Culture

For tech pioneer, preserving SF’s classic vinyl culture is a ‘Family Affair’

Family Affair's Freddy Anzures poses with the B+ photo used on the cover of DJ Shadow's 'Endtroducing...'—part of the 'Freaks of the Industry' show

What would possess one of the designers of the iPhone, a celebrated tech pioneer, to launch an art gallery in Lower Haight, focused on mostly local funk, hip-hop, and R&B musicians ? 

“I wanted to find a way to sustain the culture of my neighborhood that was being lost somehow due to the tech industry—that I was once a part of.” Freddy Anzures, owner of Family Affair Gallery on Haight Street, said in a recent interview. “It was a way of using what I had learned from my career in tech to give back to a scene I’ve loved and been a part of for so long.”

 Anzures’ gallery—a small, cleanly-designed, vibe-y space—opened with a bang in June with a show of early Prince photos by Robert Whitman, taken when the Purple One was recording his debut album at Sausalito’s Record Plant Studios. (The opening party was a banger that filled the street with fans.) That set the tone for following shows—paintings of Michael Jackson and striking photos of Eric B. and Rakim by Drew Carolan—that have celebrated the visual culture of black music, often with a local angle.  

Photo by Robert Whitman, part of the ‘PRINCE Pre-Fame’ show which opened the Family Affair gallery in June.

The current Family Affair show is titled “Freaks of the Industry: Bay Area Hip-Hop Shot by B+” (through November 17) and is my favorite yet. Leveraging his history with Wax Poetics, Anzures secured some ’90s-era photos of Bay Area hip-hop legends shot by photographer B+, who apparently got everyone in his sights. Panoramas of poses by The Coup, Latyrx, E-40, DJ Shadow, Invisbl Skratch Piklz, Dan the Automator, Digital Underground’s Shock G, Kool Keith, Souls of Mischief, the Hieroglyphics crew, Too $hort, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, and more line the walls. At the back is a huge, tiled-canvas version of the indelible cover of Shadow’s “Endtroducing…” For anyone who’s followed the scene, it’s both a celebration of history, and a reminder of one of the Bay Area’s recent musical golden ages, which now seems out of reach.      

The Coup, shot by B+, on display in Family Affair’s latest show, ‘Freaks of the Industry’

Anzures grew up in Maryland outside of DC and moved to the Bay Area in 1999. “It was the height of the first dot com rush,” he said. “I worked for Frogdesign, the firm that Steve Jobs hired to design the look and feel of Apple computers in the ‘80s. I was there for five years, and throughout the time that I was there, there was always this desire to be part of something outside of work. It wasn’t so much that I was feeling unfulfilled at work, I just didn’t want to be doing only one thing. While I was moving on in my tech career to eventually be on the team that designed the iPhone, I was going to a lot of shows and seeing this whole other exciting part of the Bay Area, and I wanted to be part of that somehow.”

His curiosity led him to Haight Street record store Groove Merchant, a 21-year-old staple for jazz, hip-hop, rare groove, and global soul music fans, but also accessible for newcomers to the scene. “[Groove Merchant owner] Chris Veltri makes it easy for people to discover the vinyl culture out here, and I could tell right away, too, that we had a similar kind of visual sense, with vintage art and design magazines and how he curates the look of the shop.” The two bonded over a stack of Straight No Chaser underground music magazines from the UK, and Anzures started designing flyers for various parties around town, often working out of the back of Groove Merchant. And then—in a pretty meteoric rise—ended up becoming the creative director for the bible of deeply-researched features about black music history and culture, Wax Poetics Magazine. 

All while he was still working full-time as a tech product designer in Cupertino, of course, because hey why not? “I was basically working a double life for 14 years, getting up at 4am  to work on Wax Poetics, and then going down to Cupertino for my other job,” Anzures said. He left Apple in February—which caused a bit of a stir in the design world—because he felt the culture had changed after Jobs’ death, and he was ready to move on. 

B+ photo of Hieroglyphics, on display at Family Affair as part of ‘Freaks of the Industry’

“I had absolutely no intention of opening a gallery or anything of that sort,” he said. But when the storefront next to Groove Merchant which formerly housed the plant store Cove opened up, he decided to take a chance. 

“I had always thought about doing something to continue to help support the record store and continue the culture of the neighborhood, and I was fortunate enough to have worked in the tech world to invest some funds. For me it was almost course correcting. Things kind of clicked in this new direction. I mean, I’ve never done this sort of thing before. I’m not hip to art galleries. But I am very sensitive to how tech has changed the city. And a lot of people naturally tend to be upset about that, but aren’t in a position to do anything about it. It becomes really frustrating.

“As a Filipino-American, I’m also really aware of the amount of people who look like me who have been forced to leave the city based on the tech stuff. Groove Merchant and Wax Poetics both feature music mostly by people of color. And the exodus has really just affected the fabric of the city in a way that what was once so common here, especially in the Lower Haight and the Fillmore, in terms of culture and music and just the way things look—it’s just really different. I want to do what I can to celebrate what was here and keep that spirit and community around this culture alive as much as I can.” (Family Affair has been distributing ‘Lower Hate’ window signs to local businesses and residents, as a counter to some of the country’s recent discriminatory policies.) 

Freddy Anzures

Opening and operating a gallery that doesn’t represent high-end artists is a risk, but Anzures says he’s enjoying learning about the business and starting something unique. He also told me about some incredible upcoming shows planned at Family Affair, although I’ve been sworn to secrecy. Let’s just say that he’s finding a way to meld old-school celebration with the contemporary indie scene, and keeping things colorful.

“Family Affair’s name came from the classic Sly and the Family Stone song,” Anzures said. “And music and art in the Bay Area is such a family business really, it takes everybody coming together and supporting each other to create so many legends and great music. I’m hoping we’re continuing that in this environment.”

FREAKS OF THE INDUSTRY: BAY AREA HIP-HOP SHOT BY B+
Through November 17
Family Affair, SF.
More info here.   

In ‘Parting Practice,’ greeting death with ritual and humor

When you die you won’t overthink things

When you die you won’t break any promises

When you die you won’t contribute to climate change

When you die you won’t be alone

And 

When you die you will be whole

When you die you will not care about getting likes

When you die you will stop fearing the unknown

When you will have everything you need

Those are both from Lindsay Tunkl’s hypnotic and meditative book, When You Die, You Will Not Be Scared to Die, which uses much-appreciated humor to reframe death as something offering release rather than something to struggle against.

Tunkl says she wrote these lists every day when working on the book, creating a kind of ritual for herself in response to her own fear of death. Rituals have power, she says. 

“We put energy into them and invest into them, like every morning you get up and have your coffee in this specific place,” she said. “It’s important around death and emotional work to carve out space and consistency.”

Tunkl, who also created a Pre-Apocalyspe Co-Counseling Handbook and a divination book and card deck, Origins & Endings, is doing a free workshop at Adobe Books focused on “coming to terms with mortality and embracing ourselves as future corpses.”

These workshops are part of her performance series, Parting Practice: Rituals for Endings and Failure, inviting participants to explore their fears and experiences of death, dying, and haunting. The workshop session “incorporate methods of psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, sound therapy, Buddhist meditation, somatic practices and humor as a tool for healing.”

Tunkl has done these both in groups and one-on-one, and she was looking for a place for another group one. A friend and someone who’d curated her work suggested Adobe Books. 

“I was trying to find spaces to do these kinds of workshops that don’t have kind of a sterile vibe,” Tunkl said. “Galleries can feel kind of white- wallish. I did a bookstore before, and it was cool.”

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Tunkl

It’s logistically a little harder to do this kind of thing with a group, Tunkl says. For example, the ghost meditation where she covers the participant with a sheet? She won’t be doing that. She plans to have some discussion in pairs and with the group and maybe going off individually to create rituals. 

And while group settings for immensely personal subject matter can take a lot of energy, Tunkl says, it’s totally worth doing. 

“The reason I’ve always wanted to make art is to be with another human and watch a new light turn on for them or them think about something in a new way,” she said. “It takes presence and investment, but the payback of getting to witness that is amazing.”

PARTING PRACTICE: RITUALS FOR ENDINGS AND FAILURE
Sat/3, 6pm-8pm
Adobe Books, San Francisco 
More information here.

You can also listen to Tunkl on some podcasts, including Expanding Mind with Erik Davis, where she talk about therapy as art, confronting death, humor and her book. 

She will also be on End-of-Life University with Karen M. Wyatt M.D, a hospice physician, talking about all aspects of end of life. Coming soon

Peaches Christ will scare your pants off with ‘Terror Vault’

Anything from the darkly hilarious mind of our very own drag Mistress of the Twisted, Peaches Christ, is worth a peek at—preferably through your shivering fingers. But when I heard she was taking over the Mint for a giant, immersive haunted house experience, I had to know more. Despite my mighty trepidations! 

Terror Vault” (through November 3), written by and starring Peaches, co-created with David Flower, and part of new production team Into the Night, brings Peaches’ trademark theatricality and love of classic spook-craft to the Mint’s basement vaults. It’s full of can’t-fail frights, but also some escape room delights, and all populated by local actors who you may recognize from previous Peaches productions—or not, since they’ve transformed into mutilated zombies, satanic nuns, toddler creeps, and more.

I spoke with Peaches about the excitement of haunting the Mint—and some of the terrifying secrets it holds. Beware! 

48 HILLS I love that this is a fully immersive narrative horror experience. The theatricality is so you! What were some of the influences you drew on for writing and creating the experience? 

PEACHES CHRIST Once I knew we were partnering with [venue management company] Non Plus Ultra and could actually stage the show at the old San Francisco Mint, I knew that the show had to be site-specific. The production value of The Mint itself is so incredible, especially the old vaults below, so I began researching the history of the building and discovered some creepy facts along the way that helped inspire the alternate history narrative for the show. I also really collaborated with David Flower, the co-creator, because even though I was writing the script and he was the production designer, we had to really be on the same page to know it could all be executed correctly. Once we’d come up with the concept that The Mint was once used as a secret prison, the influences really came from old horror movies and San Francisco history. 

48H Having your way with the Mint seems like a surreal dream—or a fabulous nightmare. Did you run into any ghosts while you were putting this together? 

PC That building is definitely haunted. I have no doubt about that. There were times I was there on a weekend and was assuming I was by myself, but would hear voices, doors would slam and when I would go to investigate I wouldn’t find anything. Most of us agree that the vaults are surprisingly the least active and it gets scarier the higher up you go. There’s an attic—it’s terrifying. 

Oh, Peaches.

48H You’re working with a crack team of ghouls and goblins both behind and in the scenes. Is this the team you’ve usually worked with? 

PC This is the first time I’ve partnered with David Flower: He’s a professional haunt producer I met in Provincetown about a year ago. And Non Plus Ultra activates otherwise shuttered buildings on behalf of the city. A big part of what they do is refurbish these spaces that would otherwise be closed, making them available for private rentals, as well as providing public-facing events and activities. So our partnership fit in perfectly with their charge. Once the three of us formed this new immersive theatre production company called “Into The Dark,” we knew our first project had to be a Halloween offering. For “Terror Vault”, we were able to hire many of my regular crew members, casts, and artists to help create the attraction. Most of them are now simultaneously getting started on the work for “Troop Beverly Heels”—our next big Castro Theatre show starring Trixie Mattel happening Nov. 17th. I hope that shameless plug felt natural!

48H I know you can’t give away too much, but how would you describe the wild ride of Terror Vault? What makes it unique from anything we’ve seen before? I’ve heard there’s some of your signature satanic flirtations… 

PC Well, I think the biggest thing that makes it unique to me is that the audience becomes fully engaged in the story. Unlike some other haunts where you passively make your way through while things jump out at you and scenes happen, this is a story and the story is about a tour group attending a “Spooky Mint Tour” wherein things go horribly wrong and all hell breaks loose. As characters in this story you are engaged to make decisions, take action, and be involved while you try to survive. And yes, of course, it’s all highly Satanic!

TERROR VAULT
Through November 3
The Mint, SF.
Tickets and more info here

Transgender rights battle continues, on Trump’s rocky ground

Kris Hayashi

When Kris Hayashi was executive director of the Audre Lorde Project in New York City, a community organizing center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, Two Spirit, trans, and gender-nonconforming people of color, the organization launched one of the first advocacy projects in the country of its kind, the annual NYC Trans Day of Action, now in its 11th year. During Hayashi’s tenure, the organization also won a campaign to get the city’s welfare agency to adopt policies developed by the community on serving trans and gender nonconforming people. 

Hayashi, now the executive director of the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, has been an organizer and an activist for about 20 years. He wants to acknowledge the gains made, while finding ways to make more progress in the face of intense violence and discrimination. 

Hayashi’s seen a lot of changes, some good and some terrible, particularly in the last few years. 

Let’s start with the good. The gains include a case that the Transgender Law Center was involved in that resulted in protection from employment discrimination. In recent years, there have been cases affirming the rights of transgender students. And California is one of the first states to pass laws protecting health insurance for transgender people. Transgender people are also more prominent in pop culture—no small thing. 

“There have been wins at the legal and policy level as well as an increase in visibility,” Hayashi said. “Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have written books that are on the bestsellers list.”

Although there are more protections in terms of law and policy, discrimination, and harassment against transgender people remain at horrifying levels. 

“The majority of trans people in this country are still struggling to survive on a daily basis,” Hayashi said. “They have four times the poverty, and 80 percent experience harassment. In K-12 schools, one sixth of the students are pushed out of school because of it.”

At Uncharted, The Berkeley Festival of Ideas this weekend, Hayashi will be talking with John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, about what gains have been made and how to keep making progress in such a repressive environment. 

“Ever since Trump was elected, it’s very clear there’s a relentless and strategic attempt to roll back the few rights and protections we have,” Hayashi said. “One of the first things Trump did was roll out the ban on transgender people in the military. Then one of the banned words at the Centers for Disease Control included ‘transgender.’ Transgender immigrants fleeing violence continue to face violence here. About one out of 500 detainees is transgender, but about one in five assaults are on trans people.”

Transgender leaders are organizing and fighting, Hayashi says. They’re not doing it alone. 

“We’ve been in this moment of being under intense attack, and we have powerful leaders and communities resisting,” he said. “We also have allies and people not part of the community who want to support us. We were flooded after Trump was elected with people who wanted to volunteer. I do have a lot of hope and see a lot of possibilities, and with our allies, we’re going to push back and resist and do whatever we can.”

“THE TRANSGENDER RIGHTS BATTLE WITH KRIS HAYASHI” 
Fri/5, 2pm
Roda Theatre, Berkeley Rep
Tickets and more info here

Doormat Division, Week 4

Editors note: Our correspondent Erik Walker does the only thing appropriate to the NFL these days: Makes fun of a league in shambles.

RAIDERS 45,  BROWNS 42 (OT)

In a pregame full of fear and potential loathing, with the specter of losing to the Browns dangling over Mark Davis’ hideous hairdo, the Raiders and Browns put on a game of free-wheeling huge plays (could that be bad defense? Oh, come come!), bonehead mistakes, dropped balls, interceptions, fumbles and everything that should make for a fan crushing display of ineptitude, and turned it into the most entertaining game of the season.

If that’s Doormat Division play, then I’m all for it. New Brownie savior Baker Mayfield did his part, turning the ball over four times (though 1 interception and 1 fumble were not his fault), with a pick-six for the first score, but also pulling off plays of almost hilarious daring and speed. The Browns have a real QB.  Until just this moment the Browns have been like most rock bands — terrible lead singers.  After a while you just give up and go with whoever can stand in front of a mic and scream (or mumble), and maybe remember lyrics.  Just filling space, and always opening first on a bill with seven bands. The punk days, bless them, were Doormat Gold.  If you had a good singer, nobody trusted you.  So Baker Mayfield looks like a young Pavarotti right now… just ignore the low trajectory on the passes, shhhh. 

Raider QB Derek Carr responded with two interceptions of his own, and hurled 58 passes.  There were three runs over 40 yards, two for TDs, multiple big yardage pass plays.  It was like the old AFL. 

The teams still got off 13 punts, and how you score 87 total points when you keep bailing, well, you gotta have just the right combo of good and bad. These teams have it. For one day, and 38 total possessions. That’s an average of holding onto the ball for only 1:57 for each possession. 

The Browns really appeared to be robbed of a first down when Carlos Hyde’s knee touched down just shy of the marker (sure didn’t look like it to us!) at the end of regulation.  They would have run out the clock and won.  Las Vegas called the replay booth or something, there. Good grief.  The Raiders then scored the tying TD and two-point conversion.  TVs all over Cleveland are still stuck in freeze-frame on that spot of the ball.

Skinny rookie Raider kicker Matt McCrane, one of a chorus line of kickers rotating around the league right now, who missed twice when kicking from the 2nd base bag earlier, chipped in the last FG late in the OT to hang the win on Raiders, now 1-3 and no longer perfect. Browns return to having a losing record, and everyone can relax a little bit.

It is now proven that, despite having Brent Musberger as their new radio play-by-play man, the Raiders can win a football game.  I cannot tell you how off-putting and completely wrong it is to have ol’ Brent as the Raiders announcer.  So, utterly, totally WEIRD.

Let’s have a look at the standings:

DOORMAT DIVISION WEEK 4

 

NFC            W-L        PF      PA      DIFF

 

Arizona        0-4          37        94     -57

NY Giants    1-3          73       95      -22

Detroit         1-3           94       114    -20

Santa Clara   1-3         100      118   -18

Atlanta         1-3         116      122    -6

 

AFC            W-L        PF        PA     DIFF

 

Buffalo         1-3          50        106   -56

Oakland        1-3          97       123     -26

Houston        1-3          96       108    -12

Indy              1-3          94        100     -6

NY Jets         1-3          89         89        0

Pittsburgh     1-2-1      102      116     -14

Cleveland     1-2-1      102      104     -2

 

Lotta losing going on, here, something’s gotta give. 

 

THE GAMES

CARDINALS 17,  SEAHAWKS 20

It took everything they had, including shanking a winning FG with 1:50 left, but perseverance pays off.  The Cardinals lost a game they were in deep danger of winning, going right down to 0:00 to fall to the Seahags.  Let’s face it — the Crudinals wanted it more.  Last 0-fer team left in the league.  Cards engaging in too many close scores.  They need a blow-out loss.  Let’s see what they can dial up next week in Santa Clara. 

 

BILLS 0, PACKERS 22

The Bills have clearly righted the ship, and wiped the memory of that bizarre victory over the Vikes last week from the collective memory: 11 first downs, three turnovers, 87 passing yards, 8 punts, 7 sacks.  Wow. Only three penalties, but when you are just refusing to do anything, it’s hard to get penalties.  Still the early favorite to take the AFC.

49ers 25, CHARGERS 27

His name isn’t BeatHard for nothing.  SF QB C.J. Beathard takes another shellacking, with LT Joe Staley having to leave the game, but doesn’t seem fazed, as the Whiners barely escape Los Angeles with the loss. Neither team seemed sure about winning the game, but, ultimately, the worst kicker on the field kicked the winning field goal.  San Diego kicker Caleb Sturgis missed TWO extra points, but scraped in three out of four field goal tries, and juuuuust saved his job, and didn’t have to go back to the high-kicking unemployment chorus line.

DOLPHINS 7, PATRIOTS 38

The worst 3-0 team in the NFL met up with reality yesterday, and took their usual beat-down from the Patriots, who, for one week, returned to being the best team in the AFC East.  Which isn’t hard to do, when your competition is the Nyets, the Nils, and the Floppers. Woulda been a goose-egg, but the Patriots started playing fans from the stands (only ones with the best costumes!) late in the 4th and the Floppers got a pointless touchdown and 5 phony first downs on their last drive.  They had only SIX first downs until that tortured crawl down the carpet.  I hate when stats get skewed like that.

GIANTS 18, SAINTS 33

The Gnats score first.  And then pretty much stopped.  1-3 and right behind the Cards in the standings.  Still, NY fans (not the Mets fans) can just ignore all this until the Wednesday Wild Card game is over.  Football?

COLTS 34, TEXANS 37 (OT)

They gave the Colts multiple chances to win, but to no avail.  Another wild Doormat game goes in the books, and the Toxins have to take a win.  A total of 944 yards, 20 penalties, 11 sacks, two lost fumbles. 

Gotta love those porous defenses when they meet up. 

STEELERS 14, RAVENS 26

Our commissioner called on the red phone around 6:00 last night, and notified us that the Steelers were on the top step of the Basement stairs, an extremely rickety construction, and gingerly taking the next step down.  We could hear the tattered hulk of Big Ben looming up there, in the dark (the light burned out three years ago), fumbling with the light switch, hoping for some vision. The Shower Curtain?  The Reelers? 

BUCS  10, BEARS 48

The Bucs have not just come down to earth, they went under a steam roller yesterday.  It was 38-3 by halftime, it was so efficient.  The Bucs yank Fitzpatrick as daBears keep dynamiting every team they play, throw in Jameis Winston, and he delivers with a couple interceptions.  But…the Bears!  QB Michael Trubisky throws 6 TD passes, almost tying HOF Bear god Sid Luckman for most ever (7) in a game.  Bears are exiting the Basement.

Remember last year and ‘Orange You Bad’?  Our Orange teams this year have turned it around: Bears 3-1,  Bengals 3-1, Broncos 2-1 (not after tonight), Miami 3-1, and Cleveland 1-2-1. 

JETS 10,  JAGS 31

Jets QB Sam Darnold may well be the QB of the future, but, right now, he’s the QB of a Doormat contender.  Keep an eye on the Jets.  I don’t know if you should WATCH them, but…

FALCONS 36, BENGALS 37

Anotherwild game, and though they don’t play like it, the Falcons just keep on losing.  1-3 and who knows what wheels will come off in the next couple weeks.

Next week will clear out the standings, for sure. 

aaaAAAAAAnd That’s the View From the Basement!!!!!

‘Uncharted’ fills Berkeley with adventurous voices

Helena Brantley and Lance Knobel of 'Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas.'' Photo by Kelly Sullivan

Lance Knobel, co-founder of online news site Berkeleyside, and Helena Brantley, of Red Pencil Publicity and Marketing, sat down together in January to start talking about what kinds of conversations they wanted at this weekend’s Uncharted, The Berkeley Festival of Ideas (Fri/5 and Sat/6). Some things they knew for sure—they wanted a diverse audience, and to host conversations covering race and gender. And they looked for intersectional pairings and conversations, like putting a Rutgers professor of Women and Gender Studies professor, the author of Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, together with a male San Francisco Chronicle columnist.  

“There’s a whole conversation around #MeToo, and we wanted to make it more interesting,” Brantley said of the combination. “So we paired Brittney Cooper with Otis Taylor Jr,” an African American writer who covers Oakland issues for the paper.

Brantley also mentioned Kate Schatz, a founder of Solidarity Sundays and the author of the beloved Rad Women series, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl. In their latest book, Rad Girls Can, they feature teen activist Eva Lewis, who co-founded Chicago activist organization Youth for Black Lives. In 2016, the group led a protest against police violence that drew more than 1,000 people.

“We wanted someone who could talk about gun control from a young adult perspective,” Brantley said. “Eva Lewis, who was in Rad Girls Can and did a TED Talk and she knows people affected by gun violence—her friends and family. She talks about feeling like you’re in a fishbowl full of dirty water. Eva is now at the University of Pennsylvania, and talking with Kate, she could go beyond what’s mentioned in the book and tell the story of her own journey.”

Chicago teen activist Eva Lewis comes to ‘Uncharted.’ Photo by Michael Brandt

Knobel, who founded the festival in 2013 and started working with Brantley as a co-curator last year, said he’s particularly looking forward to talking with political scientist and longtime Washington observer Thomas E. Mann, co-author of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, in a discussion titled “Maybe the Constitution is the Problem.” 

“Now we’re all goggle-eyed at what’s happening, but in 2012—light years ago in our current political climate—he and Norm Ornstein, dared to say the unsayable and they wrote It’s Even Worse Than It Looks about what was wrong was Republican party, that they were getting so far extreme and doctrinaire,” Knobel said. “They had been Washington insiders and always on cable shows, but that was published, and they became non-persons. Now everyone recognizes our current situation is not something that happened in 2016—there’s been a long series of developments.”

Brantley says she and Knobel are constantly sharing ideas, through Slack, email, texts, and in person. When Brantley saw USC Professor of Clinical Business Communication Dr. Sharoni Little at the Los Angeles Book Festival, she immediately texted Knobel, saying she wanted her to be part of Unchartered. Little will be in a conversation with Kamar O’Guinn, manager of the African American Success Project at Berkley Unified to talk about effective strategies for dealing with the achievement gap.

The festival also includes a Salvadoran-American poet, a Science Slam,and discussions of marginalized history, creating vibrant neighborhoods, and hip-hop in America. 

Chef Cal Peternell of Chez Panisse

Knobel says he’s looking forward to something new this year: “Labs,” which are only open to 50 participants. One will be on cannabis and wellness, another on managing wealth from a mindfulness perspective, and in the third, Cal Peternell, who was a long-time chef at Chez Panisse, will lead people to the farmer’s market followed by a cooking demonstration. 

He’s sure about one thing, Knobel says: his favorite thing about the festival will be something unexpected. 

“I am certain that the most interesting thing will be something that I have no idea what it is yet,” he said. “It happens every year. We wouldn’t program things if we didn’t expect them to be good, of course, but there are always one or two things that surprise me.”

UNCHARTED, THE BERKELEY IDEAS FESTIVAL
Fri/5 and Sat/6
Berkeley Repertory Theater and the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
Tickets and more info here

Art Haus brings playa magic to Symphony’s ‘Rite of Spring’

Art Haus performing 'The Rite of Spring' at Burning Man, 2017. Photo by Tomas Loewy

With its driving, swooning rhythms and primal energies, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring remains one of the “bad boy” pieces of the symphonic repertoire—even if its shock value has faded since its notorious 1913 debut, accompanying a Ballets Russes performance choreographed by Nijinsky, drove the audience of the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Élysées into a near-riot. 

Still, the piece retains an otherworldly beauty far ahead of its time, an emblem of riotous, neo-pagan spirit that continues to influence choreographers and artists. SF Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is fantastic when it comes to interpreting Stravinsky (as was his mentor Leonard Bernstein): I’ve only ever heard Tilson Thomas take on the great composer’s later, mannered-yet-momentous Neo-Classical period, so it will be a treat to hear him get wild with The Rite, paired with 1911’s Petrushka Thu/27-Sun/30 as part of the SF Symphony’s “Rebellious Beauty” Stravinsky festival.

Attendees will witness another musical treat—with accompanying performances and visuals—as Burning Man collective Art Haus takes over the Davies Hall lobby for a 90-minute pre-show extravaganza, which brings the Burning Man aesthetic to the sleek and rarified air of the symphony hall. While I can’t give away too much about the pre-show, I can say it will include contortionists, dancers, musicians in their dusted-off playa-wear, and plenty of surprises. (Alas, fire-twirlers, as well as an appearance by a giant gay sheep, were ruled out early.)  

Art Haus made major waves with its debut on Burning Man’s playa in 2017, assembling an orchestra, dance troupe, and visual artists to perform The Rite of Spring under the giant incandescent Tree of Ténéré. That performance—conceived by Art Haus co-founders Courtney Wise and Robert Dekkers (who also choreographed) and conducted by Brad Hogarth—drew more than 10,000 people, and a photograph of it by Tomas Loewy was featured at the Smithsonian as part of a Burning Man exhibit. 

“Rite of Spring seemed so appropriate for Burning Man, since both of them connect with people on a tribal level,” Wise, a Burning Man veteran, told me. “The theme in 2017 was Radical Ritual, which couldn’t describe the ballet any better.” With costumes by Christian Squires, sound and lighting design by the Robot Heart camp, special programming of the Tree of Ténéré’s 25,000 LED lights, and more, it was a communal effort that became a legendary spectacle.     

“When I got back from the Burn in 2016, I had this vision of ballet dancers in the dust, which seemed so beautiful,” Wise said. “I wondered, what would they dance to, what ballet would go with Burning Man? Rite of Spring was the obvious pairing. In January, I got Robert onboard with the idea to choreograph, and he said even if we got only got 10 people interested, we should do it, because it had so much possibility.”

Soon Wise also secured the talents of Hogarth and his musical-director wife Jeannie Psomas. Hogarth is a professor of music at San Francisco State and fills in at the SF Symphony as a trumpet player, and Psomas has played clarinet with the symphony and teaches as well. All three—Wise is a flutist—met as students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Other symphony members and associates joined in, as well as players from around the world, to make an orchestra of 35. “A lot of people volunteered, but when they saw the score, they gracefully bowed out,” said Wise with a laugh.

In his choreography for the Rite, which concerns pagan ritual sacrifice, Dekkers tinkered with the gender roles: this time instead of a group of tribesmen sacrificing virginal women, it was the other way round. Dekkers told the Chronicle at the time that he “imagined a planet with an insect-like environment, conjured with skittering movements, broken angles, spidery lines, the infestation of the men as they come in to be sacrificed.”

Wise said the Rite was also appropriate for Burning Man because first-timers—including conductor Hogarth in 2017—are called “virgins,” and traditionally have to lay down and make dust angels on the playa as a symbolic ritual. Hogarth added, “Burning Man is all about existing in a different community and making beauty out of this barren landscape. And I think Rite of Spring does that. It’s a very intense, raw piece, and it’s maintained that intensity for more than a century.” 

The performance sparked an outpouring of interest. “We had no idea that it was going to be as big as it was, but word really got out,” Wise said. She credits the participation of other Burning Man camps for some of the popularity, but also the allure of the idea. “Suddenly everyone heard there was going to be a ballet under the Tree of Ténéré, and we couldn’t keep people away. We didn’t really have a concept of crowd control.” 

“Some of the drone footage of the crowd that year was overwhelming,” Hogarth said. “And here we were thinking, it’s so far out there, what if nobody comes! Later, people told us what a breath of fresh air it was. We started getting recognized around the playa, which was pretty mind-blowing.” 

Art Haus’ 2018 performance ‘We, Human.’ Photo by Hummingbird

Art Haus’ 2017 success inspired them to return in 2018—”This year we were much better about the crowds; we had megaphones and caution tape, and secured a perimeter,” Wise said with a laugh. And, to match Burning Man theme I, Robot, Dekkers choreographed a piece to Steve Reich’s “Eight Lines” called “We, Human,” which incorporated giant puppets and futuristic costumes, performed beneath a humungous 80-foot-diameter, 35-ton reflective orb.

Art Haus performed Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, too, set at a huge Baba Yaga house on chicken feet with interactive robotic sheep, and, fabulously, a sunrise rendition of Terry Riley’s intensely collaborative “In C.” “We really want to continue to pair music with an experience that activates all the senses,” Hogarth said. “Not just visual, not just sonic, but something that really embraces the visceral moments you can have at Burning Man.”      

In January this year, Art Haus approached The SF Symphony to see if they could work together, and was told about the upcoming Stravinsky festival. “It was perfect,” Wise said, “because we could bring some of our experiences, some of our playa magic, back to the default world. I think that’s so relevant to San Francisco right now, because there are so many burners here, and there’s so much love of the collaborative arts. It felt like us coming together with the Symphony would be the right way to celebrate Stravinsky.”

In the lobby this weekend, Art Haus will be performing to pieces that were either inspired by Stravinsky—like “Syrinx,” Claude Debussy’s piece for solo flute, that will accompany a contortionist—or that inspired Stravinsky himself. The Art Haus players will be wearing their playa costumes, albeit dusted off a bit. And there are many surprises in store.

“At Burning Man, we really like the idea that through Art Haus we’re bringing classical music that people might not normally encounter, serious pieces, to an audience that can appreciate it in that specific context and then may be like, OK I get it now. And maybe they’ll follow that new interest to the San Francisco Symphony,” Wise said. 

“Now, with this pre-show, we’re doing the reverse of that,” Wise said, “bringing the spirit of Burning Man to the symphony. Hopefully that will bring a different perspective to what they may think of Burning Man. There are some negative connotations about what’s out there, or people may not know what it is. But we want to show that there is real art and music happening, and we’re real artists.”

Hogarth said, “One of the great things about Burning Man is that you can just wander and have accidental amazing experiences. The way we’re setting up the pre-show is similar to that. We’re going to have dancers and musicians scattered around, and for people who don’t know what to expect, or don’t even know what’s happening, there will be this element of wonderful surprise.”

REBELLIOUS BEAUTY: THE RITE OF SPRING
Through Sun/30
Art Haus performs for 90 minutes before show. 
Davies Symphony Hall, SF. 
More info here

A window on the latest leather looks for Folsom

From Sui Generis' 2018 window display, entitled 'Leather & Lace'

Like Macy’s holiday windows, Tom and Jerry’s giant Christmas toy house, or the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s humongous Easter hats, you know an only-in-San Francisco celebration is just around the corner when vintage and contemporary consignment clothing store Sui Generis sets up its annual Folsom Street Fair window displays.

Founded by Miguel Lopez and Gabriel Yanez a dozen years ago, and currently comprised of a mens’ store in the Castro and a women’s store in Cow Hollow, Sui Generis is pretty much the go-to for anyone who recognizes good couture but exists on a city-survival budget. (I read fashion show reviews religiously, but I’ve only ever touched the work of some of the designers at Sui.)

This year’s “Leather & Lace” themed windows

The notorious Folsom windows have been part of the leather extravaganza experience for almost as long as Sui Generis’ presence in the Castro, and the angle, with different themes each year, is always a fresh look at the often slightly fatigued ensembles that come together for leather week. (Fetishwear is a tradition, of course, and the clone look has its purposes, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a little flair!) 

From 2014: ‘My Fetish Library’

For the last eight years, the Castro store has been pairing its window unveilings—this year has a “leather & lace” theme, for those in touch with their masc and their femme sides—with a Folsom kickoff party called Pegasus (Fri/28, 7pm), drawing a lively crowd for shopping, sipping champagne, and swaying to one of my favorite DJs, Rich King.  

From 2012: Fashion Stable

I spoke with owner Lopez about his window inspiration, his party, and how to look great for the fair and all its satellite affairs. 

From 2016: Fashion Bondage

48 HILLS How long have you been doing the Folsom-themed windows—and what inspiration do you use when coming up with them?

MIGUEL LOPEZ We’ve been doing Folsom-themed windows since our first year anniversary back in 2007, at our first store on Church Street. (Our mens’ store is now at 2231 Market St in the Castro.) We try to take different approaches to different fetishes, usually picking a theme and mixing it with fashion pieces from our store, trying to give it a different twist.

In the last few years we’ve been collaborating with Mr. S, mixing in their gear (bondage, latex, neoprene, etc.) with our fashions. Thanks [Mr. S. store manager] Santiago!

Fro 2013: ‘Hiking in Bondage’

48H Leather and fetishwear can be expensive—but not many people think it can also be stylish, beyond the traditional looks. What are some tips on how people can mix leather-sexy with their individual style?

ML We believe that giving a personal take on your leather attire will make a more special and memorable outfit. You can mix styles, like black tie gala-wear with a leather corset instead of a cummerbund, or your leather braces and restraining cuffs with your tuxedo shirt, etc… or just wear a jockstrap underneath, if you are feeling naughty.

From 2011: ‘Restrained Style’

48H How about creating a chic leather look that doesn’t cost too much? 

ML Go vintage and secondhand shopping: You can find unique clothing and accessories that already have some mileage, which in our opinion looks much better that something shining new. 

If you want new pieces, Mr. S is a great option, sign for their mailing list for special events/promotions, don’t be afraid to spend on these pieces, think of them as an investment, in yourself and your community.

From 2010: ‘Fashion Pollution”

48H What designer pieces have come through the store that have been particularly good for Folsom?

ML For designer pieces, the ones that usually give things an edge and are not afraid of using/referencing S&M inspirations include names like Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Givenchy, Comme des Garcons, Gianni Versace, Moschino, and Raf Simons.

Right now we are suggesting to mix leather looks with softer fabrics like silk, lace, tulle, etc. In the past weeks we were lucky enough that people were consigning some lace shirts and tops as well some unique items like this, from Junya Watanabe:

48H What do you have planned for the Pegasus party this year?

ML This Friday at 7pm we’ll mix leather and style with our eighth annual party. It’s always an easy way to get into this weekend; it’s a social meet-and-greet kind of event; friends and clients bring their friends visiting from out of town to meet other locals, as well to introduce them to Sui Generis. A common line with our guests is that they share the love for fashion: Style and leather can go a long way for sure.

From 2015: Fashion Alley

SUI GENERIS: PEGASUS 8
Fri/28, 7pm, free
Sui Generis, SF
More info here

Very 2008: “Go Getters” theme

A night market bursting with flavor at Asian Art Museum

Chef Tu David Phu

Chef Tu David Phu had just one requirement for the dozen chefs joining him at the Chef’s Hawker Centre Festival at the Asian Art Museum on Thu/19: Make something you can eat with your hands. 

“A knish is one of the greatest things because it comes in its own package,” he said. “Baos and pitas and falafels—there’s true genius there.”

Phu, a Top Chef contestant who cooked at fancy Bay Area restaurants like Acquelllero, Quince, and Chez Panisse, started doing pop ups about three years ago. He made the food he ate growing up. 

“I just wanted to cook my mother’s food—that’s what I knew to be the most delicious,” he said. “I was formally trained in French and Italian cuisine and I did it well, but for me it wasn’t excellent. My family is from Phu Quoc, a southern island of Vietnam and we love bitters, specifically from herbs, and that’s what I cherish and love. That’s kind of the polar opposite of what I was doing.”

About a year ago, Phu started holding night markets around the country since he and his chef friends thought some of the best food and dining experiences were ones they’d had at these types of Asian outdoor markets.

“They predated restaurants for centuries—it’s a community center, inside or outside- usually outside, and most people just make one thing. You sit at communal tables and break bread with everyone around you,” he said. “I fell in love with that again mainly because of the political times we’re in. I didn’t want to be cooking in a very elitist restaurant. Most of my friends couldn’t really afford to eat there. My parents couldn’t afford to eat there.”

Chef Preeti Mistry

Phu met Silvia Chang, who works in public programs at the Asian Art Museum and has been organizing the Tasting Menu events at the museum on Thursday nights. Together, Phu and Chang worked on putting together this event with food, drinks and music with a line up of Bay Area cooking superstars like Francis Ang of Pinoy Heritage, Reem Assil of Reem’s California, and Preeti Minstry of the recently closed Navi Kitchen and author of The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook. Deuki Hong, beloved for his fried chicken and now chef at the cafe at the Asian Art Museum, Sunday at the Museum, (taking it over recently with lots of fanfare and attention from media, including the New York Times) will be making a dessert, toasted rice soft serve with honey butter crumble and Misugaru dust.

The dish he’ll be making, Bún Nhâm Hà Tiên, is a childhood favorite, Phu said, with rice noodles, shrimp powder, coconut milk and fish sauce. 

“These are humble ingredients – in essence, it’s a peasant dish,” he said. “Those are the types of dishes I take pride in learning the most. They were created out of necessity to feed and to care.” 

All the proceeds from the event will go to the museum, which Phu says does a great service. 

“They share all this knowledge about the culture and history of Asia that a lot of people don’t have access to, and I want to empower institutions like that,” he said. “My parents went through two wars- with the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam War, and I had to learn about it through food. The Asian attempts to teach people about these cultures. I’m a chef, so I do it through food, and they do it through art.”

CHEF’S HAWKER CENTRE FESTIVAL
Thu/19, 7pm-10pm
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
Tickets and more info here

The man behind The Man: Larry Harvey, 1948-2018

Larry Harvey. Photo via WikiCommons

The death of Larry Harvey was a major loss for the Burning Man culture that started in San Francisco and spread around the world. Larry did more than just found a popular festival, he was a philosopher king who translated communitarian ideals and Enlightenment values into the modern era, inspiring new generations to creative expression and communal effort.

“He changed my life,” has been a common reaction in online forums and private gatherings since Larry died on the morning of April 28 at the age of 70, and in the preceding three weeks since he had a massive stroke in his home on Alamo Square. “Burning Man changed my life.”

Sure, that might sound cliché, and even trigger some eye-rolls among the critics of Burning Man, but there’s a good reason why people keep saying it. Because it’s true for thousands of people. Larry and the culture he cultivated did change people’s lives.

In a country dominated by consumerism and conventionality, Larry created an enduring space and culture that encouraged creative expression, communal effort, egalitarian social structures, decommodification, art, self-reliance, and self-invention—and burners took those values and experiences back into their communities.

Larry always said that he didn’t invent the countercultural values he later enshrined in the 10 Principles of Burning Man, but he gave voice to them and created a lasting forum where they could be practiced, in Black Rock City every August and in regional events around the world.

It’s also true that Larry didn’t create Burning Man on his own. Jerry James helped him build the original man they burned on Baker Beach on Summer Solstice 1986. John Law, Michael Mikel and the Cacophony Society—which had helped promote the event in San Francisco—brought it to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 1990 after authorities stopped the Baker Beach burn. Countless others made key contributions along the way.

But it was Larry who had the vision for Burning Man as we know it: a temporary city on a wide-open canvas encouraging creative contributions from every citizen, laid out on a circular grid where bikes and mutant vehicles (aka registered art cars) are the only modes of transportation, and the economy is gift-based, with no monetary commerce allowed.

Larry has always chosen the annual art theme and written the essay that describes it, drawing ideas and musings from great thinkers from throughout the ages. He was an autodidact, extremely well-read for an iconoclast who never completed college, whose mind was always playing with the possibilities of new paradigms and ideas.

By design, Black Rock City is built almost entirely by its attendees. The Burning Man organization provides only the event permit, minimal civic infrastructure (laying out and watering the streets, selling ice, maintaining porta-potties, security and medical services, some art grants and support services, and building and burning the Man), and cleanup beyond the well-established “Leave No Trace” practices of participants.

That structure has periodically created concerns over the years, erupting in controversies over control and collaboration with some regularity. I met Larry at the end of 2004 while working as the city editor for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. A group of notable San Francisco artists and burners took out a full-page ad in my newspaper saying they “feel that this event which we made great has gotten away from us and we would like it back.”

I wrote a cover story about the controversy and what Burning Man has become, which I followed up with a year-long series looking at various aspects of the event. After Larry’s death, I reviewed a pair of long interviews that I did with him in December 2014 and September 2015, when he talked about his vision and the backlash to it.

“We’re the first scene that went civic,” Larry said at that first interview. “Instead of falling apart we instituted civic ethics. We said it’s a city and anyone can come…We actually had become a kind of municipality and that rubs some people wrong.”

He said many of the burner rebels still wanted Burning Man to be an exclusive gathering for the freaks and cool kids, but he wanted it to spread the values he valued more widely.

“We sometimes pay the price for being regarded as utopian. When people look at you that way, anything less is a perfidious sign,” Larry said. “What they’re really afraid of is that the event will become inauthentic. And if you think further: Can you maintain the sense of community at that magnitude?”

By the end of that summer, after a Burning Man event that he said was the best ever, Larry felt vindicated and excited that the event and culture he created was finally on a trajectory toward greater societal influence and relevance.

“The group that came this year was a bit more noble in their intentions than any I’ve ever seen in a city this size. They’ve absorbed the idea of participation,” Larry said. “I thought we’ve come through. This is the revolution I’d hoped for all along… It makes me want to try to find ways to help translate it into the larger culture.”

Larry disputed the idea that Burning Man was countercultural, which he considered oppositional and actively antagonist. “They didn’t want to reform society, they simply wanted to be apart from it.

“There was this ‘fuck Burning Man’ attitude. We got larger so they identified us with the mainstream… Yet we saw before our eyes it transform into something else,” Larry said. “What came out of it is not countercultural. And I think that shows that Burning Man isn’t countercultural, but it’s culture.”

And that culture reflected the unique urban culture that developed in the city of its birth, San Francisco, as it was shaped by significant art and social movements over the second half of the 20th century and in earlier eras.

“San Francisco has always been a place apart and a center of eccentric and independent thinkers and what we started here I don’t think could have grown up anywhere else,” Larry said.You can create a social context in which culture can be created, but you can’t directly create the culture… I’ve always said it depended on our ability to create genuine cultural vitality.

“You can’t predict what people will do,” he said, “but people will do things that will resonate.”

As interesting new developments kept unfolding in the Burning Man culture—including the creation of Burners Without Borders in response to Hurricane Katrina, a legal battle with Law and Mikel over ownership of Burning Man trademarks, the 2007 arson attack on The Man and resulting prison sentence of Paul Addis, and controversies involved in the conversion of Burning Man from an LLC to nonprofit – I kept covering Burning Man for the Bay Guardian and eventually turned that reporting work into my book, The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture.

While I’ve had my own conflicts with Larry over the years as I reported on some of the controversies in the Burning Man world, I always admired his vision and enjoyed talking with him. He had a real passion for ideas and enjoyed the art of conversation. But most important, he had a grand vision and the drive to pursue it through whatever obstacles arose.

Burning Man will go on without Larry Harvey. That was the whole idea, one reinforced by its conversion into a nonprofit. But his legacy will live on through the event and through the countless projects and ideas generated by the people whose lives were changed by Burning Man.

The Man will burn as scheduled on Sept. 1. And the man behind The Man will be reflected in the flames and born anew in its ashes, again and again.