Arts + Culture

Party Radar: All together now

Hotline at DNA Lounge connects the indie dance scene for a slam-bang party. Photo by Deb Leal

PARTY RADAR Besides the Bay Area’s storied legacy of house, techno, soul, and garage rock parties stands a younger, yet just as vibrant, one of indie dance — its contemporary history dating back, oh, most likely to the launch of one of our longest-running parties, the 22-year-old Popscene.

The scene’s taken some wild turns, from notoriously decadent (Blow Up in the 2000s) to perfectly chill (monthly Britpop delight Club Leisure, this Saturday featuring Britain’s miniskirted Blow Up party). Echoing the post-disco, New Wave 80s — when clubs played deliriously poppy songs that were just edgy enough to not make mainstream radio — the indie dance scene carries over the colorful, angular aesthetic of that era (including some peacocking British hairstyles), but, strangely, turns its back on the introspective, acid irony of many of its anthems’ lyrics toward a full-throated nostalgia for dancefloor bliss.

So it’s a big, bright deal when representatives of 10 of our biggest indie dance parties — Popscene, Club Leisure, Fringe, The Queen is Dead, Harder Better Faster Stronger, Last Nite, Club Gossip, Boy Division, Turbo Drive, and Indie Cent — come together for a huge quarterly blowout called Hotline (Fri/30, 9pm-3am, $10-$15. DNA Lounge, SF. Tickets and more info here). 

The first installment, back in March, more than fulfilled the dreams of anyone wishing to wig out to Grimes and Morrissey back-to-back. But the ongoing impetus of the party is a deep, community-minded mission to help save a classic part of SF nightlife. 

“The idea for Hotline has been years in the making, but was really kicked into action when news that one of San Francisco’s most beloved alternative dance clubs, DNA Lounge, might be in jeopardy of closing,” DJ Blondie K, aka Kristin Graff, of the lovely Fringe party at Madrone Art Bar told me.

“There is a cult-like following for the small, neighborhood indie dance parties, and as fans of the music, DJs in this space are often supporting each other’s events. I think we were all curious if we could join forces, combine our individual communities, and give them a large-scale night club experience celebrating the music we all love,” Blondie K continued. “At the same time, we wanted to bring some attention and financial support to DNA Lounge.

“The first event was nothing less then magical, and now we are working to make it sustainable. Bringing in Popscene, the longest-running indie dance party, this time around definitely completes the circle and we couldn’t be more excited for round two!”

And yes, there’s even an actual hotline (I’m having rave flashbacks): 1-877-8HOTLINE.

[Sponsored] Need a car to get there? Rent one in your neighborhood on Getaround. Sign up today, and enjoy $50 off your first trip: http://get.co/48h.  

FRIDAY, JUNE 30 

TYCHO + TODD TERJE Norwegian space disco prince Terje returns to blast us off with his live act The Olsens, while local hero Tycho overwhelms with his sunset-sunrise sonic soundscapes. Fri/30, 7:30pm, $55. Greek Theatre, Berkeley. Tickets and more info here. 

KASSEM MOSSE One of the most respected producers of heady, immersive techno (with a surprisingly light touch) comes to the As You Like It party to play live, with Mor Elian and Experimental Housewife. Fri/30, 9:30pm-4am, $15. Monarch, SF. Tickets and more info here.  

STEREO ARGENTO “BLOOD! GUTS! A BLACK GLOVE! A BLADE IN THE DARK!” This is what you get when you mix ambitious drag with classic horror flicks like Suspiria, Videodrome, Santa Sangre, and more. Plus dancing! Must be seen to be believed, wear something stain-proof. Fri/30, 10pm-4am, $5-$10. The Stud, SF. More info here

KEV CHOICE One of our great activist musicians, deeply rooted in the nightlife community, comes to SF Jazz for “a new musical excursion into hip-hop, jazz, classical, soul, R&B, trap, and beyond.” Fri/30, 8pm, $20-$25. SFJAZZ. Tickets and more info here

’60S PROM NIGHT A very cool throwback night featuring the music of Ladies of Motown (including a live Supremes tribute act) — dress up and throwdown, proceeds donated to Black Lives Matter. Fri/30, 9pm, $5-$10. Brick and Mortar, SF. More info here

SEXITUDE What started out s a parody ’80s dance troupe — rainbow leg-warmers and all — is now a full-on “shameless dance party,” with DJ Homebrew, Black Benatar hosting, and lots of spandex looks. Fri/30, 10pm, $7. Oasis, SF. Tickets and more info here.    

 

SATURDAY, JULY 1

BURGER BOOGALOO The annual two-day rock megafest takes over Oakland’s Mosswood Park: hosted by John Waters (yay!) and featuring Iggy Pop, Redd Kross, Nobunny, Personal and the Pizzas, and so many more. Fri/30 and Sat/1, noon, $69-$129. MossWood Park, Oakland. Tickets and more info here

MASSIMILIANO PAGLIARO Skinny Milano-via-Berlin comes to the Lights Down Low party to bring some disco-house sparkle to the usually bananas proceedings. With Trevor Shane and Richie Panic. Sat/1, 10pm-late, $12 advance. Monarch, SF. Tickets and more info here

NONSTOP BHANGRA The wonderful monthly bhangra party hosts its annual “Crash an Indian Wedding Party” party, including dancing through the streets of SF! Sat/1, 9pm, $15. Public Works, SF. Tickets and more info here

GENE FARRIS Chicago house legend has grown and adapted to the underground’s various sound’s throughout his storied career, but he’s still the one to get the floor jacking. Sat/1, 9:30pm, $10. Audio, SF. Tickets and more info here

POWER BLOUSE Each month, drag goddesses Juanita More and Glamamore transform a drag newbie, live onstage, into the creature of her fantasies — and then makes her lip-sync a really complicated song! It’s a hoot. With DJ Rolo. Sat/1, 10pm, $5. Powerhouse, SF. More info here.    

GO BANG! One of the city’s loveliest, most welcoming parties — a monthly, fairy-dusted piece of disco heaven in SoMa — also hosts some pretty excellent DJs, this time around featuring Jimmy DePre and celebrating DJ Stave Fabus’ birthday. Sat/1, 9pm-late, $7-$10. The Stud, SF. More info here. 

 

SUNDAY, JULY 2

TIGER & WOODS A once-mysterious duo that helped jump-start the disco edit scene of the early 2010s with burbling, joyous reworks of ’80s British soul-funk gems are back for an “open air” appearance outside at the Midway. The party’s a collaboration between As You Like It and Polyglamorous, so there should be a great mixed crowd. Sun/2, 2pm-9pm, $15 advance. Midday, SF. Tickets and more info here.  

SWAGGER LIKE US It’s the fifth anniversary (already!) of this most-excellent queer hip-hop party that’s currently ruling the musical zeitgeist. And hey, it’s on a patio! With special guest TT the Artist who is incredible. Sat/1, 2pm-8pm, $10. El Rio, SF. More info here.

AFTERNOON DELIGHT The cutest monthly Sunday afternoon patio dance party in Oakland welcomes Steve Fabus, No-Fi, and Suppository Spelling. Dance! Sun/2, 3pm-8pm, $10. New Parish, Oakland. More info here

HOODSLAM Crazy-fun amateur wrestling! Poor karaoke! Day drinking galore. PLUS live music by all female Oingo Boingo cover band OINGA BOINGA? Sign me up, slam me down. Sun/2, 2pm-6pm, $20. DNA Lounge, SF. Tickets and more info here.   

[Sponsored] Need a car to get there? Rent one in your neighborhood on Getaround. Sign up today, and enjoy $50 off your first trip: http://get.co/48h.  

 

Summer’s bright highlights

'Flower Piano' returns to SF Botanical Gardens, July 13-24.

Despite all the bad press, San Francisco summers do indeed contain many a sunny day to frolic with friends in Dolores Park (pick up your trash, people) or roll in the “green” on Hippie Hill. Heck, there are noontimes when you can even shuck your Daisy Dukes and sunbathe unclothed on Baker Beach. 

There are also tons of outdoor festivals and concerts that don’t shy away from Karl the Fog’s insouciance. And hey, if the sun don’t shine there’s also a slew of well-priced indoor music series and performances to keep you bright and warm. Below are a few of our favorite summer things.

SF OPERA AT AT&T PARK (June 30, more info here.) This FREE simulcast performance of Don Giovanni + garlic fries under the stars (brought to you from the War Memorial Opera House) is hugely popular. 

FILLMORE JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 1 and 2, Fillmore, more info here.) What a classic! Celebrating the legendary musical history of a storied neighborhood with tons of performances — and the BBQ isn’t so bad, either.  

FLOWER PIANO (July 13-24, SF Botanical Gardens, more info here.) Wander through the SF Botanical Gardens (free for SF residents) and find, nestled among the exotic foliage, 12 pianos ready to be played. Pros mix with amateurs — I heard the most heavenly rendition of Juliana Hatfield songs by a 12-year-old last year — to make a magical atmosphere together.

SF Symphony performs the music of 'Jaws' as part of its Summer withe the Symphony series
SF Symphony performs the music of ‘Jaws’ as part of its Summer withe the Symphony series

SUMMER WITH THE SYMPHONY  (July 6-29, Davies Symphony Hall, more info here.) Our fabulous SF Symphony provides rays of musical sunshine throughout July with this annual series. It’s a accessible, fun affair, where you can hear the music of Jaws and Pixar, Gershwin and Ben Folds — even a saucy night at Moulin Rouge and an appearance by the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra! Tickets won’t break your bank, either.   

[Sponsored] Need a car to get there? Rent one in your neighborhood on Getaround. Sign up today, and enjoy $50 off your first trip: http://get.co/48h.  

MEX AM FESTIVAL (July 16-23, more info here.) This vibrant, multi-venue fest returns with a lovely lineup of music, food, culture, and arts, including Lorena Zertuche, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, Tambuco, Ensamble Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco, and many more.

Sun Ra Arkestra performs at SFJAZZ Summer Sessions
Sun Ra Arkestra performs at SFJAZZ Summer Sessions

SFJAZZ SUMMER SESSIONS (July 13-Aug 20, SFJAZZ, more info here.) Holy Moley, check out the stacked happenings at SFJazz this summer: John Luther Adams Festival, the Great American Songbook series, the Caribbean Basin Songbook series, Sun Ra Arkestra, Kid Koala, and Undercover Presents The Music of Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, and the Music of Muscle Shoals. 

YERBA BUENA GARDENS FESTIVAL (through Oct. 29, Yerba Buena Gardens, more info here.)  AXIS Dance Company, Caterpillar Puppets, Litquake, Cascada de Flores, Ensemble Mik Nawooj, SF Uke Jam, Pistahan Festival, SF Gay/Lesbian Freedom Band, Shamisen of Bachido + Awakko Ren — this is pretty much the most diverse program you will ever see. And it’s FREE!

Mavis Staples come to the Stern Grove Festival
Mavis Staples come to the Stern Grove Festival

STERN GROVE FESTIVAL  (Through August 27, Stern Grove, more info here.) A free musical feast every Sunday afternoon — but get there early to grab a sweet spot. Fantastic Negrito, Amadou & Mariam, SF Ballet, Brazilian Girls, Mavis Staples are all on tap at this woodsy favorite, not on its 80th season, woah. 

NIHONMACHI STREET FAIR (Aug. 5 and 6, Japantown, more info here.) Love this 43-year-old celebration of SF’s Asian and Pacific Islander heritage — full of food, music, face-painting, and awesome outfits.  

JERRY DAY (August 6, McLaren Park, more info here.) The Excelsior celebrates one of its favorite residents with a music fest full of Grateful dead life.

[Sponsored] Need a car to get there? Rent one in your neighborhood on Getaround. Sign up today, and enjoy $50 off your first trip: http://get.co/48h.  

 

Resistance Party! Ultimate Pride Guide 2017

A cast of Studly characters will entertain you throughout Pride week. Drop into The Stud, the country's first cooperative nightclub, all week for a drink with Marke B or one of the other 17 worker-owners. www.studs.com/pride Photos by Cabure A Bonugli/Shot in the City.

ULTIMATE PRIDE GUIDE 2017 Pride started as a celebration of a protest, how cool is that? And watching SF Pride (Sun/25) progress from its raucous roots, through slick corporate extravaganza, and now finally toward a glimmering reclamation of the classic queer radical spirit is exhilarating.

While, alas, we haven’t not taken as bold a stance as Los Angeles when it come to resistance (LA explicitly embraced the theme, and shed a bunch of phony pink-washing sponsors in the process, while we’re settling for a resistance contingent near the front of our parade), we’re still kicking against the pricks with fiercely out and proud art, protest, and celebration all week. Plus, we still have the Trans March (Fri/23) and the Dyke March (Sat/24), which are the most kick-ass things in the world when it comes to political inspiration.

And then there’s the parties. I’m already exhausted thinking about the week ahead — I usually ignore the big ticket mainstream stuff and focus on the hyper-creative, underground affairs (partly as a survival strategy, because who has time and money for all that fancy-fancy mess?). But this year shows we have an incredibly healthy alternative queer party scene, with something for everyone looking beyond with strict gala dress codes or shirtless gym bunnies.

Below is our selection of parties, protests, shows, and more that deserve a fist-pump for Pride 2017. (And here’s a disclaimer: I’m one of the new owners of the Stud, and I list our events throughout. But that doesn’t mean I don’t highly recommend all of these parties. We’re all trying to keep San Francisco nightlife queer!) 

POC Pride flag designed by Yoshi.
POC Pride flag designed by Yoshi.

PS Special shout out to Tumblr user Yoshi, who designed this awesome Queer POC Pride flag — I love it, and it really captures the moment. Read more about it here.

 

ONGOING

Gilbert Baker
Gilbert Baker

FRAMELINE FIM FESTIVAL The world’s biggest LGBT Film Festival was also its first. Now celebrating 41 years (woot!), Frameline is bursting with dozens and dozens of films from all over the world showing the presence and diversity of queer life. Check out our guide here and go commune in a darkened theater with enthusiastic fellow queers! Festival runs through Sun/25. Tickets and more info here

NATIONAL QUEER ARTS FESTIVAL Dozens of performances packed into the schedule this year — the festival’s 20th — including the awesome Queer Comics Expo and the always-moving Queer Rebels show. Festival runs through July 9. Tickets and more info here.

CELEBRATE COMMUNITY! “Make it vain and glamorous, just like me.” Just before he died on March 31, Rainbow Flag inventor Gilbert Baker was involved in planning this photography and art show at the Harvey Milk Center in Duboce Park. Come see his choices of community expression and celebration through July 23. More info here.

LAVENDER-TINTED GLASSES The GLBT History Museum displays a revealing exhibit about the rarely explored queer lights shining through the Summer of Love, including Kenneth Anger, Janis Joplin’s girlfriend Jae Whitaker, philosopher Gavin Arthur, and more. Also on display: gorgeous portraits of the community by Lenore Chinn. More info here.

 

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21

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PULLIN’ PORK FOR PRIDE 48 Hills’ annual patio party Pride kickoff with the Harvey Milk Democratic Club! It’s a fundraising beer bust  — featuring yummy carnitas from Casa Sanchez, all in the Pilsner Inn’s backyard. Come out and support! Wed/21, 6pm-9pm, $10 for fundraising beer bust + $10 for food. Pilsner Inn, SF. More info here.  

MARGA GOMEZ Kick off your Pride the traditional way — with zany Latina lesbian comedy! Guest set by beloved former State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. Wed/21, 7pm-9:30pm, $20. Feinstein’s at the Nikko, SF. Tickets and more info here.  

DERRICK CARTER The queer DJ legend of Chicago house music comes to fabulous weekly party Housepitality with a bag full of vinyl goodies. Wed/21, 9pm-2am, $10. F8, SF. Tickets and more info here

DYKE CODES “Pre-internet, post-disco, a new generation of old school queers share their stories about coming out as young dykes of color outside of big city life.” Wed/21, 7pm-9pm, $5-$15 donation requested. GLBT History Museum, SF. More info here.  

MUTANTE Experimental grooves and dark and fuzzy vibes from a stellar crew of DJs, plus live visuals and tarot readings! Wed/21, 7pm-2am, $3 (femmes free). Lone Star Saloon, SF. More info here

KOSMETIK Queer techno party from Matthew Paul and Jordee (whose recent “Non-Binary Transmission Mix” blew me away), hosting a live set from Berlin’s Sky Deep. Wed/21, 9pm-2am, $3. The Stud, SF. More info here.

 

THURSDAY, JUNE 22

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Christeene

CHRISTEENE AN THA BOYZ It is very hard to describe the swampy drag antics of Christeene, but her raps and rhymes somehow transcend bad, often problematic jokiness into something unspeakably, hilariously nasty and raw. Thu/22, 9pm, $10-$15. Rickshaw Stop, SF. Tickets and more info here

GAY SHAME AWARDS “The GAY SHAME AWARDS rewards all those glorious gentrifying genocidal forces and adulting life-hackx that shine bright like a blood diamond. Get ready for the mobile street soirée. Direct action will have never looked better as you come dressed as a glittering ghoul (or their gay best friend) from the Bay and beyond! This historic night will commemorate our unique ability to always be the worst.” Thu/22, 7pm, free. Jose Sarria Court, SF. More info here.  

PRIDE NIGHTLIFE Once a year the Cal Academy of Sciences goes incredibly gay — and it’s a real hoot. Join Juanita More, Heklina, the Hella Gay crew and drag animals galore for dancing, learning, and general carousing. Thu/22, 7pm-10pm, $12. Cal Academy, SF. Tickets and more info here

LEXINGTON CLUB: GLAMOUR SHOTS The city’s legendary dyke bar, the Lexington Club, may be gone, but its spirit lives on in events like this: A dance-and-drink party full of large scale projections of local queer photographers and artists. Thu/22, 9pm-2am, free. Virgil’s Sea Room, SF. More info here

THE TUBESTEAK CONNECTION San Francisco’s longest-running gay weekly is a wonderful reconstruction of the glory days of disco cruising’s yore. DJ Bus Station John turns Aunt Charlie’s Lounge into steamy time capsule — no phones are allowed, vintage porn adorns every inch, and the music is non-stop bliss. Thu/22, 10pm-2am, $5. Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, SF. 

RIGHT ABOUT NOW “The election happened. Like everyone else, queer artists have been plunged into a new reality. So now what? Through stories, performance, and multimedia art, queer artists will square off against post-election realities. They’ll draw inspiration, critical lessons, and tactics from past generations of artist-activists who faced down historic challenges.” Thu/22, 7:30pm-9pm, $12-$20. African American Arts and Culture Complex, SF. Tickets and more info here.  

PRIDE NIGHT AT COMIX EXPERIENCE Calling all queer comics nerds. Here’s a cute little gathering, featuring cosplay, drinks, raffles, and guest artist Ken Wada. Thu/22, 8pm-11pm, free. Comix Experience, SF. More info here

BEAUTIFUL! Alas, scruffy party palace the Elbo Room (in previous lives a classic lesbian bar) is on its last legs: Let’s fill it with wild drag and music for one more Pride. VivvyAnne Forevermore hosts a circus of wildly entertaining, artsy misfit gender clowns. Thu/22,  10pm-2am, $10. Elbo Room, SF. More info here.  

MAN’S BEST FRIEND Are you a good pup looking to wag your tail with a couple hundred new and sexy friends? Join the Fog City Pack for a night of dancing, petting, and pawing. Fri/23, 10pm-4am, $10. The Stud, SF. More info here.

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 23

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TRANS MARCH 
This year’s theme is Celebrating Resilience with Love and Resistance. “Our rights and existence have been more intensely under attack since the election so it’s even more critical that we gather this year to fight back, resist, celebrate and create community. Let’s make this a huge showing of how powerful and incredible we are!” Fri/23, 3pm rally, 6pm march, free. Dolores Park, SF. More info here

BUSTIN’ OUT 12: PARTY AGAINST THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX A huge Pride Friday tradition — and a ton of fun — for a great cause: raising money towards aiding currently and formerly incarcerated trans people. Tons of DJs and bands in three locations! Virgil’s Sea Room and The Knockout. Fri/23, 7pm-2am. Check out all the info here

MR. Another yearly tradition, full of funny fake mustaches, cute boys, and really good music. Our own house master David Harness, Borja Peña (Daddy Issues, London), and Juan blow a wind up everyone’s shorts at the site of the old Loading Dock leather club. Fri/23, 9pm-2am, $15. Verso, SF. Tickets and more info here

DJ HEATHER We are getting so much incredible music from the Midwest this weekend, as another renowned player from Chicago, Heather, sparks up the Polyglamorous party with her deliciously high-energy techno. Oh, and a certain New Orleans daddy who goes by Father Figure will also take the decks. Fri/23, 10pm-4am, $25-$30. Club Six, SF. Tickets and more info here

CLUB LONELY This is one of my favorite monthly parties in San Francisco, super-diverse and crazy danceable, for this edition bringing in Michael Magnan from NYC’s awesome Battle Hymn party. Fri/23, 10pm-4am, $10. Club OMG, SF. More info here.  

POUND PUPPY PRIDE Why are there so many good parties on Friday?? This one brings in yet another cute New Orleans player, Bouffant Bouffant, for mystical techno tunes, all in a woof-laden atmosphere of cuddly scruffies, plus a lovely patio. Fri/23, 10pm-2am, $10. Eagle SF. More info here

RED HOTS BURLESQUE Queer burlesque, you say? Oui, oui! Dancing, singing, stripping, swinging — with legends like Gina La Divina giving you red hot LIFE. Fri/23, 7pm-9pm, $10-$20. The Stud, SF. Tickets and more info here.    

BLACK FRIDAY: PRIDE Honey Mahogany hosts this extravaganza of performers of color, from drag and live singing to burlesque and beyond. All are welcome to dance and celebrate! With DJs Miss Pop and John F*cking Cartwright. Fri/23, 10pm-4am, $15. The Stud, SF. More info here.  

ELECTROLUXX The cuties behind the popular Mass party go big with this wildly accessible funfest featuring hoop performances, virtual reality, Silent Disco, face-painting, art displays, teddy bear cuddle puddles and lots and lots of young ‘uns in leggings. Fri/23, 10pm-4am, $30-$40. Public Works, SF. Tickets and more info here.    

STEAM DOES PRIDE Time for a shower before your weekend marathon? This steamy to-do recreates a bathhouse ambience with a hip wink. Wet towel contest, massage, power shower go-go booth, and special guest DJ MJR! Fri/23, 10pm-2am, $5. Powerhouse, SF. More info here

BEARRACUDA UNDERWEAR PRIDE PARTY Big fuzzy bear bellies spilling out of briefs. That you can dance to! Fri/23, 9pm-3am, $15-$40. Folsom Street Foundry, SF. Tickets and more info here

 

SATURDAY, JUNE 24

Micahtron performs at Wild Things.
Micahtron performs at Wild Things.

DYKE MARCH One of the city’s most important and inspiring political gatherings, which has remained searingly outspoken through the corporatization of Pride, and is essential for anyone who fights for liberation. Sat/24, rally 2pm, march 5pm, free. Dolores Park, SF. More info here.  

WILD THINGS Bananas lineup of brilliant local and international hip-hop players (including UNIIQUE, CupcakKe, Micahtron, and rising star Ah Mer Ah Su), at this banger full of babes, babes, babes. Nail art, massage, pop-up shop, go-go squad, and more. Sat/24, 7pm-3am, $20. Public Works, SF. Tickets and more info here

DJ SHIVA AKA NONCOMPLIANT Hey, I’m throwing this all-night dance party at the Stud, featuring this legendary underground techno DJ from the Midwest plus Siobhan Alovalot and Jordee playing back to back. All aboard the Stud spaceship! Sat/24, 10pm-4am, $20. The Stud, SF. Tickets and more info here

CHARLOTTE THE BARONESS Wow! Bay Area techno royalty from the EndUp’s glory days, back on the decks courtesy of one of our coolest record stores, Vinyl Dreams, for this special Pride party at Cafe Du Nord. It’s a killer lineup with DJs RoseGold and Infinite Jess on support. Perfect SF flavor. Sat/24, 9pm-2am, $5 before 10pm, $10 before midnight, $15 after. Cafe Du Nord, SF. More info here.   

TRINA Your neck, your back, Pride Saturday will be crackin’ — as this Miami bad girl rap legend and Diamond Princess stuns the crowd at Swagger Like Us, our wondrous queer hip-hop extravaganza. Sat/24, 9pm-3am, $30. Mezzanine, SF. Tickets and more info here

MANGO PRIDE The longest-running lesbian dance party in SF returns for this babe bonanza, featuring latin and hip-hop beats all night plus dancers, free BBQ, Pride goodies and more. Sat/24, 6pm-2am, $15. El Rio, SF. More info here

LOVE HANGOVER Prime yourself for Sunday’s Pride madness with some lovely afternoon disco dancing on the patio of the Lone Star, as DJ Carrie Morrison spins and twirls you into her gleaming world of sound. Sat/24, 3pm-9pm, $5. one Star, SF. More info here.  

MYSTIC BILL Another of our coolest record stores, RS94109, is hosting this classic house wonder, with Josh Cheon and Bezier of Honey Soundsystem opening up. A very nice kickoff to your evening pre-Pride bender. Sat/24, 8pm-midnight, free. RS94109, SF. More info here

SF POLITICS FOR THE 99% – AN INTRO WITH LGBTQ LEADERS “Do you wonder why local politics is so fractious? Why we can’t seem to solve the housing crisis? What do politicians mean when they call themselves “progressive”? A primer on the history that got us here and the present issues that define the city. Featuring LGBT leaders:
David Campos, Tom Ammiano, Gabriel Haaland, Kimberly Alvarenga, Christina Olague, plus Clair Lau and Tim Redmond. Sat/24, 12:30-2:30, free. Koret Auditorium, SF. More info here

GAY OLE OPRY WITH MARLENE TWITTY-FARGO AND THE TWAT BISCUITS I just had to type that whole name, and my goodness, I may never recover! Bluegrass drag with a country-time queen and her band, plus a Southern cooking pop-up and R-rated bingo. Jump on the heeey wagon. Sat/24, noon-3pm, $5. SF Eagle. More info here. 

ASHEQ A Middle Eastern-North African queer dance party with amazing belly dance show and awesome music? Sign me up for heaven, please. Sat/24, 9pm-2am, $10. Slate, SF. More info here.

BOOTIE PRIDE One of the wildest regular parties in SF — the one that kicked off the mashup craze in the last decade — throws its annual gayest party ever, with Lady Gaga vs. Madonna mashups all night long with a punk rock attitude that improbably shines through. Sat/24, 9pm-late, $10-$20. DNA Lounge, SF. Tickets and more info here

 

SUNDAY, JUNE 25

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Ronnie Spector

47TH ANNUAL SF LGBT PRIDE PARADE AND CELEBRATION It’s big, it’s long, it’s crazy, and it still brings a tear to my eye — straight teens in tutus and all. One of the biggest Prides in the country actually starts on Saturday (come down then to check out booths and stages and avoid huge crowds), or dip in on Sunday and cheer on the various contingents. Don’t miss the refreshing Indie Oasis Dance Stage and the first Bluegrass Pride FloatSun/25, 10:30-4pm, Civic Center, SF. More info about parade and celebration here.  

RONNIE SPECTOR Essential SF Pride queer soul party Hard French Hearts Los Homos scores big with this ’60s powerhouse who won’t be your little baby. And she’s just one part of the wild festivities. Sun/25, 3pm-11pm, $30. Mezzanine, SF. Tickets and more info here. 

JUANITA MORE! PRIDE 2017 THE party for the fashionable, friendly, and fabulous, a tradition full of sonic and visual delights, including NYC DJs Christy Love and Onehalf Nelson, and a performance by Princess Diandra, Rhani Nothingmore, and Nicki Jizz as “Labelle.” I mean. I mean! Sun/25, $30 benefitting Q Foundation (formerly AIDS Housing Alliance) and The LGBT Asylum Project. Jones, SF. More info here

MIGHTY REAL A classic house extravaganza! Quentin Harris, Tedd Patterson, and Hector Romero bring extra splashes of soul to this outdoor pool party for the true dancers, joining David Harness, our resident soulful house  luminary. This lineup is making me tear up. Sun/25, noon to 6:30pm, $60. Phoenix Hotel, SF. Tickets and more info here.  

STUD BIG GAY PRIDE Oh hey we are open with fabulous DJs and cheap drinks from noon to 9pm, and then we are having an awesome dance party with Atlanta techno wiz Vicki Powell and very special secret surprise guests until 4am! Sun/25, noon-4am, free before 9pm, $10 after. The Stud, SF. More info here 

QUEERLY BELOVED Yay! This annual daytime party on El Rio’s patio is super-queer and off the chain. Courtney Trouble hosts a hot hot gaggle of DJs, performers, and sexy people (including Tender Forever and Micahtron), and will donate a portion of the proceeds to Black Lives Matter. Sun/25, 3pm-9pm, $13-$15. El Rio, SF. Tickets and more info here

HONEY SOUNDSYSTEM PRIDE DJ Holographic is my baby! The Detroit phenomenon mixes up-to-the-minute techno with classic soul anthems and non-stop classic house energy  — you will explode when she headlines this annual “must” from the Honey Boys. Sun/25, 9pm-4am, $25. Folsom Street Foundry, SF. More info here. 

PRIDE! AT THE CHAPEL Powerhouse performer Trixxie Carr heads up a huge host(less) of drag queens and musical entertainment at this indispensible indie concert venue in the Mission. Apparently there will be an ice luge for shots(!) Sun/24, 8pm-2am, $10. The Chapel, SF. Tickets and more info here

WERD PRIDE WEEKEND CLOSER This adorable weekly techno party is dancing you through the end of the rainbow with DJs Robert Jeffrey, Jeremy Castillo, and OneA. Sun/25, 9pm-2am, $5. Monarch, SF. Tickets and more info here

OASIS POOL PARTY The building that houses Oasis nightclub used to be famous for its pool — every year, the owners play cheekily off that history by bringing in a kiddie pool and fun floaties. It’s perfect (with strong cocktails) for a sunny afternoon in the city. Sun/25, 1pm-6pm, free. Oasis, SF. More info here

DISCO DADDY Yes, we’ve saved the “sweetest” for last — DJ Bus Station John’s blockbuster, beauteous disco party at the Eagle is here for a special Pride edition. Join the magic on the dance floor (or a darkened portion of the patio). Someone just might hand you a tambourine! just what the doctor ordered if you need some sweet release. Sun/25, 7pm-2am, $5-$7. Eagle SF. More info here.

 

MONDAY, JUNE 26

no calls, no texts.

 

SOME QUEER-ADJACENT PARTY/SHOW RECOMMENDATIONS

Thursday: Summer of Love Dance Party at Grace Cathedral
Friday: Kehlani at Greek Theatre
Saturday: Pink Mammoth Fifth Annual Block Party
Saturday: Lights Down Low with Karizma
Sunday: Cat Power at the Fillmore

 

Party Radar: Capitalize this

Green Velvet plays Temple, Fri/16

PARTY RADAR We’re getting a Museum of Capitalism! And it’s having a grand opening party! (Sat/17, 6-9pm, free. 55 Harrison, Oakland, in Jack London Square.)  Dedicated to “educating future generations about the ideology, history, and legacy of capitalism,” it’s just the kind of fresh and clever Marxist pop-up art project we need this summer, when socialism seems more prominent than ever. There’s even, of course, a gift shop. 

And of course a library, and a series of intriguing panels and programs, and an exhibit (that runs though August 20) of objects, art, and capitalist detritus composed by “a network of researchers, curators, artists, designers, filmmakers, writers, economists, historians, scientists, and non-specialists from all walks of life, including those with direct experience of capitalism.” 

 I am hoping there will be a lot more free parties, as well. For, as the great French critic of late capitalism Guy Debord pout it, “Never work.”

FRIDAY, JUNE 16

GREEN VELVET The kooky, techno-centric alter-ego of house legend Cajmere — which has almost eclipsed the original artist in terms of hits — comes to Temple, which has been experiencing its own changes (new entertainment programmers from Vegas.) Fri/16, 10pm, $20. Temple, SF. Tickets and more info here.

MNML: FUN ZETTABYTE RECORDS TAKEOVER The zazzy local techno label bites into this monthly party, with DJs Brian Boncher, Nihar Bhatt, Djunya, and Zettabyte founder and MNML:FUN resident Zita Molnar. Fri/16, free before 11, $5 after. Underground SF. More info here

CREATURE Who doesn’t love a wild, non-gender-binary, multimedia throwdown in a 51-year-old queer bar? One of my favorite monthly parties in the city right now, just because it’s so crazy. Music by BEARCAT from Discwoman and Carrie Morrison. Fri/16, 10pm-4am, $10. The Stud, SF. More info here

VIKEN ARMEN “Viken Arman, along with a generation of like-minded artists, is pushing the boundaries of electronic music not only towards the future, but also towards the past. Fusing ancient melodies with electronic beats to create magical vibes that go beyond dance music brings rich cultures together in mystical musical journeys.” OK then! Fri/16, 9:30pm-3:30am, $15-$20. Public Works, SF. Tickets and more info here.  

DICK VAN DICK Beloved former boy of the Bay returns from NYC to rap it out with the Swagger Like Us crew for a queer explosion of delicious iunderground hip-hop. Fri/16, 10pm-3am, $10. Oasis SF. Tickets and more info here

SATURDAY, JUNE 17

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CON BRIO I love this funky local jazzy outfit, that always brings a party with its shows. Don’t miss them playing two nights at SFJAZZ. Sat/17 and Sun/18, 7:30pm, $25-$45. SFJAZZ. Tickets and more info here

DANNY TENAGLIA Can’t get much more revered than this ever-smiling legend, who fused disco grooves to minimalist boom and birthed a lot of what we hear today. Sat/17, 10pm-6am, $30-$40. Halcyon, SF. Tickets and more info here

FRINGE The sweetest indie-pop dance party in town is raising money for the Pride Indie Dance Stage (one of the really necessary diversifications of the endless boom-boom)  — wear a bunch of LED rainbows and dance to LCD Soundsystem (and many more of course). Sat/17, 9pm, free before 10pm, $5 after. Madrone Art Bar, SF. More info here

PAN POT Respected techno duo usually melts walls with their unstoppable drive. I’m very interested to hear how their sound has evolved, after so long as major proponents of hard-hitting Berlin sounds. Sat/17, 9:30pm-3:30am, $20. Public Works, SF. Tickets and more info here.

MAKEOUT PARTY The Eagle patio fills with queer omnisexual lip-smacking at this cute monthly, featuring DJs Sky Deep from Berlin and Sergio. Sat/17, 10pm, $10. The Eagle, SF. More info here

THE JUAN MACLEAN I love this act, headed by the eponymous down-to-earth NYC guy who made me laugh for 20 minutes straight at a recent party there. He’ll be spinning his trusted brand of happy house and DFA indie bangers. Sat/17, 9:30pm-2:30am, $10-$15. Monarch, SF. Tickets and more info here.  

SATURDAY NIGHT SOUL PARTY Rock em sock ’em rock ‘n roll em — this classic weekly joint is getting kicked in the jams by DJ Carnita of Hard French (RIP). Soul faves in the Mission? Si si! Sat/17, 10pm, $8. Elbo Room, SF. More info here.  

STUDLY Disco edit genius Gay Marvine and techno poster boy Matthew Paul head up this party at the Stud, full of, duh, dancing studs. Sat/17, 10pm, $5 before 11, $10 after. The Stud, SF. More info here

HELLA GAY It’s the eighth anniversary of this packed queer Oakland gem, with DJs GSTAR, Djkar Bear, and Bee. Sat/17, 9pm, $7. Uptown Nightclub, Oakland. More info here.

GLENN JACKSON “Buoyant instrumental disco that feels like a five-minute tropical vacation” form this Oakland player at one of my favorite parties, Push the Feeling, with a mixed and lovely vibe. Sat/17, 10pm, $7. Underground SF. More info here.  

BEATPIG There’s a lot of great gay parties this weekend, so strap on a fork and stick it in. Case in point: this monthly “wild pig mess” affair, featuring DJs Stanley Frank and Juanita More. Sat/17, 10pm, $5 benefits Transgender Law Center. Powerhouse, SF. More info here.  

SUNDAY, JUNE 18

lee-scratch-perry

 

 

LEE SCRATCH PERRY “Eccentric producer and Grammy winning reggae & dub artist “Lee “Scratch” Perry” hits the stage again, performing tunes off his classic Jamaican recordings from the Black Ark, as well as previewing his forthcoming album ‘Super Ape Returns To Conquer'” — all this plus Subatomic Sound System and the Dub Mission folks? Psychedelic bass-ness heaven. Sun/18, 8pm, $31. Mezzanine, SF. Tickets and more info here

DISCO DADDY The fourth anniversary of this delightful disco affair at the Eagle, with Bus Station John plying his vinyl trade for the masses. Do head down. Sun/18, 7pm-2am, $5. The Eagle, SF. More info here

DAYTIME REALNESS Drag stalwart Heklina’s 50th birthday celebration continues running amok at this sunny patio party, with DJs Carnita and Stanley Frank, and drag shows up the wazoo. Sun/18, 2pm-8pm, $10. El Rio, SF. More info here.

 

 

A gentrified language

Randall Mann

Out of the fog comes a little white bus
It ferries us south to the technical mouth
of the bay. This is biopharma. Double Helix Way.

So starts the unnerving “Proximity,” from local poet Randall Mann’s fourth collection, Proprietary, released this week from Persea Books. (Mann reads with fellow poet Alex Dimitrov at City Lights, Wed/15 at 7pm.) The speaker sits “seven boxes below the CEO on the org chart” in “an office that faces the hallway” where “calendar is a verb.” Eventually he convinces himself to take a walk through the leafy trees near Building 5. “It might be nice to lie and watch the smoky/ marrow rise and fall, and rise. Don’t shut your eyes.” 

Like most of Mann’s poems, this one is pretty autobiographical: He worked at Genentech for a decade, a sly recorder of corporate biotech culture and its surreal doublespeak, filling his notebook with the language that would become Proprietary‘s poems. “Once I figured out how to write about it, how to leach a poem out of it all, it was time to let go and move on,” he told me over the phone, referencing his recent severance from the company.

Proprietary is full of contemporary Bay Area markers, transfigured by Mann’s delicate turns of phrase and moody intrigue: CFOs asking to “loop back with you,” crickets chirping on Divisadero, realtors overselling Ocean Beach-front property, a “parliament of scowls at the Owl Bar,” strange feelings of being followed over Carquinez Bridge.

As in his previous books, Mann’s sensitivity as a gay man and poet in a rapidly changing city  and rapacious global economy take center stage (there is a poignant sestina about fisting — a fistina?), but this time the language is shot through with sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartrending corporate-speak. Proprietary is an excellent gauge of what it feels like to live in San Francisco — or at least what it recently felt like, until the presidential election knocked everything into a different dimension. 

I talked to Mann over the phone about rhyme and reason, pornography and gentrification. 

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48 HILLS I think of you as kind of our bard of the emotional and metaphorical effects of “techiness” on San Francisco, how corporate language can rule over relationships. You use so many of the elements of what has been happening, but you never sentimentalize them or allow them to become moralistic symbols. 

RANDALL MANN For me there is a real ambivalence, in particular when I was working for biotech companies: I’m in the middle of an economy that is increasing the disparity between rich and poor, and pushing out what are also “my people” — queer artists. There have been lots of times when I’ve felt like the last poet standing in San Francisco. And that’s not true, but sometimes it can feel like that. 

Writing about the language that people use to traffic in the world of San Francisco now is a way for me to address it and to cope with it. This has been a bracing few years, when all the changes have been so apparent, and I’m not on board with what’s been happening. But there’s no real poetic utility in just coming out and saying how I feel. Proprietary is a book about gentrification and ownership, that’s why I called it that. It involves the gentrification of language and this fatuous idea of ownership, of a house, of a relationship. 

Right now in our culture everything is so fluid, it’s quite destabilizing. In many ways these poems are my way of dealing with this particular moment. For me, the power is in the presentation of what’s happening, filtered through a sensibility — some resignation, a determination to engage with what it means to be someone living through this time. But I don’t necessarily want to heap my judgement onto the poems because that would break them, or at least smother what they’re trying to communicate on their own. 

It’s important to me as someone who has lived in San Francisco for almost 20 years and who has worked in a global matrix corporation for a decade to just put the information out there as clearly and as nuanced as possible. I have seen the inside, and I have been a part of the outside. And here is the information about it all, almost more reporting or leaking than swooping in with some grand gesture. 

Everything is already so problematic, it’s so hard to separate yourself from the tools of late capitalism — like us recording this conversation over an iPhone — that really the most important thing I felt I could do right now in a poem is just get the information out there.

48H Proprietary is remarkably cohesive in tone and form — it feels more of a piece than your previous collections. For instance, a lot of the poems seem guided by internal rhymes, in a loose formal way that recalls one of your mentors [late San Francisco poet] Thom Gunn, who figures into one of the book’s poems. The poems are very lyrical, but never devolve into sing-song, despite some of the corporate baby-babble. How did it all come together?

RM The book was largely written from 2011 to 2015 — although there’s one poem, an elegy for Prince called “Alphabet Street” that came unexpectedly, of course, last year, but seemed to fit into the book’s overall structure.   

I think the evolution of my formal choices really center around rhyme. Overall there’s more free verse in this book, but I’m using rhyme as the chief poetic driver, leading me from one image or through to another. I’ve found that as I’ve been writing, I love rhyme more and more — I’m completely addicted to it, that wonderful way that rhyme can push a poem forward and also turn it back on itself.  

People sometimes have a reaction to rhyme, they discount it or consider it somehow archaic or “high poetic.” My response is often that our culture, at large, is in love with rhyme. Songs, advertising… i just think it’s funny that something so steeped in our everyday culture, so central to it, can seem so alien once it’s isolated. For me it’s a content generator, a way to help me feel through the dark of a poem. I’ve been writing seriously for 25 years, and writing is still a great joy because it’s a puzzle. Rhyme is an integral part of the momentum of that. 

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48H One of your main subjects from the beginning has been contemporary gay love, and how it’s experienced, reflected and refracted, through different media and situations. In “Secondment,” you log onto the Planet Romeo hookup site from your European hotel room, where “a torso wrote: I want to dress/ you up like Norway, and invade.” In “Flagging,” you summon the foreign-yet-familiar feeling of finding yourself in a leather bar where people are actually wearing leather — a real rarity these days, as if you had wandered into a 1970s dream.  

I think one of the poems in this collection, Leo & Lance, which references a classic gay porn from the ’80s everyone from that era seems to have seen, will ring a lot of bells for gay men of a certain age: At 17, you nervously buy it from the porn section of the neighborhood videostore, along with a bisexual flick to try to save a little face with the clerk, spending all your allowance on the VHS cassettes. (“Can anyone even/ remember how hard-/won a little corner/ of sex was then? No internet …”) But then you jump ahead a couple decades, now using the internet to find out what happened to the eponymous bleach-blonde boys, who both met pretty tragic ends within a year of each other. 

RM That poem is very autobiographical — I did buy my first porn VHS in Orlando as a teen, and it was expensive! One of the things I’ve been thinking of lately is turning back a little bit to the time — I’m 45 now — where I and maybe people my age had to figure out their sexuality without access to very much information, and it was a fog. The fog, and the figuring out in almost complete darkness, was a real struggle, with little bits of sexual information dangling, like Cruising, or the underwear ads in catalogs, a porn mag glimpsed in a bookstore, or this or that.  

So I wanted to capture that. David Trinidad has a poem about the porn star Dick Fisk (“Ode to Dick Fisk“) where David talks about his relationship and what’s happening in his life, but then he starts talking about Dick Fisk, so there’s this intertwining of autobiography and pornography. I really liked that form as a way so many of us could probably tell the story of our sexuality. But then as I was watching Leo & Lance again, I became curious about what happened to them, and telling their story after they had moved on from the porn seemed another way to tell that sexuality story, to continue it. 

48H The poem Leo and Lance contains a tear-jerking image, of this beautifully open-ended moment in the porn when, out of nowhere, Leo and Lance have a giggly snowball fight and are just two young men having fun. The porn was made in 1983, and it’s shocking how, with AIDS, the thought of young gay men smiling and enjoying their bodies is so shadowed by sorrow. 

RM The snowball fight was so innocent, and just so moving. I thought about what it meant for a young boy to watch this porn and was like, ‘OK, well if they’re having sex, and having fun, then that sort of validates my confusion and my existence.’  I love the paradox — that porn, which is not so innocent, connected so much in  gay context with innocence. And it all connected in a way. It’s the longest poem I’ve ever written. 

48H What about everything that’s happening now, since the last election? How do you think that will influence your writing, now that it seems we’re dealing with a political and historical disaster that kind of dwarfs some of the debates of the recent past?

RM I do have an anti-Trump pantoum — I think a lot in pantoums — coming out. But I also have another pantoums that simply repeats the mean things an ex-boyfriend said to me over and over in different ways. So my writing is still political and personal. I’m still writing about the gentrification of this town, as well. They say that poets write the same fucking poem over and over and call it art. [Laughs.] It looks like lack of love, brutality, and the changing city are my eternal subjects.  

 

 

Look out

'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson' screens at the Frameline Festival.

SCREEN GRABS After the long-fought but still remarkable gains of recent years under the most gay-friendly POTUS in American history, the LGBTQ community has already seen its worst fears realized under President Trump. Despite his repeated claims that “the gays love me,” he’s predictably caved to far-right conservatives in advocating the rollback of discrimination laws, the advancement of discrimination-enabling “religious freedom” laws, drastically cutting funding for programs related to AIDS and other relevant issues, etc., etc. Not to mention his choice of VP, a man who not only has an extensive history of vehement anti-gay activism, but is so apparently intoxicated by heterosexuality he refuses to be alone with any woman not his wife. (Excuse us if this suggests not so much strong religious beliefs as pitiful self-control.) 

In this political climate, where the damage done toward gays and other communities escalates every day that impeachment isn’t happening, it seems a particularly good moment to get the kind of collective reassurance that Frameline offers every June. Now in its 41st year, Frameline (June 15-25) — otherwise known as the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival — provides not just affirmation but a pulse-taking of gay life around the globe—at a moment when gay rights are increasingly taken as a basic tenet of society in many countries, but also while there’s news of concentration camps specifically purposed for torturing and executing gay men in Chechnya. 

To that end, Frameline’s wide scope this year offers variably narrative and nonfiction features from Armenia (Apricot Groves), Puerto Rico (Extra Terrestrials), the Philippines (Jesus Is Dead and Maybe Tomorrow), Argentina (Nobody’s Watching), Colombia (Santa y Andres), Finland (Screwed), Austria (Seventeen), New Zealand (100 Men), Mexico (No Dress Code Required), Taiwan (Small Talk) and Cuba (Transit Havana). Also marking progress on the diversity front is “Barriers & Breakthroughs: Illuminating Filmmakers of Color Before & Beyond Moonlight,” a two-day forum of free panel discussions and other events occasioned by the deserved yet still-startling Oscar triumph of former San Franciscan Barry Jenkins’ extraordinary drama this February.

'Girl Unbound'
‘Girl Unbound’

 On the purely celebratory side, Frameline opens this Thursday with The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, the latest documentary by SF’s own Jennifer Kroot, who previously made fine portraits of George Takei and the late George Kuchar. It features a starry host of friends and collaborators paying tribute to the Tales of the City author. The closing night selection is another tribute of sorts: This year’s Frameline Award will be presented to Scottish multitalent Alan Cumming, who stars in Vincent Gagliostro’s After Louie as a longtime AIDS widower brought out of his shell by a much younger man played by Zachary Booth (of Ira Sachs’ memorable Keep the Lights On). 

In between there are three “centerpiece” and 10 “showcase” titles at the Castro (some also playing the Piedmont in Oakland); a handful of films reprised from previous editions (including Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston and Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts); a new “Episodic” section of online and broadcast series; plus a ton of additional features and shorts. Amidst their wide thematic gamut, you’ll find a considerable number dealing with trans issues (like “showcase” documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson), and several portraying gays in the Muslim world (Girl Unbound, Signature Move and more). 

If it’s star power you’re seeking, Trudie Styler’s comedy of teenage fabulousness Freak Show features no less than Bette Midler as “Mom.” Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: “Can I Be Me?” provides a bleak doc recap of the purportedly bisexual singer’s long slide into eventually fatal addictions. The making of extravagantly talented YouTube showman Todrick Hall’s ambitious “Straight Outta Oz” stage show is chronicled in another documentary, Behind the Curtain

'Queercore: How to Punk a Revlution'
‘Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution’

The glitter also lies thick on The Fabulous Allan Carr, about the “flamboyant” Hollywood producer (of megahit Grease and several megaflops, including infamous Village People musical Can’t Stop the Music) whose life and work alike were a study in celebrity excess. Perhaps the weirdest showbiz chronicle on tap is Mansfield 66/67, a hybrid documentary/essay/performance piece probing the murky intersection between doomed 50s sexpot Jayne Mansfield and SF-based Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey. 

Other films of Bay Area particular interest include a revival of Harriet Dodge and Silas Howard’s 2001 SF lesbian comedy By Hook Or By Crook; locally-based director Travis Matthews’ best feature to date, unpredictable Texas-set seriocomedy Discreet; and Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution, which encompasses the envelope-pushing cultural contributions of influential SF bands Tribe 8 and Pansy Division (the June 17 screening is sponsored by 48 Hills).

Among previewed features, here’s a few recommended highlights:

'God's Own Country'
‘God’s Own Country’

God’s Own Country

Quite possibly the best gay male romance since Brokeback Mountain, this debut by writer-director Francis Lee happens to also be a movie about gay shepherds. Rude, alcoholic Yorkshire lad Johnny (Josh O’Connor) gets pissed in a different way upon discovering his grandpa has hired a transient Romanian laborer to help out on the farm. His resentment increases when it becomes clear that quiet, personable Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) is by far the more competent worker. Needless to say, their antagonism eventually changes into something else. But this gritty, closely observed tale (which has nothing like Brokeback’s decades-spanning narrative sweep) winds up surprising and deeply moving nonetheless.

'Becks'
‘Becks’

Becks

SF native Lena Hall, a Tony-winning Broadway regular with her own rock band, plays the title character in Daniel Powell and Elizabeth Rohrbaugh’s indie feature. A planned L.A. career move derailed by discovering her bandmate-girlfriend already cheating on her, Becks slinks back to the house of her born-again mother (Christine Lahti) to recoup. Being a jaded big-city lesbian in this staid mid-sized town looks mighty dull until she starts getting a surprisingly warm reception gigging at an old friend’s bar for tips—and begins developing a warmer-still friendship with guitar-lesson student Elyse (Mena Suvari), who happens to be the wife of Becks’ former high school tormenter. Among its other virtues, this smart little drama offers the major one of Hall singing several strong original songs.

'The Wound'
‘The Wound’

The Wound 

Because his father thinks he’s “too soft,” Johannesburg teen Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini) is packed off to a two-week rite-of-passage “initiation” in the bush, with older Xolani (Nakhane Toure) his appointed guide. Other youths quickly target the city boy for his effeminacy and snobbery; that only makes him more obstinate, particularly once he realizes Xolani is in a secret gay relationship with another, married guide (Bongile Mantsai). John Trengove’s stripped-down, charged South African drama raises expectations of one kind, then delivers something else—because Kwanda is as much victimizer as victim here. He’s old enough to know exactly who he is, but not yet mature enough to realize others might not be willing or able to live the “out” life he’s already planned for himself. His particular brand of self-righteous intolerance has disastrous consequences. 

'Chavela'
‘Chavela’

Chavela

Costa Rican Chavela Vargas, “the woman who sings like a man,” began her career in Mexico as a ranchera singer “dressed as a woman.” But in later interview footage she admits “It didn’t work. I looked like a transvestite.” So in the 1950s she began wearing pants, shirts and ponchos, pulling her hair back, and singing from the “masculine” viewpoint of the pining, rejected lover. It won her the adoration of major composers (notably Jose Alfredo Jiminez), an ever-expanding following, and eventual international stardom that included Pedro Almodovar’s patronage. Though she didn’t officially come out until she was in her 80s, the news surprised fans about as much as Barry Manilow’s recent announcement. Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi’s documentary pays apt tribute to an influential career and a fascinating personality.

'Remembering the Man'
‘Remembering the Man’

Remembering the Man

Meeting in 1975 as teens at a Melbourne Catholic boys’ school, over-the-top aspiring actor Tim Conigrave and quiet football team captain John Caleo fell in love—and remained so for the rest of their lives, despite occasional geographic and commitment hiccups. Conigrave’s posthumously published memoir Holding the Man became an international best-seller, then a stage play, then a starry film (which played Frameline last year). Nicholas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe’s documentary retells the same tragic-romantic story, to perhaps even greater impact than the well-crafted prior movie. With plenty of archival footage available here, the real-life protagonists prove even more complex and engaging than their dramatized versions. 

Frameline41 runs Thurs/15-Sun/25 at various venues in San Francisco and the East Bay. Select free and higher-price events aside, most tickets are $12-14. www.frameline.org

Party Radar: The Tribute

Artist Kirk Maxon made his work 'Pulse" immediately after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. He curates a show of 49 portraits at Fort Mason on Mon/12.

PARTY RADAR Real talk: I live in quiet fear of the Facebook ‘memories” from last year that are surely about to hit my feed: from the terror of the Pulse shootings to the sadness of the Ghost Ship fire (still in the news this week with the arrest of proprietor Derick Almena and his deputy Max Harris)  … and all the awful Trumpiness in between. For nightlife denizens — and especially queer nightlife denizens who consider the dance floor a sacred space of safety — well, we’re still carrying around a lot of heaviness. But we are also finding the strength to hope, to look to the broader picture, and to gather together and party like nobody’s business.  

Here’s a wonderful case in point: Pulse: Acts of Love and Kindness (Mon/12, 6pm-10pm, $25. Fort Mason, SF. Proceeds from the event will go to support The Q Foundation and The LGBT Asylum Project). This art show and party will bring together 49 local artists to display portraits of those murdered in the attack on the Orlando nightclub, one year ago to the day. There will also be drag performances, a reading, DJs, and dancing. “It’s meant to be a celebration — celebrating these lives is our way of helping to restore dignity and respect to them,” said artist Kirk Maxson, who is curating the show with drag legend Juanita More.

When he first heard about the Pulse shooting, Maxson made an elaborate mural of cut-foil flowers (his major medium) as tribute — it was first publicly displayed at SOMArts annual blockbuster Dia de los Muertos show. “But now, a year later, there’s so much more information about the Pulse patrons who were killed,” he told me over the phone. “And some artists take a longer time to process events like this. So we wanted to revisit things a years later, now that we’ve had more time to better understand the loss to the community, and to get to know the people. The artists went deep — some reached out to the families.”

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Justin Hall’s portrait of Pulse shooting victim Rudolfo Ayala-Ayala.

“An event under these kinds of circumstances is very difficult to create,” Juanita More told me. “One side of my brain understands the importance of it, while the other side is still very emotionally wounded. I’ve gotten the chance to see a couple of the portraits and am confident that the love poured into the artwork from the artists of our brothers and sisters will inspire and heal. This event is also giving the community in San Francisco an opportunity to mourn and celebrate the vibrant lives of those we lost.” 

THURSDAY, JUNE 8

 PRINS THOMAS Scruffy Scandinavian space disco prince lands at Monarch with some cosmic grooves and house faves. Thu/8, 9:30pm-3am, $20. Monarch, SF. Tickets and more info here. 

LAURINE The Slow Life rare techno record collective is tearing up Berlin, and Laurine is one of its rarely seen leaders — catch her SF debut and hear some interesting stuff. Thu/8, 10pm-2am, $10. The Stud, SF. More info here. 

FRIDAY, JUNE 9

DUB MISSION  WOW! After 20+ years of bringing the best in dub and reggae, live and DJ, to Elbo Room, the Dub Mission kids — Sep, Vinnie, and Maneesh — just announced they are beginning the process of moving on from the Elbo Room. The crew will continue to throw monthly parties through September, and the party’s 21st anniversary, and then, hopefully, will stay with us in some form or other. Now is the time to catch this quintessential Bay party. Fri/9, 10pm-2am, $7. Elbo Room, SF. Tickets and more info here

SLEEPARCHIVE “Growing up in East Berlin, Roger Semsroth’s first loves were post-punk electronics and EBM of a darker colour.  He fell in love with techno in the mid 90s, attracted by the refined, reduced, and intense productions of artists like Jeff Mills, Mika Vainio and Richie Hawtin…. ” A story many of us can relate to, but Semsroth’s moody burners as Sleeparchive have held sway since his first release in 2004. At the awesome Sure Thing party. Fri/9, 10pm-4am, F8, SF. Tickets and more info here

DANNY DAZE He’s young and pretty and can get a bit wiggy — the more the better, actually, from this freeform Miami player, who’s enthusiastically made a name for himself from Detroit to Berlin and beyond. At the Lights Down Low party with Discwoman’s Volvox, so you know it will get ravey. Fri/9, 9:30pm-4am, $20. Tickets and more info here

VIVVY’S GRAND OPENING The most insane, enthralling drag show in town (one month it featured two shows running simultaneously, the next a deconstructed version of ‘Cats’), hosted by Ms. VivvyAnne Forevermore, with a cast that will never be on RuPaul, and that’s a good thing for all concerned. Also it’s a dance party. Fri/9, 10pm-4am, $10. The Stud, SF. More info here.  

LEN FAKI The Turkish-German post-minimal techno wiz comes in to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Robot Ears party. Fri/9, 9:30pm-3:30am, $15-$25. Public Works, SF. Tickets and more info here

SATURDAY, JUNE 10

heklina-50

MOTHER: HEKLINA’S 50TH BIRTHDAY BASH Really, only 50 girl? The queen of pop-punk (or at least some wildly famous and unique hybrid of the popular and the edgy) drag celebrates half a century of stalking stages and ducking under lights — those wigs! We’re so happy she’s finding success with her club Oasis, and the weekly Mother drag show. Raise a mummy hand in toast! Sat/10, 10pm-3am, $10. Oasis, SF. Tickets and more info here.   

KAFANA BALKAN The raucous Balkan beats party, now quarterly, is still going strong. Get ready to whirl and stomp to the incredible sounds of DJ Željko Petković, with special guests trumpeter Frank London and the Inspector Gadje band, plus Turkish-style bellydance troupe Little Egypt. Sat/10, 9pm, $22-$25.  Rickshaw Stop, SF. Tickets and more info here.

POOLSIDE The lovely languid-groove duo return to spread some sunshine over rainy (WTF!) SF. This will be cute. Sat/10, 9:30pm-3:30am, $15-$25. Public Works, SF. Tickets and more info here

KINGDOM! I’ll be DJing old school hip-hop all night at this awesome drag king show — you have to see it to believe it, these young ‘us in fake mustaches really turn it out. Sat/10, 9pm, $10. The Stud, SF. More info here

FLEURS DU MAL If you like your electronic grooves dark, deep, and Baudelairean, then hit up Muka in Hayes Valley for this special installment of the new party featuring Exilion of katabatik, Tyrel Williams, and C.L.A.W.S. Sat/10, 10m, free. Muka, SF. More info here.  

POUND PUPPY Two foundation DJs of the SF gay disco-house scene, Jim Hopkins and Paul Goodyear, guest at this woof-full party, full of scruffy pups and admirers. Sat/10, 9pm, $10. SF Eagle. More info here.   

Holes in our understanding

Fauxnique finds the camp in French feminist theory for solo show 'C*NT,' June 9-10 at ODC Theater. Photo by RJ Muna.

You may recognize dancer-performance artist-“faux queen” Fauxnique a.k.a. Monique Jenkinson from such gigs as winning the 2003 edition of Heklina’s landmark drag competition formerly known as the Trannyshack Pageant, or her solo show The F Word, or her appearances on nearly every stage in San Francisco. Fauxnique’s new production C*NT, or, The Horror of Nothing to See debuts Fri/9-Sat/10 at ODC Theater as part of the Walking Distance Dance Festival. It promises to dissect “(misogynistic) pathologizing and (feminist) mythologizing around the female body,” according to its presser. We caught up with the artist via Skype to discuss the holes in our current understanding of gender.

48H To start I’d like to clarify our language. Is faux queen your preferred terminology as a cis woman who does drag?

FAUXNIQUE Some people mind faux queen. I don’t — I think it’s funny. I use Fauxnique as my drag name, I like playing with the idea of “faux,” the idea of fakery. The idea that a cis gendered woman who does drag is considered the fake version … The politics around it, this idea that if you’re a faux queen you’re in this lesser category is … problematic. But I think it’s a rich place — I like being in the problematized space sometimes, looking at what that is and how we process it

48H Drag Race has shaped mainstream understanding of drag culture so much since it debuted in 2009. I was wondering why there had never been a faux queen in all the nine seasons, and in my exploratory Googling I ran across a RuPaul tweet from last year saying that she didn’t need to cast female — presumably she means cis women, since she has had trans women on the show — drag queens because that’s what the Miss Universe pageant was for.

FAUXNIQUE Oh that’s so dumb. It’s a cute answer, you know, that the pageant queens are doing drag. Women performing that kind of femininity are totally in drag. But it’s also kind of — whatever, I don’t know what RuPaul’s real politics around that are. I think that everything that RuPaul says is calculated to create drama.

Fauxnique on faux queenliness: "I like being in the problematized space sometimes, looking at what that is and how we process it."
Fauxnique on faux queenliness: “I like being in the problematized space sometimes, looking at what that is and how we process it.” Photo by Mark Christopher

48H Does it concern you, that the leading voice in drag talks like that?

FAUXNIQUE Women have been performing drag for as long as there has been all these trappings used to identify what is feminine. It’s always all been drag. So to think that RuPaul would not consider women dressing up as drag queens to be drag — it’s funny to me. Especially if you ever watched RuPaul’s Drag U. It was a spinoff show where drag queens would take women under their wing and make them into drag queens. There was one episode with women who had been Hollywood actors. [Note: Do not watch this 2010 episode unless you want to see Charlen Tilton from Dynasty win Ru’s top honors wearing actual blackface.] One of them was great — they made her into a drag queen and she was like “I’ll be so sexy for my husband!” And I was like no you’re not! You’re being a drag queen, which is a really different thing! That’s why I feel like RuPaul is smarter than that? But maybe it’s about marketing and what people are ready for. I have to hand it to the queens here in the Bay Area, who have always been subverting what the definition of drag was.

48H That was another one of my questions for you. How has your career in the San Francisco drag community affected your perception of what drag is?

FAUXNIQUE I came into a community that was really welcoming, that was already subverting what drag is, that was ready for women to be part of it. It felt like a very special situation. Sure, when I won Ms. Trannyshack in 2003, if there had been social media to the extent that there is now, I’m sure there would have been tons of commentary about how I didn’t deserve it or whatever.

48H I’m curious about the subtitle of this piece, “The Horror of Nothing to See.” Can you talk a little bit about what it is in reference to?

FAUXNIQUE It comes from an essay by a French feminist Luce Irigaray called “This Sex Which Is Not One.” One of the premises of this work is that I’m reading French feminism as high camp. This essay is specifically about women and the labia, about this idea that, as a culture, we have to have this one to one, the penis or vagina. The vagina is the baby canal, where the penis goes in — but it’s not the locus of sexual pleasure for women.

As phallocentric language makers we have to have this one to one, women have this, man have this — it’s totally binary, it’s not even taking trans sexuality into account. Of course, that’s problematic. It’s also amazing, this way that feminism is being articulated in a bodily sense. Irigaray is saying this sex which is not one, that women’s genitals are a multiplicity. She says that labia is always touching itself, therefore the woman is a walking dialectic. That’s crazy! I love this kind of complication. Then what she says is that this sex which cannot be defined as one is defined as none, as zero, as a vessel, which represents the horror of nothing to see.

So the piece is definitely thinking about the erasure of women in drag. There’s this double negation that happens when you’re called a faux queen. Drag queens are ostensibly men owning femininity, playing with femininity, imitating women. Then when women want to imitate women it’s fakery, it’s not allowed. It’s almost like how dare you, this isn’t yours, is the philosophy of RuPaul. The Miss Universe pageant is actually a very narrow and incredibly patriarchal way in which a woman might be allowed to play with her femininity, whereas the zone of drag is a place to upend that. [C*NT] is about reclaiming that which is hidden, lost, erased.

C*NT, Or, The Horror of Nothing to See, Fri/9-Sat/10, 7 and 8:30pm, ODC Theater, $30 (tickets sold as package with tinypistol’s PoemAnthemSong.) More info and tickets here.

Silent is golden

Charles 'Buddy' Rogers and Clara Bow in 'Get Your Man,' directed by Dorothy Arzner screens at the SF Silent Film Festival. Photo by Margaret Chute/Getty Images

SCREEN GRABS Particularly these days, a one-story building designated for commercial usage in space-hungry San Francisco is an unusual sight, so you may at some point have noticed a scattering of such structures in the Tenderloin. But unless told, you probably wouldn’t realize what these distinctive, old-looking constructions were originally built for—they were busy storage facilities for the city’s movie houses a century ago. At that time, the celluloid films were printed on was so perishable (and in particular, flammable) that between showtimes it made sense for any unused reel to be stowed off-site in thickly cement-walled facilities that minimized the danger of combustion.

That fragile physicality is one reason among many that the vast majority of films made during the silent era are now lost. (Other reasons include the fact that the filmmakers and studios themselves considered their product disposable, and did not yet imagine future revenue sources like television or home video—so there seemed no financial logic to preserving titles after their initial commercial run.) As a result, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (June 1-4) affords a view of an art form from an era that is even more enjoyable and valuable to us because so little of it remains.

Now in its 22nd year, SFSFF’s biggest annual weekend (since inception it has grown to encompass several events during the year) offers as usual a few popular titles that will be familiar to most dedicated cinephiles. This time they include Thursday’s opening nighter The Freshman, the 1925 comedy that was bespectacled comedian Harold Lloyd’s single biggest hit. (Trivia note: The college football climax, in which our nebbishy hero improbably wins the “big game,” was filmed on UC Berkeley’s playing field.)

From groundbreaking claymation masterpiece 'The Lost World.'
From groundbreaking claymation masterpiece ‘The Lost World.’

From the same year, there’s also Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet propagandic drama The Battleship Potemkin, whose dynamic montage techniques made it one of the single most influential films ever made. Sunday brings two popular action blockbusters of the 1920s: The athletically ebullient Douglas Fairbanks’ lavish 1921 version of The Three Muskateers, and Arthur Conan Doyle-derived fantasy adventure The Lost World. The latter astonished 1925 audiences with its stop-motion model animation of prehistoric creatures, providing the blueprint for King Kong (and eventually Jurassic Park). Seen only in severely truncated versions for decades, it’s being screened in a marvelous reconstruction very near what viewers saw 90-odd years ago.

But, also as usual, the bulk of SFSFF’s current program consists of titles from around the world that few have seen in any form since their original release. Several will be shown in brand-new restorations orchestrated by various organizations, including SF Silent Fest itself. (Those really interested in the subject of film preservation can attend free annual “Amazing Tales from the Archives”  Saturday morning, which will have preservationists from the Library of Congress and elsewhere presenting clips highlighting their latest rescue efforts.)

From 1916's  'The Dumb Girl of Portico' directed by Lois Weber.
From 1916’s ‘The Dumb Girl of Portico’ directed by Lois Weber and starring Anna Pavlova.

Among the most exciting such finds this year are two features from Hollywood’s leading (as well as near-only) women directors of the period: Lois Weber’s 1916 The Dumb Girl of Portici, an elaborate period epic starring ballet legend Anna Pavlova; and Dorothy Arzner’s 1927 Get Your Man, a vehicle for the irrepressible “It Girl” Clara Bow. (The latter will be accompanied by a newly restored 23-minute fragment from the same year’s Now We’re in the Air!, starring Bow’s equally irresistable flapper-icon rival Louise Brooks.)

Other rediscoveries of note include Arthur Robison’s 1929 U.K. The Informer, which tale of a luckless snitch amidst the Irish “Troubles” was remade as a highly acclaimed, Oscar winning (but now rather creaky) Hollywood film by John Ford six years later; that year’s Polish psychological suspense exercise A Strong Man; Filibus, a fanciful Italian criminal mystery from 1915 that contains a cross-dressing element; Ernst Lubitsch’s 1919 German farce The Doll; a long-lost 1926 U.S. drama produced by Cecil B. DeMille, Silence; the prior year’s Ukraine-set Russian intrigue Two Days; and Victor Sjostrom’s A Man There Was, an adaptation of an Ibsen poem. That last would launch Swedish cinema in earnest, and set its director/star on a career that would culminate decades later in his famous acting turn for Ingmar Bergman in Wild Strawberries.

Paul Robeson plays a dual role in Osca Micheaux's melodrama 'Body and Soul.'
Paul Robeson plays a dual role in Osca Micheaux’s melodrama ‘Body and Soul.’

If it’s more familiar star names you’re after, there are a few of those as well. An early collaboration between “Man of a Thousand Faces” Lon Chaney and his favored director Tod Browning, 1920’s Outside the Law casts the former in dual roles as a San Francisco crime kingpin and a Chinatown Confucian master’s loyal servant. Then there’s Body and Soul, a 1925 feature that’s one of relatively few surviving efforts by pioneering African-American filmmaker/entrepreneur Oscar Micheaux. It’s a somewhat clumsy melodrama (despite then-daring perspectives on religious hypocrisy) of special interest due to another star in a dual role—no less than a young Paul Robeson, the future luminary of stage and concert hall whose career in his native U.S. would later be severely curtailed by hostility towards his leftist politics. He was a magnetic presence who simply came along a few decades too early to attain the screen stardom that should have been his in the pre-Civil Rights Movement era.

There’s another good reason to see Body and Soul: While every Silent Festival program will have live musical accompaniment (by local and visiting talents including ensembles like Alloy Orchestra and several soloists on the “Mighty Wurlitzer”), this one brings the Festival debut of fabled experimental turntablist DJ Spooky, who should loosen up the stiff joints of this nearly 100-year-old film considerably.

SF Silent Film Festival, Thurs/1-Sun/4, Castro Theatre, SF. Free-$22 (most shows $14-16), www.silentfilm.org

 

Sgt. Pepper, UnderCover

UnderCover takes on the entirety of the Beatles' classic 50-year-old 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' june 2 and 3 at UC Theatre.

1967 was a banner year for music – a year when Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and Aretha Franklin topped the charts. But perched above them all was one album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles, of course. Fifty years later, Sgt. Pepper is an icon of songcraft and experimentation that, if Rolling Stone Magazine has its say, remains the greatest album of all time.

June 2 and 3 at the newly refurbished UC Theatre, UnderCover Presents is poised to give that anniversary a hero’s welcome. UnderCover has made its name staging epic, one-night music festivals that celebrate classic albums with a lineup of premier local artists. The 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper finds UnderCover at the height of its powers: multi-talented musician and certifiable Beatles junkie Joe Bagale directs a roster that includes everyone from the legendary pop vocalist Raz Kennedy to the Iranian classical composer Sahba Aminikia.

And UnderCover is just warming up for the summer. August 17-20, it will close out the SFJAZZ Summer Sessions with four concerts paying tribute to Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, and the Muscle Shoals Studio.

To get the scoop on both events, we joined Joe Bagale and UnderCover founder Lyz Luke in the studio, while they recorded the album for the Sgt. Pepper tribute.

48 HILLS UnderCover always takes on big albums, but with Sgt. Pepper, we’re talking about an album many people think is the greatest of all time. What allows you to take an album of this magnitude and say that the Bay Area has something to bring to it?

LYZ LUKE I had been reluctant to do The Beatles because they’re so iconic. But this album – 50 years of Sgt. Pepper – if I’m gonna do The Beatles, it has to be this time.

I think the spirit of this entire album is about being open-minded and accepting and trying to explore things sonically. You can just hear all of the different influences in this album, and you’ll see it in our lineup. There’s a strong Indian influence in there, but we also brought in Middle Eastern music. As far as diversity goes, the Bay Area’s got it, and I think that this project works so well here because of that diversity.

Lyz Luke of UnderCover. Photo by Gundi Vigfusson.
Lyz Luke of UnderCover. Photo by Gundi Vigfusson.

48H Why was Joe Bagale the right person to be the music director?

LL Joe Bagale is the biggest Beatles fan I know, hands down. He will geek out for hours and hours on end, if you let him. So I went to Joe and just told him, “Hey, this anniversary is coming up. You’re the only person I would ask to do this.” And he was very enthusiastic about it.

48H Joe, why were you so excited to take it on?

JOE BAGALE The Beatles are the reason I wanted to become a musician. The earliest memory I have of listening to this record is on these road trips that my family used to take.

Joe Bagale on the way Sgt. Pepper changed his life, video by Cristina Isabel Rivera:

48H I couldn’t help but notice that you perform as Otis McDonald, an alter ego, just like The Beatles did in Sgt. Pepper. Why did you want to do that in your own music?

JB When you put on the costume of a character, there’s a certain sense of freedom to experiment that comes with that. A big thing that I get from this psychedelic period of The Beatles is this willingness to experiment with speeds of tape, so when you hear a lot of Otis McDonald tracks, it’s got this sped-up vocal sound, or sometimes it’s really slow. I stopped caring about it having to be the way my voice always sounds, and just started experimenting – painting with sounds.

48H Do you think Sgt. Pepper is the best Beatles album?

JB At one point in my life, maybe Sgt. Pepper was, but I go through so many phases with The Beatles. My personal favorite is the White Album. But you ask me next year, it might be Abbey Road. It changes. There’s so much.

Members of Awesome Orchestra recording "When I'm Sixty-Four." Photo by Cristina Isabel Rivera.
Members of Awesome Orchestra recording “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Photo by Cristina Isabel Rivera.

 

48H Did you have a guiding principle when you were picking the bands in the lineup?

JB My first rule was that the music has to be high-quality. That’s a big prerequisite because, for me personally, The Beatles are the high standard that I’m always trying to reach. The second thing was I wanted to make sure we crossed so many different genres, the way The Beatles did, because by being willing to fuse together all these different styles of music, they brought so many people together.

48H What are a couple examples of bands or interpretations that you’re particularly excited about?

JB As far as what’s been recorded so far, Eyes on the Shore totally flipped “Getting Better” and made it their own. The melody is all still there, but they completely reinterpreted the harmony that goes underneath it and made it this lush, anthemic, rock song.

“Good Morning” is a really progressive tune for The Beatles because of all the time signature changes. I thought rhythmically that could lend itself to an Afro-Cuban group, and then Soltrón went even more overboard with it: all these different feel changes, yet it’s so cohesive.

LL We also have Sahba Aminikia, a very accomplished Iranian composer who recently collaborated with the Kronos Quartet. He’s doing a version of “When I’m Sixty-Four” that’s also a subversive political act: Iranian women are not allowed to sing in front of men they’re not related to, so he had a singer from Tehran named Mina Momeni record the vocals in a video, and he and members of Awesöme Orchestra will perform in front of it live.

And personally, I’m Indian, and it’s just really cool to be able to represent my people’s music with Rohan Krishnamurthy and the dance group Non Stop Bhangra.

48H Sgt. Pepper came out after The Beatles had stopped touring, so even The Beatles didn’t perform these songs live. Which song is going to be the trickiest to get right on stage?

JB If anything, it would be the transition between the two songs that I’m doing: the “Sgt. Pepper” reprise and “A Day in the Life.” The reprise has NonStop Bhangra, and “A Day in the Life” has my six-piece band, plus a 25-piece orchestra. Just having enough room for everybody might be really challenging. Plus my band is all multi-instrumentalists, so I have to choreograph how we switch instruments onstage, too.

Lyz Luke, Joe Bagale, Sahba Aminikia, and Awesome Orchestra post-recording. Photo by Cristina Isabel Rivera.
Lyz Luke, Joe Bagale, Sahba Aminikia, and Awesome Orchestra post-recording. Photo by Cristina Isabel Rivera.

48H This will be the first UnderCover show at The UC Theatre, a 100-year-old venue that re-opened last year after a big restoration. What’s your review of the space?

LL Every single detail is just lovingly thought through. The production people at UnderCover critique everything as soon as we walk into a venue, and we can’t do that with his venue. It sounds incredible. They also have an amazing youth program that teaches students the behind-the-scenes of the music industry, and they have a real family dynamic as a result of it.

48H Who are the other collaborators who are helping bring Sgt. Pepper to life?

LL A lot of people don’t remember that we do this whole album recording process. Most of the tracks are being recorded at Zoo Labs, and all of them are being mixed there. KPFA and KALX are co-announcing the show. And we have a really amazing new stage designer named Bridget Stagnitto. We’re trying to give a nod to the original album cover, but also to the Bay Area: she’s creating this giant, floral heart, and then a collage of Bay Area landmarks made out of welded metal panels that will hang behind it.

48H Switching gears to your upcoming shows at SFJAZZ: It seems like a pretty big deal for UnderCover to be closing out the SFJAZZ Summer Sessions. How did that come together?

LL After the Sly & The Family Stone show at the Fox, I got an email from Randall Kline, who’s the founder of SFJAZZ. He just asked me to meet up for coffee – no agenda or anything. So I went over to the SFJAZZ facilities, and I went into his office, and he’s like, “I’ve been hearing your name a lot, and I just want to know what it is you do, and why you do it.” So I started talking to him about UnderCover and all those magical moments and connections that are made backstage, and how diversity and community are so important to me, and how music is a great tool to make that happen. And as I was talking to him, he totally got choked up, and I even got choked up seeing him get choked up.

We didn’t talk about shows at all, but I think we made a connection. Then they were doing a series where they were combining a live concert with a film. We decided to do something for the Amy Winehouse documentary, and we wound up selling out two shows in one night really fast and just had a great experience, so Randall reached out to me about closing his summer series.

 

Joe Bagale discussing his arrangement of "A Day in the Life" with members of Awesome Orchestra. Photo by Joanna Ladd.
Joe Bagale discussing his arrangement of “A Day in the Life” with members of Awesome Orchestra. Photo by Joanna Ladd.

48H Why did you break away from the album model for your shows at SFJAZZ?

LL Doing the singles gives us the freedom to cover artists like Ray Charles and Nina Simone, who are iconic artists but don’t necessarily have that iconic album, and we can do creative things like the Muscle Shoals Studio. The only show where were doing a whole album is Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew because I wanted to get weird with it: it’s an instrumental, psychedelic, jammy album, and it would just be so challenging for the musicians. We don’t usually get to do that with UnderCover. With SFJAZZ, it’s a sophisticated audience, and I think they can handle it.

48H How did you pick the songs for your lineup out of all those classic singles?

LL We left it up to the artists. I reached out to the acts that are performing and asked them to send me their top picks. You’d be surprised how often they’re very different. The only artist where a couple people really wanted the same songs was Nina Simone. There, I gave a little bit of favorability to the Oakland School of the Arts students ‘cause there were some songs where it would be so much more powerful if a group of young musicians was able to sing them.

48H Plus, you love them [the OSA students].

LL I do love them! A lot. I would adopt each and every one of them if I could.

48H Why did you want to celebrate the Muscle Shoals Studio alongside Ray, Nina, and Miles?

LL You don’t know Muscle Shoals, but you know Muscle Shoals. It’s a very distinct sound, and you start seeing a common thread throughout such a historic time in music. It’s everything from Aretha Franklin to the Black Keys. And it’s really exciting for UnderCover to be able to have such a diverse range on one bill, with four artists.

48H Can you give us a preview of some of the acts?

LL I think Zakiya Harris is going to kill it for Nina Simone. She’s a powerful woman who speaks her mind, she’s confident, she’s a dynamic singer. And she’s going to bring all the issues to the table that Nina faced and address them, and I think even bring some closure to some things that Nina was struggling with.

I’m excited to see what Kev Choice does with Bitches Brew. Kev Choice is a classically trained pianist, which a lot of people don’t realize, and he’s also got this whole hip-hop background. I think that with four different songs, you’re going to see four sides of Kev Choice up there on the stage. 

UNDERCOVER 50-YEAR ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
June 2 and 3, 7pm, $20-$77.50

UC Theatre, Berkeley
Tickets for June 2 here
Tickets for June 3 here
Register to volunteer here for free admission