Up Girls. "Shot for Shot" is co-presented by Good Vibrations and Frameline, so beyond a visual carousel of hot babes and good memories, you can expect some serviceable swag.
Shot for Shot starts at 7 p.m. at the Roxie, 3117 16th St., S.F. $10; 863-1087 or roxie.com. The after party is at the Lexington Club, 3464 19th St., S.F. More
White people can't play the blues. Granted, some black people can't play it, either. But most new blues these days is played by white people — talented Austin guitarist Gary Clark, Jr., is one obvious exception — and most blues these days utterly sucks. Blame it on a malady we'll call White Blues Syndrome: Ninety-five percent of the time, if you give a pale-skinned guitarist, singer, or saxophonist a blues progression to play over, they'll treat it like a compulsive tagger treats an unmolested swath of bathroom stall. They scribble their self-importance all over it. They spray notes like a piss-happy baby whose diaper just came off. Even blues guitar greats of the caucasian persuasion, like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, have used the form as a chance to exhibit their ability to wank: Look at me solo! I can play fast! I can spit out so many notes you can't even keep track of them all! Aren't I awesome?
But wanking off is not playing the blues. The blues — if you will allow this white, twentysomething, blues-obsessed writer to lecture you on such a deep and mythical topic — is about feeling. That's what it's called the blues. Yet because a I-IV-V chord progression is the easiest thing in music to improvise a solo over, the blues has been treated, since around the mid-'60s, as a backdrop for musicians to show off their technical skills.
A lot of people hate the Black Keys now that their music is liked by the masses and played on the radio and performed in places like the 25,000-capacity Oracle Arena. But here's the thing about the Black Keys: Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have never called themselves a blues band, yet they've always understood that the essence of the genre is communicating a feeling, not showing off a skill. This rock duo has done a better job of howling the blues with honesty — or least not fucking it up royally — than any other blues-influenced band of their time, including the arty, ironic, and often wank-inclined White Stripes.
Go back and listen to "Thickfreakness," the title track off the Keys' second album. You'll notice plenty of that nebulous yet essential quality that musicians call "feel." Much of that comes from Carney, the way he's so far behind the beat that it sounds like he's drumming from another time zone. Playing behind the beat is a crucial ingredient of the blues, yet it's one that few players — especially white ones — seem to understand. (The late Levon Helm was another white drummer who excelled at lingering way behind the beat.) In his fascinating autobiography, jazz great Charles Mingus describes imagining a circle in time around each beat, and says each player should produce their note at some point along that circle, never exactly on the beat. The great bluesmen, whether white or black, all understood this.
Rhythmic nuances are essential to the feel of the blues. But the worst aspects of White Blues Syndrome come from indulgent guitar players and singers using every opening in the music to vomit out a solo or lead — the very opposite of nuance. Since they spent years with only three sonic tools at hand — guitar, voice, and drums — the Black Keys don't often take indulgent solos, and they understand the value of negative space. Auerbach's guitar leads tend toward simplicity, favoring melody over noodling, largely because while soloing he had to keep the rest of each song going. His influences help: Auerbach derived his style from venerable blues minimalists like Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and Robert Nighthawk, who all play a lean, rhythm-based form very different from the self-conscious stylings that spew out of players affected by White Blues Syndrome. Also key to this overall feel: Auerbach's voice, whose grainy depths summon serious anguish.
Some think the Black Keys have lately traded away these strengths. The band's highly regarded 2010 album, Brothers, was a slow-moving, dark-hued masterpiece, but last year's Danger Mouse-produced El Camino is the closest thing to a pop album the Keys have ever made. First single "Lonely Boy" is basically a classic rock jingle, and its popularity has helped make the band huge enough to play arenas. "Gold on the Ceiling" rides an upbeat, blues-lite groove. "Little Black Submarines" is a slow-building epic à la "Stairway to Heaven," with all the Led Zep drama but without the annoying pomposity.
These songs stray from the minimalism of the Keys' early work. And admittedly, they lack some of the homegrown charm of albums like Thickfreakness, which was recorded over one 14-hour session in the band's basement. But El Camino sees the Keys sounding as good or better than they've ever sounded before: hookier, more upbeat, and just more fun. The blues is a few layers down, but it's still there, restraining Auerbach's leads, fueling the sway of Carney's groove, and adding an extra degree of grit to the moaning of heartache and gloom.
Of course, the album's success — the fact that this is no longer a quirky indie duo on a label called Fat Possum, but a widely known rock band on a major imprint — has led to a sort of revolt among the types of people who, five or six years ago, would've been proud to say they liked the Black Keys. Shunning a band for its popularity is almost always dumb, but especially so in this case. Long before they were staples of rock radio, the Black Keys were quietly rescuing one of America's most important musical forms from decades of abuse by overeager musicians, providing a crucial counter example to those who would inflict their self-importance on the music. The Black Keys have evolved, as every artist does. But unlike some of their contemporaries, they're still here. And they haven't come down with White Blues Syndrome yet.
Fri., May 4, 8 p.m., 2012
The No Pants BART Ride commenced on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. Participants rode without pants, and at the end of the ride they disembarked at The Mission to bar hop, eat burritos and take selfies. Photos by Richard Haick.