Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: Logistical Problems Abounded at Rolling Loud Bay Area

It was hard to enjoy the great music amid chaos and XXXTentacion tributes.

by Sannidhi Shukla
Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 3:34 PM

This year's Bay Area Rolling Loud took place outside Oracle Arena. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES BAXTER
  • Photo courtesy of James Baxter
  • This year's Bay Area Rolling Loud took place outside Oracle Arena.

There’s not much to Rolling Loud beyond its lineup. Now in its second year in the Bay Area, it’s hard to tell if the festival is suffering from growing pains or if it’s suffering from the pains of being a half-formed idea coated thinly in an Instagram-friendly varnish and then exported across the country before the varnish has even had the time to fully set. To put things mildly, this past weekend's festival — its first foray into Oakland — was a hot mess saved only by a handful of truly excellent sets.

Day one of the festival was for moshing. From Jaden Smith to Playboi Carti, artists moved their sets in fits and starts as they paused to tell the crowd over and over to open up the pit. No one listened, of course, but it was hard to tell if it was more because anyone had the nerve to show up to a Playboi Carti set unprepared to mosh or because festival organizers had set up VIP seating throughout the crowd making it difficult to move freely — or even just stand still — within the crowd.

In the end, no one won. Fans grew more and more impatient with Carti’s pauses. Meanwhile, the rapper refused to continue until the pit actually opened and then finally ended his set abruptly.
If there was one presence at the festival that was impossible to ignore, it was, regrettably, XXXTentacion’s, who was recently killed. His image popped up not only during other performers’ tributes to the late rapper — Ski Mask the Slump God unfurled a giant flag with a photo of the late rapper on it during his set — but also on Instagrammable photo-ops set up throughout the festival.

More than the tributes offered by friends, it is the institutional memorial of X that is disturbing. On one hand it is hardly surprising given the symbiotic relationship between the rapper and the festival. Some of the festival’s earliest iterations feature X. The Bay Area debut of the festival, too, gained traction from the rapper’s controversial inclusion on the lineup in light of the recently-leaked testimony from the victim of the rapper’s domestic violence.
And yet, just because it is unsurprising doesn’t mean it’s excusable. The history of the festival has been intimately woven with the X’s history, including his history of violence against women and queer people. And now, even in his death, resources are being allocated to preserve his memory that would quite frankly be better allocated literally anywhere else.

Lil Uzi Vert closed out the night at one of the festival’s two stages, framed by two inverted crosses and a giant glowing skull. His rapping was fine. His dancing was excellent. But it was his plaintive autotuned vocals that echoed acapella throughout the festival grounds that really made the night feel worth it in spite of everything.

Rolling Loud booked a number of local artists, including Oakland's ALLBLACK. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRANDON NEWFIELD
  • Photo courtesy of Brandon Newfield
  • Rolling Loud booked a number of local artists, including Oakland's ALLBLACK.

First the bad news: the second day of the festival was somehow even more poorly organized than the first. As the day went on, more and more of the festival went on lockdown, limiting access to viewing areas for no stated reason. Bottlenecks abounded at every passage point and navigating the festival began to feel impossible even though it was housed in Oracle Arena's open parking lot.

The good news? Sunday’s sets made up for the total chaos by bombarding fans with pleasant surprises all night. E-40 brought out fellow Vallejo rappers and rap wunderkinds SOB x RBE for a quick performance right in the middle of his set. It’s pretty unlikely that the crossover would have worked anywhere but here — in theory the overlap in the venn diagram of E-40 fans and SOB x RBE fans is just people from Vallejo and die hards for anything that comes out of the Bay Area. And yet, it resulted in one of the festival’s most exuberant moments as E-40’s crowd sang along to SOB x RBE's “Anti” and got hyped for a run through the E-40’s most iconic songs. Unfortunately, at this point in E-40’s decades-long career, his festival-ready highlights reel most prominently just consists of a feature on a Big Sean song.

Rae Sremmurd’s set was the highlight of the weekend — and not just because the duo threw dozens of blunts into the crowd. Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee moved across the stage and even into the crowd with a pulsing energy that never let up. The duo knows how to stir up a crowd. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time until it reaches headliner status.

With just a handful of months until the festival’s second round in SoCal, there’s a lot it needs to pull together functionally and administratively to live up to its star-powered lineup.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Berkeley Rep Names Johanna Pfaelzer New Artistic Director

She comes to the revered East Bay company from New York Stage and Film.

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 3:43 PM

Johanna Pfaelzer will take the lead next year. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BERKELEY REP
  • Photo courtesy of Berkeley Rep
  • Johanna Pfaelzer will take the lead next year.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre announced today that its long search for a new artistic director has finally come to a close. Johanna Pfaelzer will replace Tony Taccone, who will step down in August of 2019 after 33 years with Berkeley Rep.

Pfaelzer is currently the artistic director of New York Stage and Film (NYSAF). She'll plan Berkeley Rep's 2019-20 season. For the Board of Trustees, it was important to select an artistic director with local ties, and Pfaelzer fit the bill having lived in Berkeley as a child. She also worked for five years as a the associate director at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

"We had an illustrious field of candidates from across the country with a wide range of backgrounds," said Susan Medak, Berkeley Rep's managing director. "Johanna’s knowledge of the field and the enthusiasm of artists with whom she had worked made her our perfect choice. Her work at NYSAF in the development of new plays and musicals has made her such a good match for us. She is committed to our Ground Floor Center for the Creation and Development of New Work and our School of Theatre, as both are important pieces of our programmatic puzzle.”

Last week, the Express looked at how three major East Bay institutions — Cal Performances and Aurora Theatre Company in addition to Berkeley Rep — were looking for new artistic directors, and pointed out how this was an opportunity to diversify the local performance arts scene. Given how leadership in regional and resident theaters are often white and male, the selection of Pfaelzer is a welcomed change to the status quo. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Review: Sam Smith Enchanted Fans at Oracle Arena

The English crooner exudes confidence on his 'The Thrill of It All' tour.

by Azucena Rasilla
Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 11:53 AM

PHOTO CREDIT NOAH GRAHAM
  • Photo credit Noah Graham

In many ways, the Sam Smith who performed at the Oracle Arena in front of thousands of screaming fans last night is the same singer-songwriter who made his Bay Area debut back in 2014, at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco.

Granted, the 26-year-old is now a four-time Grammy winner and a Golden Globe and Oscar winner, thanks to his song “Writing’s On the Wall,” the theme song for 2015’s James Bond film Spectre.

But besides this impressive list of awards, Smith indeed remains the same guy with the same soulful voice. When Smith was here last, he played a sold-out show at the Fox Theater in Oakland — a legion of faithful fans waited for him on the side entrance of the venue to get a glimpse of him. Back then, he graciously took the time to sign autographs and take pictures with those who waited after the show.

This time around, it was logistically impossible to do the same thing. The English singer-songwriter instead took time to address the crowd all throughout the hour-and-45-minute show. What is different about Smith is that he is older, and perhaps wiser. He has mustered confidence, which he exuded on stage. While four years ago he was timid and reserved, the Smith at the Oracle demonstrated the opposite.

He paraded through the triangularly shaped stage, with a full band that accompanied him all throughout the show in the middle and a backup singer on each side of the stage. Behind the singer and his band, a large triangle opened up while Smith belted out “Writing's on the Wall,” the song that earned him the Oscar.

The night at the Oracle marked stop number 17th on his “The Thrill of It All” tour. The Bay Area holds a special place in the singer’s heart. During his hiatus in between his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, and his sophomore album, Smith frequently visited San Francisco. “The Bay Area is one of my favorite places,” Smith told his screaming fans at the show.

While the majority of his lyrics deal with heartbreak and unrequited love, there’s also subtle political messaging. Take the song “HIM,” a “coming out” song to God that grapples with being gay and finding no place in religion: Holy Father, we need to talk / I have a secret that I can’t keep / I’m not the boy that you thought you wanted / Please don’t get angry, have faith in me. “I wrote this song for everyone to know that love is love,” Smith told the crowd as a rainbow flag waved nearby.

Smith also reminisced about the song “Lay Me Down,” the first song he co-wrote with James Napier and Elvin Smith.

If you’re heading to his show at the SAP Center in San Jose tonight, make sure to stay after he performs “Too Good at Goodbyes,” as you surely do not want to miss his breathtaking encore.

PHOTO CREDIT NOAH GRAHAM
  • Photo credit Noah Graham

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Popular Vintage Store Pretty Penny Closes After Nearly 13 Years in Business

The closure caught many by surprise — including the owner.

by Jessica Lipsky
Sun, Aug 19, 2018 at 10:39 AM

PRETTY PENNY'S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
  • Pretty Penny's Instagram account
Pretty Penny, a popular vintage clothing store in Rockridge responsible for outfitting stylish women and men throughout the Bay Area, will close its doors on Sunday, Aug. 18, after nearly 13 years in business.

The well-curated but never inaccessible shop carried a large collection of vintage clothes, shoes, accessories, and jewelry from the 1940s to 1990s, as well as contemporary clothes and goods from local designers. During its decade-plus in the East Bay, Pretty Penny evolved from merely a buy/sell/trade shop into a community focused on inclusivity, body positivity, and a commitment to local culture.

Owner Sarah Dunbar has a particularly keen eye for style and what she described as “this real relationship with clothes.” Everything in the store is thoughtfully curated for textile, fit, hanger appeal, and “translation through era,” she said. You’ll never feel like you’re wearing something that “isn’t you.”

Dunbar opened Pretty Penny in 2006 using funds from a student loan. The store was one of the few vintage shops in the East Bay at the time.

“What I heard over and over and over again, through lots of tears, was that Pretty Penny was an introduction to vintage,” Dunbar added. “It opened the door to people who were like, ‘I’m too big,’ or ‘I don’t have a chest’ or ‘vintage isn’t for me.’ It doesn’t have to be a pin-up dress, you don’t have to look like Twiggy, it doesn’t have to be a costume. You find what makes you feel good.”

Dunbar was born in San Jose, lived in Oakland for 20 years, and has a background as a vintage buyer — at Mars Mercantile in Berkeley and at the legendary Beacon’s Closet in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She founded Pretty Penny as a monthly pop-up inside her apartment on 42nd and Telegraph; when those monthly events became too popular, she moved the business to Berkeley and, a year later, to College Avenue in Oakland.

Pretty Penny was immediately successful for its excellent selection and easygoing vibe, offering a welcoming and affordable space for fashionistas, vintage fiends, and even those who aren’t big shoppers. Pretty Penny’s stock of high-end labels, European vintage, funky jewelry, and 1950s evening gowns helped shape East Bay fashion and became a focal point for other vintage shop owners.

Pretty Penny also bucked expectations of snobbery often associated with selling clothing. “My whole goal was always to make it feel like they were at their house, or their grandmother’s house, or somewhere they felt very comfortable,” said Dunbar. “I wanted to kill that misconception that people who work in vintage stores are ‘too cool’ or snotty.”

In addition to having an art gallery for a time, Pretty Penny offered space to dozens of burgeoning local businesses. “So many businesses started out of pop-ups in Pretty Penny, and now people are doing their own thing,” Dunbhar said.
PRETTY PENNY'S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
  • Pretty Penny's Instagram account
In 2012, the employees began an Instagram account that eventually attracted more than 31,400 followers. Beyond posting a lot of #OOTD inspiration and popularizing #cutecustomeralerts, the account also showcased Pretty Penny’s political opinions.

Throughout the 2016 presidential election, family separations at the border, and overt racism in public discourse, Pretty Penny let its leanings be known – often with the hashtag #wearemorethanashopweareacommunity. “If you’re given a platform, you have an obligation to use it,” Dunbar said.

An Instagram post announcing Pretty Penny’s closure garnered hundreds of comments expressing shock and happy memories. “Thank you for being such a magical and special place, I feel I grew up inside that storefront in so many ways. A delight for the senses and the heart,” wrote Marina Weiner.

Oakland resident Claire Meyers wrote that she was “SUPER BUMMED” to lose Pretty Penny’s “warm and friendly community.”

“The first time I bought a Pretty Penny dress….I was hooked. As the years went by I bought many pieces,” wrote Lea Willcox, a former Oakland resident who still shops Pretty Penny online. “Sarah gave me the opportunities to show my work in the art gallery above the shop (when it existed) and I made pieces for the fashion shows. Every experience I’ve had with PP made me feel good from buy[ing] to window shopping online to participating in events. Oakland will be missing a special spot, a special vibe. Nothing will fill that Rockridge space like PP did.”

While Pretty Penny has hung on through continued gentrification in Oakland, Dunbar wasn’t so fortunate. She was priced out of her home and moved to Washington state with her family in 2016. Dunbar commuted by plane and operated the store remotely with the help of a dedicated team of fashionable employees, led for many years by manager Delaney Gonzales.

While Dunbar had grown weary of running her business from out of state, the closure caught her and many others by surprise. Dunbar said the brick-and-mortar’s closure is largely the result of mismanagement by new staff, and many customers treated the closure as loss, bringing comfort food and flowers.

“I knew how much people liked it, but I haven’t been there that much physically to hear how deep it is. It’s heartbreaking,” Dunbar said, hchoking up. “The fact that it brought people so much joy was the whole intent of the entire thing.”

Pretty Penny plans to rebrand and continue selling online, focusing on its curated collection and apothecary and home goods, with free shipping to Bay Area residents. Dunbar also plans to launch a podcast about the store’s history, which will also offer tips to entrepreneurs. Pretty Penny will return to the Bay for pop-up vintage market A Current Affair on Nov. 3.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The 10 Most Memorable Moments from Outside Lands 2018

The weekend belonged to women, including Janelle Monáe, Florence + the Machine, and Carly Rae Jepsen

by Janelle Bitker and Madeline Wells
Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 11:52 AM

Janelle Monáe delivered one of the best sets all weekend. - PHOTO BY ADRIENNE LEE
  • Photo by Adrienne Lee
  • Janelle Monáe delivered one of the best sets all weekend.


In many ways, this year’s Outside Lands felt like a whole new festival. Sure, people still took selfies in front of the Ranger Dave statue, and the food and beverage options once again surpassed those of competitors. But the lineup was its most diverse and inclusive ever — and sure enough, the best performances of the weekend were not from the white male-fronted rock bands of yore but from women, people of color, and queer artists. Artists repeatedly told fans to take care of each other and love each other — or in Tash Sultana’s case, “If you’ve got those transphobic vibes, you can get the fuck out of here!” — and in this political climate, they really seemed to mean it. Here are 10 of the weekend’s most memorable sets, in chronological order:


Lucy Dacus

Big pop and R&B acts dominated Outside Lands this year, but mellower rocker Lucy Dacus provided a refreshing contrast of calm beauty. She played two sets on Friday — the first, a smaller show of covers and deep cuts in the dreamy meadow setting of the Cocktail Magic stage (a highlight included her acoustic cover of “La vie en rose”). Her second set on the Panhandle stage drew a fairly small but similarly mesmerized crowd, with her low, rich vocals delivering devastating lyrics over echoey guitar. Dacus seemed a bit nervous on stage, but in a sweet and charming way. “I hope you’re having a good day, and I hope you’re staying hydrated. I have a lot of hope for you guys,” she said. Cathartic break-up song “Night Shift” took on new life live, “You got a nine to five, so I’ll take the night shift / And I’ll never see you again if I can help it” — the perfect lyrics for spurned lovers to shout at the top of their lungs.

Caleborate

Berkeley rapper Caleborate was the hometown hero of the day, playing his first ever Outside Lands set on Friday, which was also “Probably the first time I’ve ever been in front of this many people exclusively for me, this is crazy,” he told the crowd. He made the set a party, bouncing around stage and insisting on using the mic stand for “Consequences” because he wanted to “perform the hell out of this one” and getting everyone to sing along ("I just wanna chill, smoke, drink an' be cool"). The short, spunky rapper finessed more somber moments of the set as well, such as talking about how his father went to jail (“Bankrobber”) and how he lost a childhood friend. Overall, his set was a joy, a triumph for a hungry up-and-coming local rapper playing to the kind of big crowd he deserves.

Carly Rae Jepsen boldly performed "Call Me Maybe" halfway through her set. - PHOTO BY ADRIENNE LEE
  • Photo by Adrienne Lee
  • Carly Rae Jepsen boldly performed "Call Me Maybe" halfway through her set.


Carly Rae Jepsen
How can you go wrong with pop confectioner Carly Rae Jepsen? Her spotless, sunny hooks soared over the crowd at her Friday late afternoon Twin Peaks set, an absolute ray of light in oversized orange sunglasses and an incredible pair of white fringe pants. She wasn’t a headliner, and didn’t even play on the main stage — but it felt like she easily could have. Jepsen weeded out casual fans by playing 2012 breakthrough hit “Call Me Maybe” in the middle of her set — but their loss was remaining fans’ gain. Her dedicated, largely queer and female cult following tasted rarer treats such as Emotion b-side “Fever,” a song about stealing an ex-lover’s bike. And, of course, there was the unforgettable rainbow and glitter-saturated guest appearance of dancer Mark Kanemura during closer “Cut to the Feeling.” Those who left after “Call Me Maybe” were definitely kicking themselves.

The Weeknd

For anyone who chose seeing Beck over headliner The Weeknd on Friday… why? King of sexy R&B chart-toppers, he kicked off Friday night with epic Black Panther hit “Pray For Me,” leaping around stage and causing a flood of wandering festivalers to immediately run headlong toward his set. While girlfriend Bella Hadid watched from the crowd and fire cannons blasted, a largely fratty crowd sang along to every word, from Daft Punk collab “Starboy” to funky, ubiquitous love letter to cocaine, “Can’t Feel My Face.”

Lizzo
Lizzo’s set bursted with self-love and body positivity as the alternative hip-hop artist bounced around in her golden, ruffled leotard and whipped her matching tulle cape back and forth. There was sensual chair dancing, phallic mic stroking, knee pad-clad backup dancers, tequila chugging, and plenty of twerking. “This is the world’s largest twerk tutorial right here,” she said, as her dancers turned around, bent over, and demonstrated the many dimensions of the artform. She suffused her set with soul, R&B, and gospel, turning the park into a feel-good, weirdos-loving church: “Ya’ll trying to have some praise and worship up in this motherfucker?”

East Bay boys SOB x RBE garnered a huge crowd on the Twin Peaks stage. - COURTESY OF OUTSIDE LANDS BY FILMMAGIC.COM
  • Courtesy of Outside Lands by FilmMagic.com
  • East Bay boys SOB x RBE garnered a huge crowd on the Twin Peaks stage.


SOB x RBE
The dance party leading into SOB x RBE’s set was among the most bumpin’ all weekend at Outside Lands — but it came to a quick halt once the Vallejo foursome took the stage. Although they landed a hit track on the Black Panther soundtrack and got repped by Kendrick Lamar, it’s easy to forget that the members of SOB x RBE are incredibly young — starting at age 19 — and just getting started. The set took a while to get going, as the rap crew’s body language and energy didn’t immediately match its frenetic bars. But it built up, and fans stuck with them, eventually getting rewarded with surprise appearances by Nef the Pharaoh and Lil Sheik — and, of course, a bangin’ closer of “Paramedic!”


Florence + the Machine
Anticipation was high for Florence + the Machine’s historic set as the first female-fronted band ever to headline Outside Lands. It also happened on the day that saw record-breaking attendance at the festival, as well as marked the band’s debut of a new stage show to go along with Florence’s fourth record, High As Hope. The stage was decked out in pale wood panels and billowing white cloth, with Florence Welsh rapidly spinning in circles like a deranged but graceful ballerina and sprinting barefoot into the crowd as security guards hustled to keep up. In between songs, which included her new single “Hunger” and her breakout hit “Dog Days Are Over,” she captivated fans with warm assurances: “I believe in you and I believe people can make change,” she said. “Keep doing good in the way that you can. … We all belong here.”

Florence Welsch glowed as she danced around in a sheer white gown. - COURTESY OF OUTSIDE LANDS BY FILMMAGIC.COM
  • Courtesy of Outside Lands by FilmMagic.com
  • Florence Welsch glowed as she danced around in a sheer white gown.


Janelle Monáe

Despite apparently throwing up minutes before taking the stage, Janelle Monáe performed what was perhaps the best set of the entire weekend. She was absolutely electric, from literally (and rightfully) taking the throne during hard-hitting rap song “Django Jane” to breaking out the infamous vagina pants for “Pynk,” a pastel-colored celebration of female sexuality. For much of her career, Monáe has been an enigma — the unknowable pop android of Afro-futuristic concept albums. But having recently come out as pansexual, she’s letting the human being beneath into the public eye more and more. She didn’t shy away from acknowledging her newly public identity on stage, encouraging the crowd to love who they love and yelling, “Happy Pride forever!” And beneath flawlessly executed choreography, multiple costume changes, and, of course, her impeccable voice, Monae occasionally dropped her fierce facade to let a huge, genuine smile break out.


James Blake

Perhaps the most jarring thing about hearing James Blake live for the first time is that his quivering, soulful voice sounds exactly the same live as it does on his records. He and his backing band played a Sunday night set of hauntingly gorgeous, fragmented electronic songs to an enraptured crowd of fans dancing with tears in their eyes. The 2013 hit “Retrograde” howled to gravity-defying heights, the buzzing synths and repeating ghostly vocal riff turning the Sutro stage into a spaceship. To close, the rest of the band exited the stage and Blake played a stunning solo cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You,” peeling back the layers of complex electronica to showcase his hypnotic voice.


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Saturday, August 11, 2018

We're At Outside Lands Right Now. Here's What You Should Know.

New attractions Grass Lands and Bubble Tea Party, plus new rules and app features.

by Madeline Wells
Sat, Aug 11, 2018 at 10:07 AM

Carly Rae Jepsen stole day one of the festival - PHOTO BY ADRIENNE LEE
  • Photo by Adrienne Lee
  • Carly Rae Jepsen stole day one of the festival


The first day of Outside Lands 2018 went off without a hitch. The highlight? Carly Rae Jepsen delighted the crowd with a surprise guest appearance from Mark Kanemura, So You Think You Can Dance star and former backup dancer for Lady Gaga during “Cut to the Feeling.” On social media, Kanemura has made his obsession with the song no secret — a Pride-themed video of him dancing theatrically to “Cut to the Feeling” went viral earlier this summer. Decked out in a rainbow cape, rainbow Speedo, buckets of glitter, and a stack of rainbow wigs he whipped off in rapid succession, Kanemura’s performance was a hilarious and joyful shout-out to Jepsen’s LGBTQ fans.


Lucy Dacus, Perfume Genius, Odesza, Father John Misty, Mac Demarco, Beck, The Weeknd, East Bay locals Caleborate and Shannon and the Clams, and comedians Chelsea Peretti and Michelle Wolf also stacked the Friday lineup. Bill Nye (yes, the infamous Science Guy) also made two appearances at the festival. The first was for D.A.V.E. (Discussions About Virtually Everything), the festival’s brand new TED Talk-esque speaker series, which will feature figures including California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. The second was on the culinary-themed GastroMagic stage, in which Nye learned how to cook a steak with shouty VICELAND chef Matty Matheson.

East Bay rapper Caleborate performed at Outside Lands for the first time. - PHOTO BY ADRIENNE LEE
  • Photo by Adrienne Lee
  • East Bay rapper Caleborate performed at Outside Lands for the first time.


But Friday was just the beginning. If you’re hitting up Outside Lands on Saturday and Sunday, here are some things you need to know.


What to Bring

This year, if you want to bring in a backpack or a bag bigger than a fanny pack (anything over 6 by 8 by 3 inches), it needs to be clear. Most people seemed to have gotten the clear bag memo for day one, so don’t be that guy who holds up the line today and tomorrow. Also, bring a refillable water bottle — avoid spending $4 on disposable water bottles and just hit up the refill stations located throughout the festival.


Strategize The Barbary

If you want to make the most of the comedy and improv stage, stop by The Barbary up to two hours before the act you want to see goes on. You need to make a seat reservation, which is fairly simple and fast if you get there early — just wait in a very short line and ask for tickets, then go about the rest of your festival day until it’s time for the performance. Catch Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye fame on Saturday, or New York stand-up comedian Phoebe Robinson on Sunday. D.A.V.E. speakers are also on The Barbary stage.

Festival attendees can craft bongs out of produce at Grass Lands. - PHOTO BY ADRIENNE LEE
  • Photo by Adrienne Lee
  • Festival attendees can craft bongs out of produce at Grass Lands.
The Smell Wall lets you compare the aromas of different cannabis strains. - PHOTO BY ADRIENNE LEE
  • Photo by Adrienne Lee
  • The Smell Wall lets you compare the aromas of different cannabis strains.

What Else Is New?

This year, Outside Lands introduced Grass Lands — a “celebration” of cannabis that actually includes no real cannabis. It’s worth a walk through for cannabis delivery service Farm to Bong’s hilarious build-your-own-bong out of fresh vegetables competition. Or, you can sample cannabis-infused treats without the cannabis, talk to budtenders, or get a whiff of different strains at The Smell Wall. But if you’re looking for actual weed, Grass Lands is not your destination — take an Instagram photo with the big grass-covered Grass Lands sign and seek your festival high elsewhere.

The festival debuted Bubble Tea Party, a new area to kick back and relax. - PHOTO BY ADRIENNE LEE
  • Photo by Adrienne Lee
  • The festival debuted Bubble Tea Party, a new area to kick back and relax.

Also new this year is the Bubble Tea Party, a lounge area where you can purchase overpriced boba, shop for an eccentric hat, and revel in the picturesque decor. If you’re lucky, one of the site’s “Mad Hatters” might pay you a visit and do something strange, such as measure the circumference of your head. It’s a bit weird, but it’s a great photo opp.


Two more things: the GastroMagic stage has now doubled in size and has relocated to Lindley Meadow, and you can also now order your drinks in advance using the OSL iPhone app. Good luck and happy festivaling.


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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Outside Lands: Your Guide to the 2018 Festival

What to see beyond The Weeknd, Florence + the Machine, and Janet Jackson.

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 2:14 PM

The Weeknd headlines Friday at Outside Lands. - PHOTO COURTESY OF OUTSIDE LANDS
  • Photo courtesy of Outside Lands
  • The Weeknd headlines Friday at Outside Lands.


As ticket sales have declined at many national music festivals, Outside Lands seems to be on a mission to prove it’s not going stale. For the first time in the Bay Area festival's 11-year history, two of the headliners are Black. Another first: Two of them are women. And yet another first: All three headliners in the comedy tent are also women. It all goes down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Friday, Aug. 11 through Sunday, Aug. 13, and passes are still on sale.

Beyond the performers, Outside Lands is also unveiling a slew of new attractions this year, including Grass Lands, a cannabis section that doesn’t actually sell cannabis (read more about Grass Lands here), and a glow-in-the-dark lounge fueled by boba tea. There's also a new clear bag policy, which you should definitely read.

Given all the different stages, the lineup can quickly overwhelm attendees — especially first-timers. Here are some highlights:


Music


Janelle Monáe: While we’re stoked about headliners The Weeknd, Florence + the Machine, and Janet Jackson, we also can’t believe Monáe isn’t higher up on the lineup. As one of the most prominent Black and queer artists around right now, Monáe is renowned for her electric live performances, bold aesthetic choices, and fiery, funky pop. If you haven’t watched her visual album for Dirty Computer yet, you should look at it as required viewing to prepare for her set on Sunday at 4:40 p.m.


Perfume Genius: It’s been a joy to watch the growth of Perfume Genius, from a shy, gay singer writing songs about sexuality and domestic abuse to a fully realized, confident artist. His 2017 record No Shape saw wide critical acclaim for its simultaneously tortured and joyous tone as well as explorations of R&B, art pop, and soul, and goth. Catch him on Friday at 3:40 p.m.

Perfume Genius' performances are usually full of memorable movement. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PERFUME GENIUS
  • Photo courtesy of Perfume Genius
  • Perfume Genius' performances are usually full of memorable movement.


Kelela: The Ethiopian singer’s debut album Take Me Apart landed on many Best Albums of 2017 lists for good reason. Her cerebral, cinematic sound pushes the boundaries of pop with dark drum ‘n’ bass undertones. Among the young rising stars on Outside Land’s lineup, Kelela is who we most think will be worth an early arrival. She performs on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Local artists: Another prime reason to show up early is to support the many East Bay acts on the lineup. On Friday, there’s rock favorite Shannon and the Clams at 12:30 p.m. and rising hip-hop talent Caleborate at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, Berkeley-born electronic artist Emmit Fenn opens the day at noon. Breakout hip-hop group SOB X RBE takes the stage at 5:20 p.m. Sunday will see two Oakland indie acts kick things off with T Sisters and Dick Stusso both at noon.


The Barbary


Headliners Chelsea Peretti, Michelle Wolf, and
Phoebe Robinson are all big gets, but if we’re picking just one comic to wait in line for, it’s Robinson of the podcast and HBO show 2 Dope Queens. She also hosts the podcast Sooo Many White Guys, made her feature film debut with Netflix’s IBIZA, and is widely heralded as one of the top comedians to watch right now. She’ll be at the comedy tent in one form or another on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. and Sunday at 4:05 p.m. and 6:55 p.m.


Brand new this year is D.A.V.E., which stands for “discussions about virtually everything,” a TED Talks-style program taking over the Barbary in the early hours of each day. The most exciting booking is definitely Bill Nye — yes, as in The Science Guy — who will speak Friday at 1:20 p.m.

Phoebe Robinson is best known for her podcast. - PHOTO COURTESY OF OUTSIDE LANDS
  • Photo courtesy of Outside Lands
  • Phoebe Robinson is best known for her podcast.


Food


Among new food vendors, we’re most excited about Ayesha Curry’s
International Smoke, which will serve crab tom kha soup and Korean pulled pork sandwiches; buzzy new fine dining restaurant Sorrel, which will sling fried chicken sandwiches; and Hawker Fare, which will warm up bodies with spicy tamarind and pork egg drop noodle soup. The festival will also be a great opportunity for folks to try out FOB Kitchen before it opens in the former Juhu Beach Club space next month — the Filipino eatery will make vegetarian glass noodles.


If you’re looking for tried-and-true favorites, The Farmer’s Wife makes a killer lamb merguez and chimichurri grilled cheese sandwich, and Tartine Manufactory will never do you wrong.


Head to the GastroMagic stage for goofy blends of live entertainment and chef demos. The biggest name — with perhaps the biggest personality — is Eddie Huang, the chef and host of VICE’s Huang World. Catch him Saturday at 7:05 p.m.


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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Undocumented Artists Spotlighted in a New Exhibit at CultureStrike in Oakland

“Undocumented people are artists, intellectuals, strategists; they are people that can articulate their situation.”

by Azucena Rasilla
Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 12:52 PM

"We The Dreamers" is one part of the We Didn't Arrive Here Alone exhibit. - PHOTO COURTESY CULTURESTRIKE
  • Photo courtesy CultureStrike
  • "We The Dreamers" is one part of the We Didn't Arrive Here Alone exhibit.

For poet and writer Yosimar Reyes, the curator behind We Didn't Arrive Here Alone now on display until December (last day of the installation to be determined) at Oakland's CultureStrike (1330 Broadway), it was important to showcase artists of color who are undocumented.

“Often times [for] undocumented people in the collective imagination, there’s this idea that we’re still living in fear,” Reyes told the crowd at the opening reception this past Friday. “There’s this idea that we’re not global, that we are not living our full lives, and I got really tired of that.”

Yosimar Reyes giving the opening remarks at the exhibit. - PHOTO COURTESY CULTURESTRIKE
  • Photo courtesy CultureStrike
  • Yosimar Reyes giving the opening remarks at the exhibit.

Reyes sees the media and certain politicians' portrayals of the undocumented community as largely inaccurate. “Undocumented people are artists, intellectuals, strategists; they are people that can articulate their situation,” Reyes said. With every exhibit he curates, he wants to shed a light on the talent that hides behind someone without papers — how their immigration status doesn’t define who they are and how they live their daily lives.

We Didn't Arrive Here Alone is the third installation that Reyes (who currently resides in Los Angeles but grew up in San Jose) has curated. Back in Los Angeles, he held We Never Needed Papers to Thrive in Boyle Heights. No Ban, No Wall was also in Los Angeles. And in San Francisco, Undocujoy was held at Galería de la Raza back in February.

For this particular exhibit, Reyes’ first in Oakland, he worked with artists Alicia Martinez, Heldáy de la Cruz, Leo Carmona, and Rommy Sobrado-Torrico.

The installation is a mix of photography, political posters, and portraits of Dreamers.

Artist Heldáy de la Cruz - PHOTO COURTESY CULTURESTRIKE
  • Photo courtesy CultureStrike
  • Artist Heldáy de la Cruz

As you walk through the CultureStrike hub, each wall highlights one of the artists — you are greeted by ‘We The Dreamers,’ a set of portraits hand-drawn by de la Cruz. Each striking portrait depicts a Dreamer. Roughly 800,000 Dreamers benefited from then-President Obama’s 2012 Executive Action called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). On Sept. 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program. In April of this year, a federal judge ordered the program to be reinstated in full. Congress has not yet passed any legislation aimed at alleviating this legal limbo.

Martinez, who has been living in the United States for the past 20 years, used photography to show the many ways in which immigrants work to provide for their families. Each photo is accompanied by a quote. Martinez interviewed each immigrant to find out their stories. “I used words like 'business owners' [when describing what each immigrant does]. I just want my people to be listened to,” Martinez said.

Artist Alicia Martinez - PHOTO COURTESY CULTURESTRIKE
  • Photo courtesy CultureStrike
  • Artist Alicia Martinez

Carmona’s work also involved photography. The series of black-and-white photos show Latinx families during Catholic baptisms. For these Latinx families, being away from their country of origin strengthens their religious beliefs.

Queer artist Sobrado-Torrico utilizes colorful posters to raise awareness to the country's current immigration crisis. “A Mother’s Love Has No Borders,” one poster read. Another one is dedicated to the Queer community: “What glory we incite, what glory we create, what glory we are,” with the words, "Para Los Migrant Queers," next to the quote.

“I want our lives to exist beyond these deportation narratives. If you look at this artwork, you’re going to see people that are smiling, people that are resilient,” Reyes said. “I think of this artwork as a testament to that, as a glimpse of hope in all this destruction.”

The work behind putting together these exhibits doesn’t come easy nor cheap, but Reyes sees the value in showcasing these talented artists who do not let their legal status define them. Reyes is hopeful that other art spaces will want to work with him and his vision, and that he is also able to secure the funds needed to continue this quest.

“This work is of caliber, and it should be supported.” Reyes told those in attendance. “My hope and my goal is that this work goes national. Help support these visionaries.”


Correction:
The exhibit is by CultureStrike, in collaboration with guest curator Yosimar Reyes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

In Its Ninth Year, Burger Boogaloo Remains Lovably Quirky — But It Can Do Better

Devo, The Damned, and The Mummies played this year's festival in Mosswood Park.

by Madeline Wells
Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 10:19 AM

Devo headlined the first day of the festival. - ERIKA REINSEL
  • Erika Reinsel
  • Devo headlined the first day of the festival.

Burger Boogaloo is perhaps the Bay Area’s most eccentric summer music festival: a quirky, crusty celebration for garage punks held in Oakland’s Mosswood Park. Hosted by John Waters and organized by DIY-aesthetic indie label Burger Records, this year’s lineup featured art punks Devo and U.K. punk pioneers The Damned as headliners.

But things got off to a bit of a rocky start when Oakland police officers cleared out homeless camps at Mosswood Park mere days before the festival, inciting social media outcry. While the timing of the camp closures didn’t look good for the festival, Oakland Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries confirmed to KQED that it was the city’s initiative to remove the encampments rather than Burger Boogaloo’s.

The festival released a statement on its website expressing concern and support for the homeless crisis: “Burger Boogaloo has donated to the following homeless assistance organizations and we encourage our friends and anyone concerned about the plight of people here in our community to do the same.” They also partnered with Homeless Action Center, a homeless advocacy organization, which had a table at the festival.

While Boogaloo handled the controversy fairly well, the incident was indicative of the larger issue of displacing the homeless in the Bay Area — and of even bigger themes of non-inclusivity. Many of the festival’s acts took political stances, and bands Hunx and His Punx and Pookie and the Poodlez encouraged people to donate to the Homeless Action Center. However, the lineup itself was lacking in diversity, with almost no people of color and only six out of 22 total bands having female-identifying members (none of which were headliners).

Punk rock has been a genre historically dominated by white men (despite it having roots in African American music), but in recent years, a more representative wave has arrived. Take Afropunk, for example, or even Oakland’s own Near Dark Fest at The Golden Bull, whose organizers carefully select its lineup to include mostly acts with people of color, members of the queer community, and women. Last year, a new festival called The Universe is Lit: Bay Area Black and Brown Punk Fest also took place in Oakland and San Francisco, featuring four days of POC music and art — and it’s scheduled to return later this summer.
The crowd at the festival was mostly white. - ERIKA REINSEL
  • Erika Reinsel
  • The crowd at the festival was mostly white.
One band in particular on Burger Boogaloo’s lineup felt tone-deaf in this modern context: Sunday’s The Rip Offs. Pulling up to the stage on a police motorcycle and sporting black nylons over their faces, the San Francisco band proceeded to act as edgy as possible in the most distasteful way. Women in sexy police officer getups acted as their backup dancers, and their stage banter included objectifying comments about audience members’ breasts.

It would be remiss not to mention that the crowd, too, was mostly white — the product at least in part of inclusivity issues present in the punk community as a whole. In Oakland, one of the most diverse cities in the world, it felt jarring to see such an unrepresentative crowd. (To be fair, though, many attendees travelled from outside the Bay for the festival.) Businesses present at the festival were mostly helmed by white workers as well, including one vintage store selling a pair of underwear with the words “ghetto booty” emblazoned across the butt area (yikes).

That’s not to say the music itself was a disappointment. On Saturday, Hunx and His Punx, featuring Shannon Shaw from Shannon and the Clams, endeared the audience with its punk-meets-’60s-girl-group sound and frontman Seth Bogart’s goofy antics. The Mummies also played a memorable set, forced onto the stage in their typical mummy garb by people in Planet of the Apes costumes, who announced, “We have trained man animals to play music!” They kicked the band off stage at the end of their set, smashing their instruments and reassuring the audience that next time, they’d bring something better — perhaps trained salamanders.
The Mummies played on Saturday, dressed as — you guessed it — mummies. - ERIKA REINSEL
  • Erika Reinsel
  • The Mummies played on Saturday, dressed as — you guessed it — mummies.
But Saturday belonged to Devo, who played for the first time in four years with surprise guest Fred Armisen (Portlandia, Saturday Night Live) on drums. They traded their usual yellow jumpsuits for orange but still donned their signature energy dome hats. Seeing “Whip It” live nearly 40 years after its release was surreal, and young and old alike sang along to every word. The band also used its stage time to connect its original inspiration for an art movement — the “devolution of our culture” in the context of their friends being gunned down at Kent State — to the current political moment, referring to Donald Trump as an “orange fuckhead.”

Sunday’s lineup included Quintron and Miss Pussycat, a husband-and-wife act that featured a light-activated drum machine and a puppet show that was, fittingly, about gentrification. Other highlights included Japanese power-pop band Firestarter, the rare reunion of electropunk band Le Shok, and, of course, headliner The Damned, with lead singer Dave Vanian looking spooky in a long black coat and gloves and sounding somehow even better than he did 40 years ago on hits like “Smash It Up Parts 1 & 2.”

This year’s Burger Boogaloo was a bittersweet weekend, filled with great music but lacking some of the social awareness and inclusive representation that could make it something truly special. In 2018, punk is not a space reserved solely for angry white men anymore — and punk festivals should reflect that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Talking Devolution with Burger Boogaloo Headliner Devo

“We're just the house band going down with the Titanic, playing your favorite tunes as we all go down.”

by Nessa Moreno
Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 12:35 PM

Devo is perhaps best known for their hit, "Whip It." - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT MATHEU
  • Photo courtesy of Robert Matheu
  • Devo is perhaps best known for their hit, "Whip It."


The history of Devo, the misunderstood iconoclast multimedia pioneers of punk, is far complicated than scores composed for Rugrats. Reached by phone earlier this week, Devo co-founder Jerry Casale cut into the grit about Donald Trump without hesitation (or espresso). "He's a blustering, idiotic developer-businessman-entrepreneur who hoodwinked everybody, has been bankrupt four times, gotten himself into a mountain of debt," Casale said, sounding groggy but perking up as the caffeine hits. "It's proof of Devolution of our entire culture."

What exactly is Devolution? Let’s go back to May 4, 1970, Kent State University. At the time, Casale was a student organizing with Students for a Democratic Society against the Vietnam War. That's when the National Guard gunned down the student uprising, killing four students and injuring nine. Casale knew two of the slain students, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller. For the next year-and-a-half, Casale channeled grief into a project with his colleague Bob Lewis and conceived the concept, Devolution. "We were seeing in western society going down, Devolution,” Casale said. “Then one night I decided to make it an art movement, so we wanted to shorten it up. We wanted to do what all corporations did by abbreviating, using anagrams — we wanted to make it like Xerox, rub off letters. … It was Devo from there on out.”


It was then that Casale met up with co-founder of Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh, who was a student part-time taking art classes. “We became friends,” Casale said. “I told him about all the Devolution stuff. He just went nuts. He was already mentally there with us.”


The group elevated their concept from art into music with the help of their brothers Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob1) and late Bob Casale (Bob2), and found their first drummer, the late Alan Myers. By 1977, Devo was ready to leave Akron Ohio behind, and Jerry took a trip to New York booking gigs for Devo at punk clubs CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City and pretending to be Devo’s manager — rightfully so, at the time no one took them seriously. “Once we played those clubs, suddenly we were on the radar. People on the West Coast — the center of the record business world — were trying to sign us. A&M Records had an A&R man, Chip Cohen (he signed The Tubes two years earlier), he gave us money and had to drive out to California. Then we had to showcase for him in Hollywood, and he promptly rejected us.”


Rather than trudging the trail of failure back to Akron, Ohio, they met one last record executive. “He goes, ‘Guys, you could march seven naked teenage girls in here and they're all pretty but one's got a weird mole, one’s got no tits. What I'm trying to say is, you're not my kind of girl.’ I wanted to punch him out. ... That's when we left, and I started venting in the parking lot screaming about him, and Alan Myers, our drummer, goes, ‘Maybe we don't deserve a record deal.’ Ha, and I go, ‘Fuck that. That's bullshit. We're going to figure this out.’”


Word began to circulate about Devo’s distinctive sound and appearance. The same venue of Devo's debut showcase invited the band back, gaining them local recognition, and attracted the likes of Toni Basil and Iggy Pop, who then gave their tape to Neil Young, who then gave their tape to David Bowie, who brought Devo in touch with Brian Eno, who then produced their debut classic, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Los Angeles has been their base ever since.


With their debut on Saturday Night Live, Devo was definitely perceived as polarizing by right wing America, especially in late 1970s. “When you're a do-it-yourself artist and you're punk in sense that you hate illegitimate authority, you hate all the gatekeepers — you know what? These people hate us, and we're doing something right.”


By 1980, ”Whip It” was on heavy rotation on MTV. But soon, MTV shifted its focus and basically became an advertising tool for Top 40, and Devo dropped off the mainstream radar. Yet, the band remained relevant to the underground. “By the 1990s, they weren't going, ‘Oh fuck Devo, that fucking ‘Whip It’ band,’” Jerry said.


There was a shift, and with that shift, the band came out of a hiatus. With Mothersbaugh composing scores for Rugrats, Pee-wee's Playhouse, and Wes Anderson movies, Devo was rediscovered by a new generation, propelled by the tools of social media. “They're like, ‘Oh yeah, Devo, Devolution is real.’ Of course, it's a foregone conclusion — we're just the house band going down with the Titanic, playing your favorite tunes as we all go down.”


With headlining this Burger Boogaloo this weekend, Devo is influential to many artists on this bill, the Mummies, Quintron, and especially the founders of Burger Records. The band itself remains a relevant soundtrack of society falling apart. “We all proved that Devolution is real,” Jerry said. ”We became the new wave Grateful Dead, with three generations of kids liking our music.”


Devo performs at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, at Mosswood Park in Oakland for Burger Boogaloo. Tickets here.

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