Introduction by Joe Eskenazi. Photographs by Nathaniel Downes.
The first thing to hit you when you walk through the front door of The Gotham Club, the swank new private establishment at AT&T Park, is the smell. The aroma of soaked earth and freshly cut grass hits you and it hits you hard. Baseball is a game steeped in nostalgia and this odor conjures up memories of youthful trips to the ballpark and long summer evenings on the diamond.
This is a pleasant experience, to say the least. But this is not the smell of The Gotham Club. Head up the stairs and you're hit with a blast of old wood. And, yes, old money.
It would be very easy to grow cynical upon entering this supremely upscale private club housed within the team's right field out-of-town scoreboard. It's a testament to the rich history of the ballclub whose games you're not watching. It's a chance to look down upon players, many of whom grew up in abject poverty, while sipping on a $12 draft beer.
And yet, the level of care and detail put into the construction of this place -- which officially opens Friday, but, likely not for you -- is breathtaking. Books of the sort obtained at a centenarian's estate sale are on the shelf above the flat-screen TV -- three whole volumes of Carl Sandburg's writings on Lincoln -- while an alarmingly complete trove of Giants literature is on the lower shelf.
Yes, Arnold Hano's "A Day in the Bleachers" is here.
The couches are all overstuffed, the stools are topped with baseball glove-like leather, and there's a Cooperstown-level of ephemera here. Joyous club members may receive the honor of operating the out-of-town scoreboard (An honor for a tippler; a job-duty for an employee).
The nitty-gritty: It'll cost you $2,500 to join this club, plus around $1,500 a season. You also have to be a season-ticket holder -- or a current or former Giant. Membership will be capped at 1,000 (non-Giants) while spatial relations are assessed, and then, likely, allowed to grow. Right now, 700 season ticket-holders are members.
The drinks are delicious -- and expensive. The food is divine -- and expensive. But, if you have to ask how much it costs -- perhaps you can't afford it.
This is a gorgeous place. Everyone would appreciate it. Not everyone will see it.
Tony's Pizza celebrated five years of making pizza in North Beach by completing a record breaking pizza toss. A representative from Guinness World Records was there to verify the feat. In order to break the previous record, more than 250 pizzas had to be tossed, for a duration of at least one minute, and each pizza needed to reach a final measurement of 12". Tony's Pizza managed to break the previous record by tossing 263 pizzas. The event also hosted raffles, pizza acrobatics, and a massive pizza toss with the participation of local children and families. Proceeds from the event benefit Family House SF, which serves as a home away from home for families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Photographs by Mabel Jiménez.
Every art form must, at some point, consecrate a practitioner to the level of supreme deity. Consumer electronics did it to Steve Jobs, high fashion did it to Princess Diana, and a powerful triumvirate of theater, gay men, and popular music joined to launch Barbra Streisand into iconic fame. Adoration of the diva has blossomed into an art form of its own in the one-man comedy Buyer & Cellar, visiting the Curran Theater for an off-Broadway tour. The high priest of this self-conscious inquiry into celebrity worship is the puckish Michael Urie, whose constantly thrumming body and comedic dexterity make the absence of the real Barbra acceptable. The fictional premise of the play, that Urie has been hired by Babs as the single employee of her underground home shopping mall, is hardly stranger than the truth: Streisand really does have a vintage subterranean mini-mall of her own design. Jonathan Tollins’ hit is so entertaining that you may not even notice it exploring the depths of materialism, nostalgia, and our collective need for refuge, whether in song, story, or a multimillion dollar personal storage unit.More
Tuesdays-Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 31
Comedy shows in bars can be an odd mix, especially when a birthday or bachelorette party means lots of stiff drinks and dildos strapped to the heads of the women tearing it up in their final hours before marriage. These giggling dickheads can be a comedians worst nightmare, as the rest of the audience tends to be tangentially aware that someone else is also performing laughable acts. The clown onstage tries to eke out a living, meanwhile, begging you to take his (or her) wife. But Ronn Vigh, the host and producer of Harvey's Funny Tuesdays, wouldn't stand for that. He says his brash demeanor has brought comparisons to a young Joan Rivers, adding, well, if she was male, gay and didn't start shooting up Botox by the bucket. Also, Vigh has had a birthday party at this venue, in which a cadre of his favorite funny gals celebrated his special day from the stage. Regardless, Vigh's lineups always include San Francisco comics of many stripes. The stiff drinks and celebration are a guarantee, but the headgear is up to you.More
Thousands descended onto Post Street through Japantown during the J-Pop Summit Festival from July 19-20. The celebration of Japanese Pop culture and Japanese Heritage attracted residents and visitors from all over the world. Photographs by Christopher Victorio.
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.
Coit Tower has its history, and it's definitely got its views -- and some of the best of each is inside the tower itself. The murals, commissioned during the beginning of the New Deal in the 1930s as a way to get artists back to work were painted by some masters in modern art history. After Diego Rivera's Man at the Crossroads was defaced at Rockefeller Center for including leftist ideas, these same artists picketed Coit Tower. Ultimately, their work in the tower included similar ideas, but are right at home in modern-day San Francisco. These murals offer an ideal complement to our city's monument to Lillie Hitchcock Coit -- a radical in her own right. Tours are offered Wednesdays and most Saturdays.More
Four years ago, Sharon Coleman, MK Chavez, and Tomas Moniz combined forces to create Lyrics & Dirges, which has become one of the premiere reading series in the East Bay. "We started out the series wanting to present much more diversity than usually happens in most readings," says Coleman. "Diversity in many ways: ethnic, style, age, ideas etc. I personally imagine our reading as what if everybody on a BART train started to actually talk to each other." Moniz points out that they've never had a repeat reader. "Lyrics and Dirges believes that to build community we should celebrate each other," he says. "Thus, we have worked hard to provide a space for brand new writers just beginning to perform to share the stage with writers who have worked long and hard at honing their craft; we've paired slam poets with writers of erotic memoir; we've highlighted writers published by mainstream presses, hard core zinesters who still staple each issue, comics artists and playwrights." To celebrate the four-year mark they're hosting Virgie Tovar (editor, Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion, and new managing director of Radar Productions), Matthew Zapruder (Sun Bear, Come On All You Ghosts), Daniel Riddle Rodriguez, and Aimee Suzara.More
Is Oakland's High on Fire the best metal band in the Bay Area? The monolithically heavy power trio founded in 1998 by guitarist Matt Pike (already a local legend thanks to his work with dope-centric Sabbath worshippers Sleep) and ferocious drummer Des Kensel has built a legitimate claim during its 16 years of existence. Providing Pike a more aggressive platform to explore his obsession with Tony Iommi's tritone sound, the band — rounded out by longtime bassist Jeff Matz — has refined a seismic mix of raw intensity and a locomotive fury (recalling classic Motörhead) over the course of six pulverizing albums.
Two years have passed since the band released the ferocious concept effort De Vermis Mysteriis, which explored a twisted sci-fi premise (the twin brother of Jesus dies at the moment of birth and becomes a Quantum Leap-style time traveler), but a steady schedule of international touring and limited-edition 7-inch singles have kept the trio busy. SF Weekly recently spoke with drummer Kensel about the current free tour (sponsored by Converse) and work on the band's highly anticipated follow-up.
SF Weekly: You've already done the first few dates of this Converse Rubber Tracks Live Tour. How have the shows been going so far?
Des Kensel: Great! All three shows were sold out, which is good, because it's free admission. If they weren't, you'd be wondering what was going on [laughs]. Yeah, they've been killer. We did Boston, Toronto, and New York. On our own headlining tours, those cities are good for us...
So were you playing venues that were pretty comparable to what you would usually play, or were these shows smaller?
Well, the place in Boston [The Sinclair] we'd never played before. We were supposed to a year and a half ago, but it wasn't open yet. We were originally booked there, then it got moved because they weren't ready for their grand opening. So that was our first time there. It was pretty comparable to what we usually play; I think it was around 600-650 capacity. In Boston we've usually done right around that.
Toronto was a new venue, Adelaide Hall. It was good. The place we played in Brooklyn was actually where we did some of the recording for our live album [Spitting Fire Live Vol. 1 & 2], the Music Hall of Williamsburg. So we were familiar with that venue.
Are you finding the crowd to be different from the usual High on Fire gig? I imagine it's still mostly High on Fire fans stoked to see you for free...
There was that, but it seems a little different from our normal headlining tour. Which wasn't a bad thing; maybe it's just the link with Converse and the show being free made it a slightly different crowd. That was just my take from when I got to look up from behind the drums. Every night the crowd seemed into it; they were familiar with us. Regardless, it went well.
Between this tour and Scion AV putting on the tour with 0x000AKvelertak last winter, and the big Rock Fest show you played in May, the band has been doing a lot of sponsored gigs. Does that mostly help defray the cost of being out in the road and aid in the promotion?
Well, with these sponsored tours, they've got deep pockets [laughs] so it makes it worth our while. It is something new where these bigger companies are trying to tap into our genre. It's all for marketing. There's obviously a fine line where they can make it cool or it can turn into something that kind of fucks it all up.
What Scion has had going on, they're working with some really good bands that are good friends of ours, so something like that makes it worth our while to fly to Pomona for the one show. It helps keep High on Fire afloat and pay studio rent and keep the band going. I don't think it's that bad. They haven't ruined it yet [laughs]!
The cool thing I know, at least with us and I'm sure with other bands like Municipal Waste and Down, they're not getting in the way of any kind of creativity. With Scion, when they're putting the songs out, it's just like "Hey man, we like what you do. Let's get together and do something cool."
Where are you in terms of progress on the new album?
There are lots of parts and lots of ideas. We have two songs that are pretty much complete. One of them was the single for Scion, so if we need to we could re-record that. But hopefully, we'd like to keep it fresh and have something completely new for the full length. The plan is to have a new record come out in early 2015, but High on Fire is High on Fire; we're always behind schedule [laughs]. But it always comes together. We've got lots of parts. It's just a matter of piecing it all together to where everyone can agree on it and be psyched on it.
So I guess it's too early to say whether it would be another conceptual album like De Vermis Mysteriis?
That was just because of the lyrical content, which always comes last. After writing some lyrics for the songs, Matt thought he'd tie it all together in one big story. It kind of worked out good. With us, we get the structure of the song and we get it arranged, and then to finish the song we need to get an idea what the vocal sounds like. Maybe we'll come up with one or two verses and a chorus and we can finish the song off from there once we get a feel or vibe for where it's going. Not every time, but a lot of the time, it's like that.
That being said, we're not really sure what kind of theme it will have lyrically. Not yet. I do know Matt went to Peru like six months ago and that was very inspiring for him. He might be doing some lyrics based on his trip and what he saw at Machu Picchu. Whether or not that's going to be a theme for the whole record or just one song, we're not really sure yet. But I know it was inspiring for him.More
All aboard the yacht party of the summer! On August 23rd Seven Stills is taking the 150 foot SF Spirit out for a three hour cruise and you’re invited. General admission tickets include UNLIMITED tastings from 30 Bay Area breweries and distilleries and VIP guests get access to the exclusive whiskey lounge with unlimited cocktails and top shelf spirits. SF Weekly readers get $20 OFF! Enter Code SFMediaCo at checkout. Only 300 GA and 30 VIP are available so act fast to get your ticket! http://www.imonaboatsf.com/More
San Francisco Film Society held their Film Society Awards Night at Bimbo's on Tuesday, May 7th. Harrison Ford was in attendance accepting the 2013 Peter J. Owens Award. Photographs by Josh Edelson for SF Weekly.
Birds & Batteries is one of the few local bands that's pretty difficult to pin down. It's not garage rock, it's not synth-pop, it's not dance music, it's not lo-fi, it's not chillwave, and it's definitely not any strand of hip-hop. So what does the four-piece outfit sound like? Well, in some respects, the San Francisco quartet is a complete amalgamation of all of those sounds. As heard on their last EP, Up to No Good, Birds & Batteries is a band that translates a large sum of contemporary sounds into its own kind of -- as founder and lead singer Mike Sempert puts it -- "classic rock sound."
Now, Birds & Batteries is about to release a new full-length record, entitled Panorama. We were lucky enough to host this premiere of the album cut "Some Hypnotic Flash," as well as a "digital collage" that Sempert made, incorporating parts of his bands' last EP and the upcoming album. You can check out that stuff, along with an interesting Q&A we did with Birds & Batteries' frontman, after the jump.
"Some Hypnotic Flash"
Give us a brief history of Birds & Batteries. How long has the band been around, and what's the current lineup?
Birds & Batteries has been around for almost six years. I started out on my own, recording demos in Cape Cod, Mass., and put the band together when I moved to San Francisco. We've been performing and touring with this core group for over three years, and it keeps getting better. The lineup is myself on keys and guitar, Christopher Walsh on guitar, Jill Heinke on bass and synth, Brian Michelson on drums and sampler, and everyone sings a bit.
What made you want to expand from a solo project to a full band?
The evolution from solo project to band came from the basic need to have this music played by talented humans.
Your last release was an EP called Up to No Good, which seemed to put you on the radar for some major music press. Have you seen an increase in attention online and at your live shows since then?
I think each release is an opportunity to make another splash in the vast ocean of music. Each time, there's no way to know how big or small that splash might be until you do it, and even then, you don't know where all the ripples go. "Where are all the ripples?" you'll ask, and there might be some hanging around, actin' cool or maybe some floated away and they're just shy ripples. But then, long after those ripples have all gone to sleep, some guy wearing pants comes out to your show in Albuquerque, and says, "Whoa, surfs up, bro!" And if that man with the pants turns out to be Keanu Reeves? Well, you can thank Mr. Ripples Jr., who is all grown up, and is actually a big, big wave now -- like at the end of Point Break, when Patrick Swayze escapes. What's nice is: Yes, I do feel that there's a cumulative effect of releasing music and creating more fans with each release. Getting some people wet -- What? Er...
Nice. I also heard about your recent signing to Velvet Blue Music. How did that come about?
It's actually a dual signing with Spune Records (out of Ft. Worth, TX) and Velvet Blue. We got to know Spune through our friends in Telegraph Canyon. Spune co-releases everything with Velvet Blue. So far, they've both been great.
And you'll be releasing your next full-length, Panorama, with them in October. What would you say some of the major differences between your last EP and this new record are?
The EP is funkier, synthier, and mostly ironic in lyrical tone. Panorama is more sincere, a little more serious, but more open, as well. There's more guitar, some pedal steel, a slightly more 'classic rock' sound by B&B standards. And by classic rock, I don't me the Coog (someday, Johnny, when I'm ready). I mean ELO, Talking Heads, John Lennon's "Walls and Bridges". Recorded music of the 1970s is so awesome and hard to compete with in terms of the way it sounds. But it's definitely something to strive for and be inspired by.
What local bands and producers have you guys been digging lately?
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.