Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekender: The Next Three Days in the East Bay

By Ellen Cushing
Fri, Feb 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM

Plan the next 72 hours of your life, with help from our esteemed critics. Below, the five events you shouldn't miss this weekend:

Chromeo

Chromeo
  • Chromeo
The third-wave electro music revival, which launched in earnest about two years ago, indicates a rather remarkable shift in consumer taste. Where once we demanded heavy hip-hop bass and snare we now want more treble — in the form of 808 synthesizers and talk boxes. We want to bob our heads and dance the robot, rather than grind our hips and do the freak. Maybe it’s a desire for primitive instrumentation, or a revolt against rap machismo, or a sign that geeks have finally overtaken pop culture. Whatever the case, bands quickly latched onto the trend, with varying degrees of success. One of the best is Chromeo, an electro-funk duo from Montreal that employs guitar, synth, and talk box to create a sound that’s both nostalgia-based and futuristic. Between Patrick Gemayal’s blobby synths and David Macklovitch’s unctuous vocals, they make a terrific pair. Chromeo’s single, “Don’t Turn the Lights On,” could have easily been a hit thirty years ago, but it still sounds current. At the Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) on Friday, Feb. 18. 8 p.m., $25. MNDR and The Suzan open. APEConcerts.com — Rachel Swan

Chris Smither
Chris Smither is a product of the same late ’60s-early ’70s Cambridge folk scene that spawned friend and admirer Bonnie Raitt, who made Smither’s “Love Me Like a Man” a staple of her own canon. Not unlike John Hammond, Jr., Smithers had always treated the acoustic blues of Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and Fred McDowell as a muse. Over the years, the Florida-born singer-songwriter has earned a reputation as an overlooked fingerpicking master, with a flair for penning Dylanesque originals. Smither’s most recent studio album, 2009’s Time Stands Still, finds him once again pulling together a mix of weighty narratives and a clutch of stellar covers. The sixty-four year old troubadour will be trotting out recent interpretations of Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler along with his own sturdy songbook on Friday, Feb. 18 at the Freight & Salvage Coffehouse (2020 Addison St., Berkeley) 8 p.m. $24.50, $26.50. TheFreight.org — Dave Gil de Rubio

The Grapes of Wrath
The latest iteration of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which opened last week at TheatreFIRST in Oakland, is unquestionably a Jon Tracy production. Though it's faithful to the original stage adaptation by playwright Frank Galati, this Grapes includes several Tracyian flourishes. Characters beatbox, bang set pieces with sticks, and enhance the narrative with ensemble versions of current pop songs (culled from the likes of Kanye West, The White Stripes, and Radiohead). Moreover, the setup is high-concept, skeletal, and low-tech, reminiscent of the design Tracy used for Of the Earth in December. (That one included a lightbulb that doubled as a Cyclops.) In this case, a bed frame functions alternately as a doorway and as the Joads' jalopy, while a primrose has dense metaphorical significance - it's uprooted right as the Joads leave their home in Oklahoma and head out west. Set designer Martin Flynn helped Tracy achieve this vision. Ryan Tasker gives a swift, careful performance, switching hats to play Pa Joad and Uncle John. Michael Barrett Austin is persuasive as preacher-turned-labor-organizer Jim Casy. Through February 20 at Marion E. Greene Black Box Theatre (531 19th St., Oakland). $25-$30. 510-436-5085 or TheatreFirst.com. — R.S.

SF Beer Week Closing Party
Over the past several days, San Francisco Beer Week has brought to the Bay Area an all-out celebration of craft beer in all its frothy, artisanal awesomeness, through a full slate of tastings, workshops, contests, and special promotions. It’s fitting, then, that the festival caps off on Sunday, Feb. 20, at one of the best craft breweries in the area — and, indeed, the country: Berkeley’s own Trumer Brauerei (1404 Fourth Street, Berkeley),whose Pilsner routinely snags top honors in national beer contests. The party offers more than thirty beers from various Beer Week breweries, tours of the Trumer facilities, and a full barbecue dinner. Best of all, a free shuttle runs to and from the North Berkeley BART station every half-hour. 4 p.m., $45 (or $60 at the door, cash only). 510-526-1160 or Trumer-International.com. — Ellen Cushing

Peter O'Leary and Brian Teare
To be spiritual in an intensely personal way, far from the established dogmas of major religion: This is the gnostic experience. At Diesel (5433 College Ave., Oakland) on Sunday, Feb. 20, Poetry Flash presents two poets whose work navigates those realms. Peter O'Leary, the author of Gnostic Contagion, reads from his latest book, Depth Theology. Stanford University Stegner Fellow Brian Teare, the author of Sight Map and The Room Where I Was Born, reads from his new volume, Pleasure. 3 p.m., free. - DieselBookstore.com — Anneli Rufus

Plus...

Catch a Movie: Our critic recommends The Eagle, opening this week in the East Bay.

Eat Up: This week, our critic is all about the pizza, the bluenose bass, and the root beer float at Hudson in Rockridge. Yum.

Waste Some Time: Music is great. Tacos are great. Behold, Album Tacos.

Feed Us: Got any East Bay news, events, video, or miscellany we should know about? Holler at us at Editor@EastBayExpress.com.

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