Wednesday, February 28, 2018

OP-ED: Black Futures Month: Safe Space as Service to Us, by Us

by Dr. Carrie Y.T. Kholi
Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 1:12 PM

Dr. Carrie Y.T. Kholi (@kholi), an educator, creative entrepreneur, and new media aficionado, is the founder and executive director of Khafra and the creator of Hella Black Brunch.
  • Dr. Carrie Y.T. Kholi (@kholi), an educator, creative entrepreneur, and new media aficionado, is the founder and executive director of Khafra and the creator of Hella Black Brunch.

Imagine how inhabitants of the first half of the 21st century might be remembered in the near future: We're on-the-go millennials touching our phones around 2,600 times a day. We're global activists urged on by a penchant for socio-political revolution, and the creation of an equitable future. We're also an ever-developing independent workforce defining entrepreneurship on our own terms. Multiple modalities is our modus operandi. But for many of us, intersectionality has been a long-lived experience. Thankfully, we're in an age where we can #SayHerName and say #MeToo. "Intersectionality" is a term that no longer warrants auto-correction. Our differences are becoming understood representations of reality, ways of being boldly claimed and redefined.

And what will be said of our current milieu? YouTube church, and a long Silk Road; digital diets, and text therapists. A cloud, holding separate but equally vulnerable, the value of all our lives. Complex corporate campuses, but tiny houses. Art from tragedy. Remote everything. Minimalist longings conflicting with maximalist tendencies. In this age of intended connectivity and consequential isolation, all our complexities taunt, "a whole you may never find solace here."

Unfortunately, the incongruities of that somewhat dramatic summary aren't eased by sober insight.

In 2012, Gallup reported that of the 5.4 million LGBT workers in the U.S., the 1.8 million people who identified as of color faced higher rates of unequal pay, unemployment, and homelessness, and unfair access to job-related benefits, leaving them with fewer resources to care for themselves and their families - despite doing the same jobs and working just as hard as non-LGBTQ people of color (POC).

Similarly, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, nationally, women are more likely to have a college degree than men, yet women face higher poverty rates and lower earnings across the board. Adding to this, in 2015, 14.5 percent of women 18 and older had family incomes below the poverty line, a statistic exacerbated in Southern states, with Hispanic women having the lowest median annual earnings compared to other women.

This history of incommensurate labor for women and queer POC has occurred at the expense of personal resources and tools for actualization, diminishing the potential economic, political, and social impact of their communities. And worse still, in diverse localities like Oakland, extreme patterns of inequality are exacerbated over generations in the form of discriminatory economic and political policies, holding back our communal potential.

The results are under-resourced individuals asked to thrive in under-resourced communities - their safety is too often undervalued - their sustenance, for far too long, left an afterthought.

Even as we barrel into the future, long-term access to space created for, by, and in-service to marginalized communities is infrequent. This is especially true in and near areas of gentrification occupied by working-class, queer, POC, and immigrant communities.

The world is in dire need of more space where authenticity penetrates, respects assumed difference, bridges distance, and makes way for a close collaboration that comes from deepened understanding. Now, more than ever, we need space that serves our wholly complex and intersectional selves.

And yet, brave space, even in so-called sanctuary cities like Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, is hard to find. More often than not, localities profit from policing and deportation policies, and exacerbate extreme patterns of education, wealth, and ownership inequality. And even when in existence, few of these brave or safe spaces function in ways that allow Black and queer people to call them Home.

"He was like me - a kindred spirit crazy enough to keep on trying."
― Octavia E. Butler
In my personal life, I turn to readings, pedagogies, and practices informed by Black feminist thought, and show up with empathy in action.

In our communal efforts, I believe we must be informed by similar praxes, turning to POC-led agencies, organizers, thinkers, creators, and collaborators - those who take on hybrid identities in order to service and invest in our community from a multitude as great as that which we encompass.

And this intentional turning - an action to entrust, not appropriate the work of, POC communities - is necessary to ensure our communal survival and to co-create our shared legacy. It begins with collective efforts to #TrustBlackWomen*. It's led by matriarchal communities in concert with all who can assist them in carrying out a new and bold vision. It progresses by equipping women and QTPOC with tools to reclaim their time, their efforts, their livelihood, their communities, and as such, their power.

This Black Futures Month, I want to remind us that space — the unlimited or incalculably great three-dimensional realm in which all material objects are located and all events occur — when defined, can foster intimacy, relationships, belongingness, love, esteem, and growth. Hella Black Brunch and Khafra Community Cohort are just two examples of how I am creatively collaborating to build space as service with community partners such as Qulture Collective, Oratory Glory, Beneficial State Foundation, Hell Yeah Group, Redwood Hill, and Pleasure Principle Dining Events, and others. Together, we're dreaming up space and place where previously marginalized people are supported and allowed to flourish. Space to collaborate and practice natural thought and resolution partnership. Space to look up to our North Star: communal actualization. Space that we need to build new futures. But more importantly, we need each other, and you, to create it. What future do you long for, and are you ready to build it, together?

Blurry Vision Music Fest Is Bringing SZA and Migos to Oakland

Kamaiyah is also part of the line-up

by Azucena Rasilla
Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 12:35 PM


Living in Northern California means that there’s never a shortage of music events to attend. Lucky for us, Outside Lands, Bottle Rock, Burger Boogaloo, Oakland Music Festival, and Noise Pop are some of the dope music festivals that grace our geographical area every year.

Last year, Alameda saw the inaugural Ship Show Festival, which was held aboard the USS Hornet. The two-day fest featured some of the best hip-hop acts, which culminated with an epic performance by hip-hop institution Wu-Tang Clan. While it is still unknown if Ship Show will return to the island, hip-hop and R&B lovers can rejoice with a brand-new festival, which will be held in Oakland this coming May.

Golden Voice is bringing Blurry Vision to the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland on Saturday, May 12, and Sunday, May 13. The festival will be headlined by none other than SZA, the R&B rising star (who should’ve won the five Grammys she was nominated for), and rap trio Migos.

Being that the festival is in Oakland, our very own Kamaiyah is also part of the bill. Other notable acts include: Kendrick Lamar protégé Isaiah Rashad, Roy Woods, who is part of Drake’s record label OVO, rising group Brockhampton, and many others.

Blurry Vision will be two days of all hip-hop and R&B, and tickets are also pretty affordable in comparison to other music festivals. Single GA is only $99, and two-day GA is $185. The two headliners and view at the site alone are worth the price.

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. Check out the Blurry Vision site for the full line-up and ticket info.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

On Heels of New Album, Tune-Yards Headlines Noise Pop Festival in Oakland

Garbus dives deep into her own white privilege.

by Janelle Bitker
Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 11:02 AM

Merrill Garbus unleashes a primal scream. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Merrill Garbus unleashes a primal scream.

Merrill Garbus stood in front of a white screen, spotlights pointed toward her from every direction. It looked like the start of a photo shoot, with a wide-eyed Garbus in all black apart from a chunky, white necklace reminiscent of a rope wrapped around her neck.

On January’s I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, the first Tune-Yards release in almost four years, Garbus dives deep into her own white privilege and cultural appropriation as an artist inspired by African music. At last night’s concert at the Fox Theater — the headlining event of this year’s Noise Pop festival — the stage set-up seemed to reflect this self-examination, self-consciousness, and guilt.

But she didn’t dwell on it — nor directly address these themes at all, actually. Joined by bassist and ongoing collaborator Nate Brenner and jazz drummer Hamir Atwal, Garbus did her usual looping, drum pad clattering, ukulele strumming thing to dazzling effect. New, more electronic-imbued songs such as “Heart Attack” and “Look at Your Hands” sounded particularly wide and grand. Garbus’ voice was the starring instrument, though, with every impossible-sounding, piercing wail and primal scream yielding more and more devoted applause.

  • Janelle BItker

While her looped, owl-like hoots at the start of 2011 hit “Bizness” sounded true-to-form, she took other songs like 2014's “Water Fountain” to new, experimental heights. “Colonizer,” off I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, turned so heavy on the synth and distortion that it felt like the song might break at any moment — an artistic choice with plenty to read into given the song’s lyrics. I use my white woman's voice to tell stories of travels with African men / I comb my white woman's hair with a comb made especially, generally for me / I smell the blood in my voice, Garbus sang.

In interviews, Garbus has been blatant about her own fears and vulnerability with I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life. At the Fox, though, she seemed at total ease.

"There is no place like home. Holy moly,” she said. “There's a way people talk about Oakland. If only they knew the power, the determination, the passion, the history. We're so lucky to live here."

Shortly before the end of her set, she paused, overwhelmed with emotion.

“I won't cry,” she said. “But I feel like crying because we have such a family here in Oakland.”

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Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som Show Dreamy Unity at Noise Pop

by Madeline Wells
Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 10:59 AM

Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner. - MADELINE WELLS
  • Madeline Wells
  • Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner.

Thursday night, Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som brought a lo-fi fever dream to San Francisco’s Gray Area Theater for the fourth day of Noise Pop.

Hand Habits opened the show with a somewhat dreary solo set. Although Meg Duffy’s ample guitar-shredding skills and mellow vocals would have been perfectly suited for a good late night bedroom cry, starting the night off on a sober note just made the crowd restless. Light chatter filled the theater, causing abrasive reactions from the few concertgoers solely focused on the music.

Japanese Breakfast was a welcomed burst of fresh energy, taking the stage to the breathy, sprawling “Diving Woman,” a song inspired by an island in South Korea that’s famous for its female divers, called haenyeo. In an interview with NPR, Michelle Zauner explained her admiration for the haenyo and their lifestyle of regimen and endurance. Zauner may not be able to hold her breath for three minutes underwater, but she’s proud of her own tiny triumphs.

“I was a responsible woman and said ‘no’ to some spicy wings like three hours before the show,” she revealed. “I’m growing as a person.”

Zauner infused serious, dark bedroom pop and meandering vocals with a playful stage presence, cracking jokes between songs and stepping out to sing straight into the audience at any given opportunity. She introduced two separate songs with the quip, “This song is about oral sex,” and poked fun at concert cliches, bellowing “San Francisco!” in a goofy tone before adding, “Sometimes I think my job is just to excitedly say whatever city I’m in.”

Japanese Breakfast closed with fan favorite “Machinist,” a sci-fi narrative about a woman who falls in love with a robot. Zauner’s urgent, spoken-word intro was barely audible over eerie synths and sound effects of wind blowing over a desolate planet. Her desperate plea for connection in an alien landscape carried out over the crowd through vocoder harmonies, a hammy saxophone outro transforming into an unexpected dance moment.

Melina Duterte a.k.a. Jay Som. - MADELINE WELLS
  • Madeline Wells
  • Melina Duterte a.k.a. Jay Som.

Jay Som brought a more understated approach to the night. Oakland native Melina Duterte wore what looked to be a basketball T-shirt layered over a casual hoodie, cinching the hood comically tight around her face at one point in the show. No wisecracks slipped out of her mouth and she didn’t stray far from her post at the microphone, but she kept things relaxed and good-natured, giggling in the awkward silences between songs as she tuned her guitar.

The band seemed to lose the crowd a bit in the sleepy, dream pop stratosphere, immense walls of sound sprawling for ages until finally fading out so unassumingly no one seemed sure when to clap. Short attention spans caused people to filter out before the set came to a close. But everyone came back to life for “The Bus Song,” shouting along to the beloved lines right on cue: Why don’t we take the bus? / You say you don’t like the smell / But I like the bus / I can be whoever I want to be.

Where the Noise Pop audience left a lot to be desired, there was no lack of love between the women on stage. Zauner and Duterte gushed about each other as well as Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy. Mentioning a music video she directed for Jay Som, Zauner told the crowd how grateful she was to have Duterte in her life, and Duterte complimented the two for being some of the hardest working women she knew. In the indie rock genre, one still largely dominated by white men, it’s refreshing to see women — and Asian American women, at that — holding each other up.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

At Caleborate's Noise Pop Show, Love for Family and Berkeley

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Feb 23, 2018 at 12:21 PM

  • Diana Clock

Repping his own swag, Caleborate waltzed out onto the Cornerstone stage last night like it was home. And, in a sense, it was. The Sacramento-born hip-hop artist spent most of his adult life in Berkeley. It’s where he launched his music career. “It shaped me into the individual I am today,” he said with gratitude.

It felt like a fitting place for the rising talent to headline his first Noise Pop show, and fans — including a remarkably large contingent from Modesto — came out in droves. His set dug into his archive while emphasizing his new record, Real Person, which dropped last year. Real Person is Caleborate at his most vulnerable — his divorced parents, career struggles, and Donald Trump-inflected woes are all on display.

Still, the night was definitely a party. He bounced across the stage to his signature, ’90s-influenced soundscapes with triumphant glee. “Soul,” in particular, brought unmatched energy.

  • Diana Clock

About half-way through, the rapper gave a shout-out to all his family members in the room — his mom, cousin, aunt, uncle, sister — before bringing out his brother, R&B singer Cash Campain, for a short interlude. It was a sweet, generous moment, given Cash already performed a set earlier in the evening, with Cash singing his latest single “Holy Matrimony” and Caleborate contributing a clever verse. But Caleborate’s set was full of similarly sweet, appreciative moments. After leading the crowd in a sing-along to “4 Willem,” perhaps the most personal, somber, and gripping track off the new album, he gazed out in awe.

“That felt like when I’d watch documentaries of my favorite emcees,” he said. “I feel like I just did something like that.”

Noise Pop continues through Sunday, Feb. 25.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tei Shi Delivers Dreamy Set at Noise Pop

by Madeline Wells
Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 3:08 PM

  • Photo by Madeline Wells
  • Tei Shi at Noise Pop.

Tei Shi has been known to refer to the type of music she makes as “mermaid music.” With her otherworldly, whispering soprano skating effortlessly between the lines of R&B, dream pop, and electronica, she creates a hazy world that certainly sounds like it could be underwater. Last night, on the third day of Noise Pop, Tei Shi headlined Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco — probably one of the last times she’ll play such an intimate venue before she blows up.

The New York-based, Argentinian-born musician released her debut album Crawl Space last spring, named after a crawl space she forced herself into as a child to confront her fear of the dark. The album is all about confronting insecurities: a tarantula crawls across Tei Shi’s cheek on the cover, and interludes between songs show a much younger Tei Shi confessing she’s a “bad singer” and how she hopes to one day be “like Britney Spears.”

Opening with “How Far,” Tei Shi entered gracefully, wearing a cropped white jacket and high-waisted snakeskin pants — perhaps another allusion to facing fears. Over laid-back guitars and fuzzy synthesizers, she crooned vulnerably of two people attempting to change each other in a relationship. Her stage presence was not bombastic — more so a slow burn. She swayed languidly but with a quiet confidence, moving her arms and hips in fluid waves.

Whereas many of her songs are sparse on production, evoking the minimalist guitars of the xx, others are more experimental. During “Justify,” descending spaceship sounds skittered behind breathy, short verses. But her sharp delivery eventually gave way to a series of banshee screams — an especially cathartic experience in a live setting.

Tei Shi kept banter between songs short, preferring instead to let the music do the talking. Her performance had the polish of a true perfectionist, sounding exactly like she did on the record. On “Lift Me,” another lushly textured number with Little Dragon-esque dissonant synths and saxophone embellishments, the sky-high vocal runs dazzled just as clearly live.

Other highlights included the light and sensual “Como Si,” the one song on Crawl Space Tei Shi sings exclusively in Spanish, as well as album closer “Sleepy,” which let all production besides a piano accompaniment drop out to put her weary, intimate vocals in the spotlight: Learn fast / That no one gives a shit about the life I live / But tongue tied / They all have a say on the moves I make. The crowd stood still, captivated by the icy landscape Tei Shi painted before them.

But she broke the spell with closer “Bassically,” urging everyone to dance. A song from 2015 EP Verde, it was a welcome moment of full-throated sing-along compared to the shatter-if-you-touch-it delicacy permeating most of her set. And whereas before she kept her movements slow and ethereal, Tei Shi allowed herself at last to dance like a maniac.

Noise Pop continues through Sunday, Feb. 25.

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The NoSleep Podcast Brings Its Spooky Tales to Oakland

by Madeline Wells
Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 9:36 AM

The NoSleep Podcast is the online equivalent of telling spooky stories around the campfire — minus the swarms of mosquitoes or the marshmallow goo stuck between your fingers. Through headphones, a low voice whispers chilling tales in your ear: A pizza deliveryman receives an order from a ramshackle, seemingly abandoned house; a young woman looking through her family photo album discovers a strange old man standing beside her in every picture.

The idea for The NoSleep Podcast arose from a popular Reddit forum of the same name, where users share their most frightening stories. (Whether or not they are true are up to the reader’s discretion.) Upon hearing people were clamoring for an audiobook version of the subreddit, voice actor David Cummings offered to produce the first episode.

“I was getting back into voice work at that time and I offered to be a narrator,” said Cummings. “I thought it’d be fun to narrate a story every now and then.” But with no one else stepping up to get the podcast off the ground, he gladly shouldered more and more responsibility until it was “basically [his] show to run.”

Cummings had never worked on anything in the horror genre before NoSleep, but growing up in Toronto, he used to listen to local radio stations that played scary stories on Sunday nights.

“From an early age, I used to listen to these horror stories told in audio format,” said Cummings. “So that was something that really appealed to me: the chance to do something similar in a more modern format.”

Seven years since its creation, NoSleep is now on its tenth season, with an impressive arsenal of producers, composers, illustrators, and voice actors involved in creating up to 70 hours of content per season. Formerly a software developer by day, Cummings was able to quit his day job and start doing NoSleep full-time a few years ago.

NoSleep showrunner David Cummings.
  • NoSleep showrunner David Cummings.
But to do so, he needed some financial support. Cummings had been listening to another podcast called Never Not Funny, which started a business model he decided to imitate. NoSleep unveiled the Season Pass Program just before the release of its third season. The program allows listeners to pay a one-time subscription fee each season to have access to 25 full-length episodes, as well as a selection of bonus episodes. However, fans who don’t want to pay can still listen to the show — they just receive shorter versions of each episode (usually one hour of content instead of two hours).

“I think it's good for both types of fans,” said Cummings. “If people just want the free show, we give them close to 30 hours of content every season. If you want the Season Pass Program, you're getting 65 to 70 hours of content.”

The program has been very successful, allowing NoSleep to become one of the few podcasts in its genre that pays its creative contributors. It’s grown extensively, now employing close to 20 voice actors, four people who work full-time, and involving nearly 100 hours of work into each episode. And while horror may typically be viewed as a male-dominated genre, Cummings was proud to say that over half of their voice actors and authors are women, as well as half of its regular monthly listeners.

“Whether it's writing the stories or performing the stories, we've always had a strong presence from women,” said Cummings. “That's why I've never really felt like there's been some sort of testosterone-fueled aspect of horror.”

The podcast is currently taking its bone-chilling tales on the road with a tour across the country — its second time doing so in the past two years. Brandon Boone, the show’s primary composer, will accompany five actors on stage with live music, complete with spooky sound effects. Audiences attending NoSleep’s stop in Oakland on Friday can look forward to an evening of terrifying, never-before-heard scripts written specifically for the tour. But be forewarned: attend at your own risk. NoSleep is not for the faint of heart.

Friday, Feb. 23, 7:15 p.m., $22.50, Oakland Metro Operahouse, 522 2nd St., Oakland,

Monday, February 19, 2018

REVIEW: Jay Heikes' Exhibition at BAMPFA Addresses Themes of Alienness and Borders

by Madeline Wells
Mon, Feb 19, 2018 at 10:56 AM

Heikes' "Couper l'oeil," a massive sculpture composed of copper, wax, aluminum foil, steel, steel slag, cast bronze, and iron, evokes a wire fence unraveling at the seams. - COURTESY OF BAMPFA
  • Courtesy of BAMPFA
  • Heikes' "Couper l'oeil," a massive sculpture composed of copper, wax, aluminum foil, steel, steel slag, cast bronze, and iron, evokes a wire fence unraveling at the seams.

Marfa, a tiny town in the West Texas desert, seems like an unlikely cultural center for contemporary art. Evoking Hollywood visions of the Wild West, tumbleweeds decorate the landscape and the population numbers under 2,000. But since minimalist artist Donald Judd made the barren desert town his home in 1971 and founded the Chinati Foundation, it's become one of the most vibrant art towns in America.

Much of Jay Heikes' works featured in his new exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) are influenced by his 2017 residency in Marfa. Heikes' exhibition is the first one of 2018 the museum has chosen to display as part of its MATRIX program, which introduces Bay Area audiences to outstanding voices in contemporary art. The Minneapolis-based artist drew inspiration from the intensity of the landscape as well as the proximity to the Mexican border. Heikes was in Marfa during Trump's inauguration, so the rhetoric of putting up walls and demonizing the Other was fresh in his mind as he worked.

One piece in his Z series — a collection of paintings referencing the last letter of the alphabet — appears to be a boarded-up window, dyed black and coated in patches of white salt.

"There's a lot of boarded-up buildings — a very romantic landscape artists love — so I collected a lot of scrap wood to make these paintings," said Heikes. The salt shines starkly against the dark ink, as though a light from the desert landscape is escaping through the window. A backwards letter "Z" criss-crosses the frame — a visual metaphor that alludes to the end of language and the passage of time.

A painting in Heikes' Z series includes a backwards "z," which alludes to the end of language and the passage of time. - COURTESY OF BAMPFA
  • Courtesy of BAMPFA
  • A painting in Heikes' Z series includes a backwards "z," which alludes to the end of language and the passage of time.

Many materials from the desert made their way into Heikes' paintings. Another work from his Z series features acorn husks, rubber snakes, steel slag, salt, rocks, and dirt to create a roughly textured, dusty pink snapshot of the desert floor mounted on a fiberglass tray.

"There was no canvas," said Heikes. "This was just a frame that accepted all the materials."

The son of a chemist, Heikes has an obsession with the material properties of objects, which permeates each of his pieces. He spoke excitedly about the histories of various materials he used in his work, such as one that was used in a pigment called "mummy brown." Egyptian artists in the 16th and 17th centuries would grind up remains of mummies to achieve this specific hue.

Heikes' sculptures pay careful attention to elemental components as well. "Couper l'oeil," a massive sculpture composed of copper, wax, aluminum foil, steel, steel slag, cast bronze, and iron, is a reference to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's surrealist film L'Age d'Or in name — there's a scene in the film where an eyeball is being cut with a razorblade — but Heikes also describes it as a battle of materials. In this piece and in another sculpture in the exhibit, "Winter is Coming," balls of different sizes and textures branch off of spiraling copper wire, some fully detached and lying at the base of the sculpture. One ball is made of bronze poured over dense wood; another is made of mortar, wax, and studio dust.

"I think of it as this artery system of thought," said Heikes. "These moldable wax balls are the thoughts before they're fully formed."

The unique hybrids Heikes has created illustrate these exploratory thoughts, as he constantly combines things that don't normally go together. He refers to these hybrid balls as "minor planets," a term referring to floating debris in space that is classified as neither a planet nor a comet.

"I want you to feel a little bit like you can't recognize the references to the materials. I want it to feel a little alien and foreign," he explained.

Heikes' "Minor Planets" are made of materials you can't quite recognize. - COURTESY OF BAMPFA
  • Courtesy of BAMPFA
  • Heikes' "Minor Planets" are made of materials you can't quite recognize.

That feeling of alienness comes back to the theme of borders and walls in America's current political climate. "Couper l'oeil" evokes a wire fence unravelling at the seams — Heikes' own subversive attempt at tearing down boundaries.

For within his exhibit, there are no boundaries. Copper wires jump out of paintings; ink drawings he made with a special tool he called a "pencil rake" designed to imitate the marks of a seismograph echo the curves of the sculptures; even Heikes' musical background seeps into his work. He mentioned a collector had described the lines in his drawings as the "melody of the universe." Sketches such as "The Devil Has Left My Building" illustrate a soundtrack to the formation of Heikes' imagined elements.

Heikes' "The Devil Has Left My Building." - COURTESY OF BAMPFA
  • Courtesy of BAMPFA
  • Heikes' "The Devil Has Left My Building."

Art may not solve political divisions and demonizing language, but it can certainly help people heal. Gesturing to the curved body of a snake screen-printed onto one painting, Heikes explained, "The flow of a snake going sideways to go forward is really the best metaphor for artistic practice."

Monday, February 12, 2018

REVIEW: What They Said About Love at The Marsh in Berkeley

Steve Budd's new show is a hilarious take on how people fall in love.

by Azucena Rasilla
Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 10:23 AM

"What They Said About Love," written by and starring Steve Budd, sheds light on how people meet and make it to the altar, the push and pull of relationships, singles who can't seem to settle down, and more. - PHOTO BY CHESHIRE ISAACS
  • Photo by Cheshire Isaacs
  • "What They Said About Love," written by and starring Steve Budd, sheds light on how people meet and make it to the altar, the push and pull of relationships, singles who can't seem to settle down, and more.

Just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day — or, if you're simply looking for a fun outing where you can support the local arts scene — comes What They Said About Love, which is currently playing at The Marsh in Berkeley.

The solo show — written and performed by Steve Budd, directed by Mark Kenward, and developed with the help of David Ford — explores the ways in which people fall in love, make their relationships work, and do what it takes to stay in love. What They Said About Love is also Budd’s personal exploration of the reasons his childhood experiences shaped the way he handled his own failed relationships.

Budd interviewed and recorded several couples and got them to open up to him about how they met and fell in love, and the obstacles they go through to stay in love. From the hours of recording, the Oakland-based actor captured relatable anecdotes that he put together for this hilarious and poignant hour-plus-long show, where Budd gets into character to portray each couple and we get to learn intimate details about each of them.

The show is relatable in many ways, whether you are currently in a committed relationship or are navigating the ever-changing dating scene.

Throughout the show, Budd, an ingenious storyteller, embodies each couple both vocally and in their mannerisms, making the audience feel as if they are watching the actual recordings. One of the couples we get to know is Sarah and Connor, who met at a Halloween party. Their relationship was tested during a trip to Canada, where Sarah was feeling unsure about their future. Meanwhile, Connor was ready to say, “I love you” for the first time. There’s also Gaby and Matt, who met on Craigslist. In the show, we learn how Gaby’s list of requirements of what she was looking for in a partner was thrown out the window after realizing that Matt didn’t quite fulfill her list, though there was something about him that made her fall for him.

Budd’s self-reflection about his own relationship failures ties the show together. What They Said About Love will make you question your own love decisions, reflect on how not one relationship is the same, and realize that the circumstances that shape how people fall in love and stay in love are always a work in progress.

What They Said About Love runs through Mar. 3, Fridays 8 p.m., Saturdays 8:30 p.m., $20-$35, $55-$100 reserved, The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley,

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