La Peña Embraces More Hip-Hop 

Plus, Paramount board member goes on the defense, and bluegrass fest starts.

La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley has always held hip-hop events, but thanks to its relatively new development director, Susie Lundy, the venue plans to refocus its efforts on drawing in more of the hip-hop community. Lundy, a 34-year-old arts educator, dancer, painter, and muralist who grew up in Fremont, says she's been working on booking and commissioning more hip-hop-oriented artists — from emcees to filmmakers, skaters, and chefs. "It's wanting to open up the space and make it accessible to folks," Lundy said. "Because I'm really a B-girl myself, I really understand that hip-hop isn't really contained. It really is hybrid."

Some upcoming events include a local hip-hop film festival in June and a skater-themed series of films hosted by K-Dub in May. On Wednesday, February 10, Blitz the Ambassador will perform live hip-hop fused with elements of jazz and reggae. Then on February 21, vegan soul food author Bryant Terry and choreographer Amara Tabor Smith will curate an evening of performance and food.

Convincing other staff members that La Peña — which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year — should refocus its efforts on hip-hop wasn't so much of an issue for Lundy. Yet getting neighbors on board has been another challenge. "In the past there may have been complaints from the neighbors because of noise or people hanging out in the streets," she said. "But we're trying to do outreach" and educate neighbors on "understanding the culture." As part of that effort, Lundy booked an all-female hip-hop show for March 13. "It stands in the face of what a lot of times older people think about hip-hop — being misogynistic or just wild." Conscious Daughters, Pam the Funkstress, and Lundy's own crew will be among the performers.

Lundy hopes more young people will see La Peña as a place to call their own. "I encourage people to really take ownership of the space by contacting us about their ideas," she said. "We're trying to cultivate open communication and part of our mission is really being a community center that is accessible to everyone." To submit ideas for programming or to perform, e-mail her at Susie@lapena.org

Paramount Board Member Defends Theater

Two weeks ago, we questioned the qualifications of Paramount Theatre board member Lorenzo Hoopes. The 96-year-old former president of the Mormon Temple became the subject of much criticism lately when he came up for reappointment because he was a major contributor to anti-gay-marriage initiative, Proposition 8. Yet there are other questions as to whether Hoopes — and other board members, for that matter — have sufficiently maximized the theater's capabilities or thoroughly understood the industry in which it operates.

Now, fellow Paramount board member Clinton Killian is speaking up in defense of the theater's operators in a recent op-ed piece published by the Oakbook. Though Killian, an attorney in Oakland, doesn't specifically address the issue of Hoopes' qualifications (except to say that he helped raise funds to restore the Paramount decades ago), he defends the fact that the Paramount has never acted as a promoter because of the "huge risks" involved. He also counters the assertion that the theater is an underused asset and says it's "the 23rd-most active performance theater in the country."

SF Bluegrass & Old-Time Fest

The 11th Annual San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival starts on Friday, February 12, and runs through Saturday, February 21. Shows will be held in more than forty venues around the Bay Area, and include performances by Loudon Wainwright III, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Jackstraw, Viper Central, Striped Pig, Eric and Susie Thompson, Jimbo Trout, and others. The locally based Stairwell Sisters kick things off on Friday at the Freight & Salvage. Other shows in the East Bay include Loudon Wainwright III at Freight & Salvage and Susie Glaze & the Hilonesome Band at McGrath's Pub on Saturday, Feb. 13; and the weekly Taco Jam at Baja Taqueria on Monday, Feb. 15. For a complete lineup, go to SFBluegrass.org/10fest/schedule.php.

Three-Dot Roundup

San Francisco fuzz-doom duo Black Cobra released its Chronomega album on vinyl last week, featuring a cover of Buzzov*en's "Behaved." ... Oakland's Clipd Beaks released To Realize on January 26 and plays the Elbo Room on March 15. The band describes the album as a "turning point" in its career. ... Motley Crüe bassist and famous overdoser Nikki Sixx is hosting a syndicated radio show called Sixx Sense, which will air on 98.5FM-KUFX Mondays through Fridays from 7 p.m. to midnight. ... A reunited Faith No More will play two shows at the Warfield Theatre on April 13 and 14. Tickets went on sale last Sunday.

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