Best Holiday That Never Turns Out Well
The Fourth of July
San Franciscans love fireworks, even when the fog is so thick that one can hardly see their hand in front of their face. July is predictably miserable in the city, with temperatures rarely rising above 65 degrees and a wall of fog that envelops everything after 5 p.m. Ever the optimists, July 4 organizers still bring out the big bangs on the patriotic day, setting off fireworks that most people can only hear, not see. Best of luck on the nation’s 241st birthday this summer, everybody.
Best New Lottery to Crush Your Dreams
Hamilton at the Orpheum Theatre
1192 Market St., 415-746-1799 or hamilton.shnsf.org
We’ve all played the lottery and had our dreams dashed when the numbers are revealed. Now, thanks to Broadway’s smash hit Hamilton, there’s a new lottery at the Orpheum to get your hopes up. Available online, the Hamilton lottery allows interested parties (read: the entire city of San Francisco) to enter to win one or two prime seats for a future performance for the mouth-watering price of $10. (Ham4Ham — get it?) Each show has 40 dedicated tickets, but given the unending thirst folks have for a musical about the Founding Fathers and hip-hop, your odds of hitting the jackpot remain the same as Alexander Hamilton’s chances of being elected president after he published the Reynolds Pamphlet.
Best Cult Video Game
Killer Queen, at Brewcade
2200 Market St., 415-872-5310 or brewcadesf.com
At a cursory glance, Killer Queen is a remarkably simple game. You play (as bees) in teams of five on a 10-player arcade console. There is only one stage, and there are three paths to victory: Fill your hive with nectar, kill the other team’s Queen three times, or ride a giant snail to glory. Naturally, Killer Queen has acquired a dedicated following, namely because only 23 copies exist in bars and arcades across the U.S. Brewcade is one of the lucky owners of a console, which has led to a league night and tournament days. Perhaps you simply can’t understand the appeal until you and a few friends grab a round and actually get after it, but trust us — you’ll want plenty of quarters on hand before you embark on your next obsession.
Best Burning Man Art In San Francisco
HYBOCOZO at Patricia’s Green
It was a pretty special thing when a version of the Burning Man Temple by sculptor David Best was erected at Hayes Valley’s Patricia’s Green in 2015. That Burning Man razzle-dazzle is back, this time courtesy of Bay Area sculptors Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu, whose collective goes by the name HYBOCOZO. The two gorgeous sculptures sitting in the park are called Trillian and Dodi, and both resemble enormous, oversize Dungeons & Dragons dice decorated with intricate, laser-cut patterned tiles. These creations become truly brilliant at night, when their internal, color-shifting lights fire up to illuminate the sculptures and project mind-blowing shadows on the surrounding sidewalks. The taller piece, Trillian, was created for this installation, while the smaller Dodi was at Burning Man in 2014 and 2015. Both these beauties are scheduled to remain in place until November.
Best Underage Singer Who’s Achieved So Much, She Makes You Look Bad
Before the age of 16, San Francisco singer Lila Blue had already composed music for the theater, recorded her debut album, Lucille, and learned how to play ukulele, guitar, piano, and bass. By the time she celebrated her Sweet Sixteen, Blue had released (and co-produced) another album, 2016’s The Hollows Hold the Healing. Filled with plaintive ballads and twangy, acoustic tunes, the singer uses her soulful voice to narrate tales about heady topics like organized religion, sexual assault, and absent parents. And it’s not like she has just one singing style, either: Her voice ranges from fluttery and breathy to thick and muscular.
Best Discovery from the Basement
We Care A Lot by Faith No More
In the early 1980s, Faith No More was a little-known punk-rock quartet playing late-night gigs at seedy S.F. clubs and recording music in garages their friends’ parents owned. One day, while “just making noise,” bassist Bill Gould says the band created its breakthrough hit, “We Care a Lot.” They recorded it — but then they got famous, and the distribution deal for We Care a Lot ended in 1990. The EP was largely forgotten until 2015, when Gould found the masters in his basement. Out-of-print for more than 20 years, the lost album was re-released in 2016 by Koolarrow Records, featuring the original eight-track demos along with some live recordings from Faith No More’s early stints at now-defunct clubs like The Ivy.
Most Cathartic Form of Resistance
Satanic SF’s “Presidential Roast”
Whether it’s pushing against abortion restrictions by claiming they’re against their religion or erecting statues of Baphomet next to unconstitutional 10 Commandments monuments, Satanists play a vital role in our public discourse. And after Trump’s election, the act of burning the president in effigy feels even more cathartic than whacking a Donald Es Un Pendejo piñata. Resistance must take many forms, and a pentagram with Hair Furor bursting into flames at the center of it feels pretty good right about now.
Fiercest Local Rapper
Sunnydale rapper Lil Yase has a gravelly voice that downplays the violence and aggression in his synthy, boom-bap music. Born Mark Antonyyo Alexander, the lanky 22-year-old grew up playing basketball, but turned his sights toward music after graduating high school. In 2013, he started making music videos using a friend’s iPad, but he didn’t release any material online until 2015. Yase’s tunes combine gangsta rap’s toughness with the buoyancy of hyphy, and he spits over simple, synthesizer beats that are looped throughout the song. His lyrics tend to be boastful or dark, and in a new track about a female Uber driver, Yase repeats, “Don’t make me have to shoot a bitch.” But it’s likely most listeners don’t even know what Yase is saying. He mumbles so much it’s hard to understand him.
Best Song About the State of San Francisco Right Now
“Monochrome Dreams” by The Blue Hours
“There once was a way to stay / In the land of monochrome dreams,” sings The Blue Hours’ Theresa Calpotura in the S.F. duo’s brooding new “Monochrome Dreams.” Her vocals are interwoven with a sample of “Mambayu,” a Filipino rice-pounding folk song, which lends a repetitive air to a song Calpotura describes as capturing “the idea of a monotonous work or routine.” As San Francisco changes, it gets harder and harder for artists and musicians to make a living, no question, but “Monochrome Dreams” is also inspired by a Rimbaud poem about mutability. It’s “a time of transition,” Calpotura says, “much like what San Francisco is going through now.”
Best Opportunity to Hear Heaps of Local Artists
Phono del Sol
Saturday, June 17, Potrero del Sol Park,
2827 Cesar Chavez St. $15-$60; phonodelsol.com
Since 2010, this one-day music-and-food festival has made a point to book as many local artists as possible. At last year’s Phono del Sol, punk band The She’s, indie-rockers Hot Flash Heat Wave, and the Mission rapper Adam Vida shared the bill — and this year, there are even bigger names to look forward to. John Dwyer’s garage-rock band Thee Oh Sees will headline, and other Bay Area highlights include Jay Som, Duckwrth, Bells Atlas, Never Young, Madeline Kenney, Rayana Jay, and Tino Drima. Make sure you bring blankets and an inflatable air lounge, because you’ll be catching these performances on sloping, grassy hills.
Best Music Video Set in S.F.
Down 2 Earth’s “DNA”
Down 2 Earth is a rap crew out of Oakland that consists of three dudes who built separate careers in the East Bay hip-hop scene. There’s a distinctively smooth, laid-back quality to their music, which harkens to early-’90s rap with its use of obscure jazz and soul samples and internal rhyme schemes. In the music video for “DNA,” a rubbery track off their sophomore album Fair Share, we see the trio crossing the Bay Bridge in a gold 1970s Chevrolet to deliver pizzas for Veracio’s, a spot in SoMa near a studio Down 2 Earth used to record in. En route, they encounter hot girls and creepy, partially naked guys, and East Bay rappers Jay Ant and Iamsu make cameos. The silly, bouncy-sounding beat meshes well with the dudes’ playful, “idgaf” manner, and it’s no big deal when one of the guys confesses that he ate a slice from a box.
Best Mid-Show Catastrophe
Justin Martin’s Stolen Thumb Drive
Around midnight on Friday, Jan. 20, at Dirtybird’s quarterly party at Mezzanine, Justin Martin’s USB drive was stolen. The DJ was about to start his set after a rousing hour-and-15-minute stint by his brother Christian when he discovered it was missing. Though he didn’t make a public announcement about the theft, Martin later posted numerous tweets about it, even going so far as to offer a $1,000 reward. Fans rallied to his side, retweeting his posts and creating memes with threats for the thief. It worked, because in less than 24 hours, the culprit called Martin to confess the crime, returning the drive.
Best Local Feud
University High School vs. Lick-Wilmerding High School
A few weeks before a major, end-of-season basketball game at Oracle Arena between University and Lick-Wilmerding high schools, a University student named Ben Solomon released a music video on YouTube. Called “Devils’ Anthem,” it features shots of the ritzy, Pacific Heights school and banal lyrics about how “we bring a new type of charisma.” It’s hardly a diss track, but two days later, a group of students at Lick-Wilmerding who called themselves ISM released a video online called “Game Recognize Game.” Staged in what could be the Ingleside school’s auditorium, the video is a vicious attack on University High School. From the first verse, the entire student body gets dissed — “I just came to explain to ya’ll what this game is worth / What ya’ll know about work / You been eating out that silver spoon since you was birthed” — and specific people from the “Devils’ Anthem” get mocked, too. (“I saw that little dab girl that wasn’t cute.”) Even Solomon’s eyebrows get knocked: “Boy better wax those.”
Best New Mural
“No Ceiling” by Believe in People
A large wall near Westfield Centre that faces Mission Street got a fresh coat of paint earlier this year from mural artist Believe in People (BiP). The five-story mural, a tribute to Bay Area women, is titled “No Ceiling,” and while you have to get pretty close to see it, it’s quite striking. Six-year-old Ja’Niyha W. from Oakland was the model, posed in a classic Rosie the Riveter stance, but with a huge bicep and an anchor tattoo. The piece took a month and 400 cans of spray paint to complete, and often stops tourists in their tracks.
Best Recurring Piece of Guerrilla Art
1269 McAllister St.
Every month for the past 15 years, artist Miguel Gutierrez-Ranzi has spent hours upon hours creating a large installation out of found objects and pieces of trash. Once a piece is completed, he uses a unique pulley system to hang the sculpture out of his second-story window on McAllister Street, for the whole neighborhood to admire. Spools of thread, old CDs, Barbie heads, plastic bottles, and credit cards are just some of the materials he’s used, and many of the pieces have a holiday theme or political undertone. Fans are invited to offer feedback in the form of handwritten letters that can be deposited in a little orange mailbox on the fence.
Best New Place to See Local Art
235 Broderick St., thegrowlery.org
On residential Broderick Street, a big yellow mansion covered in flowering wisteria has been given a new life. Once the San Francisco Raffle Dream House, 235 Broderick is now home to The Growlery, an artist residency and exhibition space. A couple times a month, the doors open to the neighborhood to come see work created by artists living in the space — which can range from photography to large-scale installations. There’s often beer and wine (on the house), and a live band or two, too.
Best Movie Theater Cell Phone Policy
2550 Mission St, 415-549-5959 or drafthouse.com/sf
There is a lot to like about the Alamo Drafthouse, San Francisco’s newest movie theater: reserved seats, delicious food delivered right to you, a full bar, and no commercials played before the film. However, there may be no better facet than Alamo’s “no talking” policy. Before each film, a PSA — sometimes featuring actors from the movie you are about to watch — lets the audience know what horrible things will befall them if they talk or text. While there may be some hyperbole employed there, the policy does stipulate that after one warning, any offenders will be booted from the premises without a refund (ditto those who arrive late). If you take film seriously, so does the Drafthouse. Cinematic peace and quiet await you.
Best Real Life Version of Etsy
Renegade Craft Fair
July 15-16 at Fort Mason, renegadecraftfair.com
One of the (many) problems with the online craft conglomerate Etsy is that you can’t actually examine any of the many wares for sale. Sure, that lavender soap carved to resemble Ross from Friends looks awesome, but how can you really know until you smell it for yourself? Enter the Renegade Craft Fair, held at Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion three times a year. Featuring many of your favorite Etsy vendors, Renegade is a hipster bazaar of hand-sewn trinkets, organic blend designs, and all the enamel pins you could ever wear. We jest: Renegade offers a chance to meet the people behind the storefronts, and stock up on birthday and holiday presents in one fell swoop. Just don’t bring a credit card you aren’t ready to swipe with abandon.