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Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Arts + CultureArts ForecastArts Forecast: Kronos Fest marks a half-century of musical...

Arts Forecast: Kronos Fest marks a half-century of musical astonishments

Plus: Pre-Pride shenanigans, Stern Grove, Flor Y Canto, Black Techno Matters, Team Dresch, Witchcrafting, so much to do!

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I was lucky enough to grow up around slightly older gay men in 1980s Detroit who introduced me to the fabulous avant-garde of that moment—which was more like a secret underground initiation in the days before the Internet, when you had to be lucky enough to find things. Laurie Anderson, Diamanda Galas, Nan Goldin, Bill T. Jones, Charles Busch, Peter Hujar, Peter Greenaway were all in there somewhere, not to mention the reams of electronic musicians and post-modern artists making their mark.

A lot of the excitement around the scene was tied-up in being a queer person during the time of AIDS: You sought solace with other outsiders in the art of possibility, the “out there” that the then-distant future promised, sometimes tragically in vain. The shock of the new brought life and hope (and, at rare live performances, a chance to check each other out).

Probably the most impactful part of my avant-garde musical education came through the extraordinary run of Kronos Quartet releases from 1985’s Monk Suite: Kronos Quartet Plays Music of Thelonious Monk through 1993’s Henryk Górecki: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2—a period in which the San Francisco quartet released 17(!) albums, ranging from the plucky Five Tango Sensations to mind-shattering Holocaust remembrance Steve Reich: Different Trains and seminal Vietnam War requiem Black Angels, George Crumb’s incendiary 1970 composition that inspired violinist David Harrington to found Kronos Quartet.

A lot of it is challenging! That’s part of what makes it beautiful. And the quartet never comes off as ‘high brow,’ always welcoming new audiences with generous explanations and celebrations of popular music like rock, techno, church hymns, blues, and children’s music.

Kronos Quartet in 2024. Photo by Lenny Gonzalez

In the past few decades, Kronos has hardly ceased releasing music, fostering composers (see its phenomenal “50 for the Future” project), paying tribute to radical political writers like Howard Zinn, and remaking how we hear and experience music—I’ll never forget the first time they played the music hall-reverberating “Spectre” or bowed barbed wire fences.

This year’s 2024 Kronos Festival (Thu/20-Sun/23 at SFJAZZ) celebrates the quartet’s incredible 50 years—and rings in some changes. Longtime members John Sherba and Hank Dutt are departing after 45 years, as is their powerhouse manager Janet Cowperthwaite, who has been with them from nearly the start. The festival, as always, is full to the brim of global-eared and awe-striking premieres like Dai Wei and others’ Beyond the Golden Gate and Mary Kouyoumdjian’s “The Space Between,” collaborations with favorites like Terry Riley and Tanya Tagaq, a Kronos movie, and an appearance by the San Francisco Girls Chorus singing Yoko Ono.

Kronos Quartet with Tanya Tagaq in 2006. Photo by Richard Termine for The New York Times

Even if you don’t know what any of those words mean, I can’t encourage you enough to just pick a night and dive in to instantly open your musical horizons. And speaking of horizons, don’t think that the hands of time hitting 50 is going to stop the quartet any time soon. As Harrington told me when I asked what’s in store for the next half-century:

“It feels to me like it has taken every day of these first 50 years of Kronos to lay an extensive enough framework to support the musical skyscraper I imagine the next 50 years will become. While connecting radical, energizing activism with fun engaged learning, this future Kronos hub will nurture young listeners and challenge all of us to live the ideals music effortlessly demands.”


Tegan and Sara open up Stern Grove season on Sun/23

YEP I’M GAY I can’t pass this week by without mentioning how incredibly Q-U-E-E-R it is as Pride approaches. Frameline Film Fest kicks off its massive slate Wed/19 at 7pm, with a big Juneteenth Block Party outside Castro Theatre. The fabulous Fresh Meat Festival fills Z Space with dozens of cutting edge dance, music, drag, and arts performances. On Fri/21, everybody’s favorite Irish bar in the Mission named after a queer revolutionary, Casements, hosts DJ Rolo on the patio, 6pm-10pm, for some fine house tunes.

Looking for a new Pride look? On Sat/22, the fine people at Sui Genesis boutique in the Castro have all the vintage and up-to-the-minute looks you need at their annual Sip & Shop event starting at noon. More on Sat/22: the 15th Annual Castro Country Club Pageant raises money (and a few wigs) for the essential sober space. Also on Sat/22, the Princess drag club brings in groundbreaking Taiwanese drag goddess Nymph Wind. Sapphic indie-pop star sisters Tegan and Sara kick off the free Stern Grove concert series this Sun/23 with a Pride-filled fiesta. Later, mosey on over to (shameless plug for my bar) the Stud, for some evening dancing, 6pm-late, to the delightful (and surprising!) tunes of DJ Rich King and friends at Sunday Situation.

From ‘to wear your (little queer) heart‘ by Em Monforte

But wait, of course there’s more! Through June 30, photographer Em Monforte presents to wear your (little queer) heart: 70 of their diverse portraits asking “What does it mean to be queer now?” at MRKT Gallery, SF. And finally, on Tue/25 the brilliant SF Neo-Futurist improv troupe presents “Infinite Pride,” aka “30 gay plays in 60 gay minutes.” Phew! Time to get free, gay, and happy!


Xiooro plays the Juneteenth edition of Black Techno Matters

WED/19: BLACK TECHNO MATTERS: LIBR8 SF A special Juneteenth installment of the awesome party featuring all Black talent, this time including Xiorro, Sharlese, One A, and Fawks. 9pm-2am, F8, SF. More info here.

THU/20-JUNE 29: RED CLAY SOUND HAUS  I love how SF’s beloved Audium keeps expanding its sonic offerings. This multi-medium, multi-site project explores “the Sound of Black San Francisco,” with four thematic directives, land, love, labor, and legacy filling the historic, 176-speaker sound theater sensory rich, story-telling experiences. The Audium, SF. More info here.

FRI/21: WITCHCRAFTING NIGHT Celebrate the solstice by crafting in cahoots with a casual coven: tarot readings, journaling, and live music from Cami, Legally John, Yumin, and Mamoon are all in the stars. 5pm, Souvenir Coffee Company, SF. More info here.

FRI/21-JUNE 30: MISSION IN THE MIX The brilliant choreographer behind the SF Hip-Hop Dance Festival, Micaya presents two full weekends of workshops and performances from the likes of SoulForce Dance Company and Hell on Heels. Dance Mission Theater, SF. More info here.

FRI/21-SUN/23 FLOR Y CANTO LITERARY FESTIVAL The Mission is packed this weekend! This huge and sprawling free fesitval of Latino Performance and Poetics is so full of good stuff, I’m just going to post the flyer below. But I’m also putting in a word: The groundbreaking ’90s queer Latino comedy troupe Latin Hustle is getting back together after decades to know you down laughing at 3pm on Sat/22 at Action Latina. Don’t miss it! More info on the fest here.

SUN/23: TEAM DRESCH I can’t do any better than this for this classic Olympia, WA punk band: “Combining the brazenness of Riot Grrrl with the angst dirge of grunge, Team Dresch didn’t just raise the stakes of queercore: They created two near-perfect albums about longing, freedom, and belonging over guitar riffs as epic and intense as Jody Bleyle and Kaia Wilson’s poetic couplets. To paraphrase their own song, they are amazing; their words save us.” 7:30pm, Bottom of the Hills, SF. More info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Marke B.
Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

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