Monday, December 4, 2017

Meet Jerusalem’s Biggest Hipster: Victoria Hanna

The artist will give her final performance of the Magic Spells series at Magnes.

by Nichole Bloom
Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM

  • Photo by Eric Portman

Jerusalem's biggest hipster, Israeli artist Victoria Hanna, has captivated the Berkeley community over the past six weeks in her performance series Magic Spells at the Magnes.

The world-renowned composer, creator, performer, researcher, and teacher of voice and language has spent the past few months at UC Berkeley co-teaching a course on Jewish nightlife with art curator and associate professor Francesco Spagnolo.

Hanna first rose to fame in 2015 with the release of her debut single, “The Aleph-bet Song (Hosha'ana),” her take on the Hebrew alphabet. The song and video are rather hypnotic and a bit peculiar, and this quirky persona helped turn Hanna into an internet sensation.

As part of her performances series at the Magnes, Hanna crafts an original interpretive piece each week based on Hebrew amulets in the Magnes' collection, which are displayed for the audience to examine during and after the show.

Hanna began working with amulets and ancient texts as a child, raised in an ultra-orthodox family in Jerusalem. “My father was a rabbi so religion and spirituality have always been a big part of my life,” she said. Hanna began posting her textual interpretations on YouTube, which caught the eye of Spagnolo.

Spagnolo reached out to Hanna via Skype, who was looking for any chance to continue to invent and explore the unknown. After several more Skype sessions, Spagnolo ventured to Jerusalem to visit Hanna and invited her to join him in Berkeley.

Hanna said her students initially seemed a little hesitant about her at, wondering “who is this cuckoo woman moving her body and making such strange sounds,” Hanna said, jokingly. Using a traditional cabalistic approach, Hanna has taught her students the “universal language of sound,” pushing them to break out of their shell. “You always learn the most when you are uncomfortable,” said Hanna.

It is this “utilizing of a UC Berkeley classroom that adds a whole other dimension to Hanna’s work,” says Spagnolo. “If a group of 19- to 20-year-old students from an array of different backgrounds can connect with such specific and ancient materials, you know you’ve uncovered something special,” he said.

Hanna said this is the power of the universal language of sound — “a unifying entity worldwide.”

Last Tuesday, Hanna’s students joined her onstage. She composes much of her performances in real time, something she sees as a privilege as Spagnolo grants her a space of total creative freedom. “It’s really important he trusts me; he tells me you do whatever you like,” said Hanna.

Hanna will give her final performance of the Magic Spells series on Tuesday, Dec. 5, as the UC Berkeley semester comes to a close. She is at UC Berkeley with the Visiting Israeli Artists Program supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. She's also working on her second album. Next year, she will be performing at music festivals across Australia and New Zealand before touring Europe in the spring.

Tuesday Dec. 5, 5:30 p.m., free, Magnes UC Berkeley,

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fundraiser for DJ Pam the Funkstress on Sunday

Local DJs are rallying up to help

by Azucena Rasilla
Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 1:19 PM

  • File photo by Sam Zide

On Nov. 12, DJ Pam The Funktress announced on her Instagram page that she was canceling all her gigs until further notice due to “unforeseen medical issues.” Then, on Nov. 16, the news of her hospitalization spread on social media. There was an outpouring of support from the local music scene, as well as friends and fans of the beloved DJ. Last August, Pam was named “Best Deejay” in our Best of The East Bay issue.

While detailed information about her health issues is scarce, whomever is in charge of her social media pages has been providing updates on her condition. We know that she had surgery on Nov. 18, and a GoFundMe has been set up to help with medical bills and lost wages while she is hospitalized. The fundraiser is set at $25,000, and as of Friday morning, it was up to a little over $6,500.

On Sunday Dec. 3, a “We Love Pam” Day Party Fundraiser will take place at Liege in Oakland. The fundraiser will be hosted by Chuy Gomez, and tons of local DJs will be participating, including Mind Motion, D Sharp, Supreme, as well as local journalist/activist Davey D. All of the money raised will go towards Pam and her recovery.

SUNDAY at @liegeoakland • We come together for Pam @pamfunkstress #Pray4Pam 481 9th Street Oakland

A post shared by CHUY GOMEZ (@chuygomez) on

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Make•Do Market Creates Space for Black Women Makers and Business Owners

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 11:51 AM

OwlNWood will be featured at the first Make•Do Market. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ADRIAN OCTAVIUS WALKER
  • Photo courtesy of Adrian Octavius Walker
  • OwlNWood will be featured at the first Make•Do Market.

As the holidays descend, craft and maker markets of all kinds are popping up around the East Bay as folks hunt down unique, locally made gifts. But often, these events tend to be dominated by white vendors.

“I feel like there are too many times I’ve been in those spaces and haven’t seen women of color or black women,” said Morgan H. Walker. “Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs but they also face so many challenges and make the least amount of money.”

With that landscape in mind, Walker founded Make•Do, an event productions agency focused on elevating black female entrepreneurs. Her first event, a social media workshop, took place in April. Saturday, Dec. 2 marks the debut of Make•Do Market, which she hopes to organize twice a year.

For the first edition, Walker focused on women with established brick-and-mortar boutiques and strong ties to the Oakland community, although some smaller brands make an appearance as well. Among the vendors are downtown concept shop Show & Tell, local clothing brand O.N.W., and natural beauty products boutique Concept Forty-Seven. Fuel up with a savory spread from Pleasure Principle Catering, pies from Two Chicks in the Mix, and vegan coconut ice cream from Kubé Nice Cream.

“I want it to feel like someone curated a place where I can go and find gifts and holiday outfits all in one space and also be in a space full of black women and people interested in supporting black woman-owned businesses,” Walker said.

Walker is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur who dabbled in selling clothes on Etsy, photography, and makeup work before landing in event production for nonprofits. The St. Louis native moved to Oakland two years ago, finding a city where she felt like she could finally launch Make•Do and organize her first market.

“Coming here, feeling like there was just a strong sense of community and lots of culture, I could do something like Make•Do and not spend as much time explaining why it’s important,” she said.

Make•Do Market: Saturday, Dec. 2, 4-10 p.m., VSCO HQ, 1500 Broadway, Oakland. Get free tickets at

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

REVIEW: Daniel Caesar at the New Parish

The Canadian R&B and soul singer-songwriter played a sold-out show at the Oakland venue.

by Ryan Lindsay
Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 2:26 PM

  • Photo by Ryan Lindsay

The first time I heard Daniel Caesar was not when I sat wiping tears from my eyes, watching my friend’s wedding video as they danced to “Get You.” I don’t actually remember where I was or what I was doing the first time I heard his music; I just remember I liked what I heard and I wanted to hear more from the 22-year-old Toronto native.

And speaking of Toronto, to be quite honest, the only reason I have heard of Snoh Aalegra was because another cat from Toronto, Drizzy, sampled her song “Time” on More Life’s “Do Not Disturb.” Just after 9 p.m., when the Persian, Swedish-born newcomer took the stage in a white, long-sleeve tube-crop top and silver sequined harem pants, I heard less of the Amy-Alicia-Jazmine-Janelle graininess that caught my ear while repeatedly listening to her debut album, Feels.

But the crowd felt her and that’s all that mattered. They welcomed her with hearty cheers and applause as she opened with one of my favorites, “In Your River,” a sultry, horn-driven ballad that feels like it could’ve easily been on the Goldfinger soundtrack. Perhaps Amy Winehouse, who Aalegra somewhat resembles in both sound and stature, could’ve gone on to pen a James Bond cinematic theme song, but I digress.

Aalegra’s mash-up of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do for Love,” Joe’s “I Wanna Know,” and Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps,” threw the audience for a loop in the best way possible. There were some things that didn’t quite work, like the awkward moment when her vocals played in the background so that she could attempt a few runs — we weren’t expecting that, either — but with each song, she grew more and more comfortable, and she gracefully left us eagerly waiting for Caesar.

I’m not really quite sure at what point in your career you’re allowed to have more than 30 minutes between set times. Then again, Caesar’s been effortlessly selling out nearly every show on his first tour — the stop in Oakland included. I can’t say that I wholeheartedly feel like Caesar is at that point just yet but when he hit the stage at 10:21 p.m., it was well worth the wait. Instant euphoria. He’d arrived and his choir — us — was ready.

  • Photo by Ryan Lindsay

Caesar started off with a few early joints, songs he’d crafted before Freudian dropped, before his dreads grazed his shoulders that, last night, were cloaked in a black, white, and red flannel atop a white tee. He stood, crooning to the crowd, feet firmly planted in well-worn yet still crisp black and blue hightop Jordan 1’s that greeted his relaxed chinos.

I personally went to church about five songs in, during “Hold Me Down.” I suspect that the majority of his young audience had never heard the original, tear-inducing, legendary gospel cut “Hold Me Now” by Kirk Franklin that Caesar folds into the second half of the song, but it didn’t stop me from belting out the lyrics and throwing my hand in the air like I was in a pew, dressed in my Sunday best.

Caesar closed his eyes often when he sang, gripping his white mic so closely that it touched his lips. Other times, he sang, scanning the floor and the balcony as he strummed his pristine white guitar. During the crowd-favorite “Take Me Away,” Caesar tip-toed in and out of a delicate falsetto amidst verses he sang in his earnest tenor. We bobbed and swayed to “Neu Roses,” a cozy jam that is part apology, part plea to stay, part ambiguous reflection.

Caesar’s guitar solo during “Transform,” a vibey, lush duet that he sang solo, nearly took me out. I simply wasn’t ready. He took us to church again during “We Find Love,” a poignant, bittersweet ballad about a love not meant to be, whose refrain echoes another gospel great — Donnie McClurkin’s “We Fall Down.” And, like McClurkin, he took it up a notch, building emotion and momentum, extending the song — and his hand — to fans.

If Caesar hadn’t graciously admitted that he had forgotten some of the lyrics to “Best Part” earlier in the show, we wouldn’t have known.

“Truth be told, I was in the middle of ‘Best Part’ and I forgot the words,” he said. “I gotta give you guys my best, so I’m going to do it again.”

“FUCK IT UP!” someone yelled from the audience, and fuck it up he did.

There’s something undoubtedly special about this brother, and his ability to write and sing songs that are much more than that — they’re cerebral confessions, praise and pleas that capture a range of emotions, trigger memories, and spur contemplation.

And to make you feel loved — as he did last night — by closing with “Get You,” even if, like myself, you’re not in love or in a relationship.

Monday, October 30, 2017

REVIEW: Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull at Oracle Arena

by Azucena Rasilla
Mon, Oct 30, 2017 at 1:44 PM


Over the weekend, thousands of people flocked to the Oracle Arena in Oakland, where heartthrobs Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull performed as part of a joint tour.

The two artists visit the Bay Area frequently; with similar fan bases and several collaborations under their belt, they appear to have found the perfect formula to ensure the longevity of their careers.

At the Oracle on Saturday night, adoring fans sang along to their extensive discography, while admiring Pitbull’s gorgeous dancers and their perfectly synchronized dance moves.

Iglesias took the stage first, and he made sure to let Oakland fans know that they hold a special place in his heart. His very first visit to Oakland was back in 1997 at the now-closed Henry J. Convention Center.

His setlist shuffled between his English and Spanish hits: “Freak,” “Subele a la radio,” “Bailamos,” “I Like How It Feels.”

The most memorable moment of his performance was when he brought a lucky fan onstage — a tradition of his for several years now. He ran from the main stage to a smaller one on the other side of arena, where he called out a fan named Aloha. (Her excitement to be next to the singer was palpable.) When Iglesias asked who she was there with, she replied, “my husband.”

“Aloha’s husband, for the next three minutes, your wife and I are going to date,” the singer joked. Iglesias then proceeded to serenade her and take a shot of rum with her.

His encore consisted of four songs: “Hero,” “El Perdón,” “Bailando,” and “I Like It.”

The wait between Iglesias and Pitbull’s set was rather long — more than 40 minutes — and the Cuban-American singer did not take the stage until 10:30 p.m. Thankfully, DJ Magic Matt of local radio station WILD 94.9 provided a much-needed musical set to entertain the crowd.


"Mr. Worldwide," as Pitbull famously calls himself, is an entertainer to the full extent of the word. Since his days as a local freestyler roaming the streets of Miami, Pitbull has released four mixtapes and ten studio albums, with Climate Change being the latest.

Joining him onstage was a full band with percussionists and, of course, his six female dancers, Las Mas Malas (The Most Bad Ones).

Pitbull got political right from the start: “We all bleed the same blood and breathe the same air,” he told the cheering crowd. “The universal language that brings everyone together is music.”

Pitbull swayed to some of his best songs: “Don’t Stop This Party,” “Timber,” “Fireball,” “Hotel Room Service.” He also performed a medley of some of his early recordings back when he was simply Mr. 305, including “Culo.”

His political talk continued throughout much of his set, and at one point he even took a jab at Trump: “We got a president who can’t speak but tweets a whole lot,” Pitbull told the crowd. “He claims he doesn’t want immigrants, but his wife is an immigrant.” A loud cheer from the audience followed.

While the Oakland show was supposed to mark the end of the tour, an additional six dates have been added. Their tour will conclude in Austin, Tex., on Nov. 22.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Life Is Living Festival Has Been Rescheduled for Saturday

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 4:49 PM

  • Bethanie Hines
After being postponed earlier this month because of the smoke from the North Bay wildfires, the annual Life Is Living Festival has been rescheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 28, at DeFremery Park in West Oakland, according to a press release.

“Life is Living is a celebration of what sustains life in Oakland,” says Life is Living co-founder and executive producer, Hodari Davis. “Even in the midst of tragedy and misfortune we understand how important it is for us to come together, share our talents, and honor the legacy of what we have done here, to affirm Life.”

The free community event will be held from 10am to 7 p.m. and is billed as a "celebration of OAKLAND Life through hip hop, intergenerational HEALTH and artistic expression." For more information about this year's event — which marks its 10th anniversary — read our article here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Baby Concha Officially Wins Halloween

the photos of the adorable toddler went viral on Twitter

by Azucena Rasilla
Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 3:52 PM

  • Photo credit: Edi Xacon

Move over, Heidi Klum. You have been dethroned as Halloween royalty.

A tweet from Richmond resident Edi Xacon of his nephew Joaquin Chacon dressed as a concha (a traditional Mexican pan dulce) recently went viral (as of publication, 172,000-plus likes and more than 75,000 retweets). Also in the photo are a Mexican zarape and a variety of conchas that baby Joaquin couldn’t resist munching on.

The Express caught up with Joaquin's parents to find out the inspiration behind the adorable costume and the photoshoot that went viral.

Deysi and Luis Chacon are the proud parents of baby Joaquin, and the Halloween costume had been in the planning since before Joaquin was even born. “I got the inspiration from a girl on Instagram [@emo_extremo] who is known for her handmade Halloween costumes, and I knew that I wanted his first costume to be of a concha," Deysi said.
Don’t try looking for the concha costume at stores or online; Joaquin’s costume was an elaborate labor of love between Deysi and her mom. “I found the conchita stencils and cut all the pieces, and my mom helped me with the sewing,” Deysi said proudly.

The Chacons didn't expect the photos to go viral; rather, the photos were just a celebration of a baby milestone. They said they do a photoshoot with Joaquin every month, and Halloween happens to mark his sixth month.

“We have been getting tagged by so many people, we didn’t expect for the photos to go viral,” said Deysi. “My mom and my sister want to take him everywhere dressed as a conchita.”

Before the photos went viral, Deysi entered him in a Halloween contest on Facebook — with the comment “Mi conchita con sus conchitas” — hosted by Las Montañas Supermarket, the Chacons' local grocery store in San Pablo. The photo with the most likes will win a $200 gift card, and baby Joaquin’s photo already has 530 likes and counting. If you want to vote for Baby Joaquin, there is still time; the contest runs until Oct. 31.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

REVIEW: Silversun Pickups Return to the Fox Theater in Oakland

The venue has become one of the band's favorite when touring.

by Nichole Bloom
Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 10:49 AM

  • Photo by: Claire Marie Vogel

It's been two years since alternative-rock foursome Silversun Pickups played in the East Bay, and on Sunday night the group made its angsty return to Oakland's Fox Theater to promote new album Better Nature. The wait was well worth it, as the crowd proved more than ready to rock 'n' roll.

Indie-rock group Minus the Bear opened the show, with one of the members taking the stage in an air-cast due to a broken ankle. Nevertheless, the group successfully amped up the crowd for the main event.

Silversun Pickups launched right into its set and didn't greet the crowd until around three songs in. Lead singer and guitarist Brian Aubert said excitedly that the Fox was one of the group's all-time favorite venues.

The band played all of its most popular tracks, providing the crowd with a perfect mix of classic rock intensity and a whimsical alternative vibe, with watercolor mood lighting and just the right amount of grunge and quirk. Bassist Nikki Monninger stood out in particular, not only as the only woman left in the group but also for her dazzling ensemble: bejeweled silver oxfords and a charming, vintage red dress. After the first few songs, she broke out into her own vocal and bass solos. Drummer Christopher Guanlao also had quite the stage presence, head-banging so vigorously his face was never fully visible to the crowd.

There was no shortage of audience participation throughout the evening, with many audience members dancing to the band’s harder rock tracks. One of the peaks of audience participation was during “Friendly Fires,” which Aubert warned was a bit of a heavy-hitter. The audience showed no hesitation, and the entire venue erupted in clapping and repeating the chant “So could ever break you down.”

Humor was also in steady supply Sunday evening, as Aubert continuously teased the packed floor section for needing attention, saying, “If you’re insecure on the floor, then you don’t deserve to be on the floor.”

The highlight of the approximately one hour-and-ten-minute set fell toward the end, when the group played its beloved hit “Panic Switch.” This led Aubert to start winding down the show, with a soft instrumental transition, releasing some of the fiery angst from the group's harder rock material.

The band closed out the show with its biggest hit, “Lazy Eye." The packed crowd sang and danced in unison before heading out into the night.

Silversun Pickups is continuing its tour throughout the country, closing its final tour stop in Los Angeles on Nov. 25, with a benefit show for Puerto Rico at The Ace Hotel.

Monday, October 16, 2017

There's a Border Patrol Costume at the Spirit Store in Emeryville

by Azucena Rasilla
Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 5:13 PM

Display at the Spirit store in Emeryville at Bay Street
  • Display at the Spirit store in Emeryville at Bay Street

Halloween is just around the corner, and with the annual festivities comes an influx of costumes, from the funny ones, like the popular "emojis," to the ones based on Hollywood blockbusters like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and popular TV shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things, to the downright racially offensive costumes, such as the "beef taco."

And the controversial costumes don't stop there.

During a recent trip to the Spirit Halloween store at Bay Street in Emeryville, a particular display stood out.

It included a "Border Patrol" costume placed next to "Make America Great Again" hats, cutouts of Donald Trump’s face, and blonde comb-over wigs.

Political costumes are nothing new. In 2012, many men chose to dress as Mitt Romney and his “binders full of women,” a phrase used by the presidential candidate during the second debate when addressing a question about pay equality.

This year, however, political costumes are no longer as funny as they once were. In fact, costumes like the Border Patrol are a painful reminder of the current political climate we are living in under the Trump administration. For many, the Border Patrol symbolizes the vigilant eyes targeting immigrants, including the more than 800,000 DACA recipients awaiting action from Congress to pass the Dream Act. The xenophobic rhetoric set forth by the current administration is affecting communities across the country.

Adding fuel to the fire, Spirit also offers the "Okay Foam Hand," which some believed to be a hand gesture used by white nationalists. But the Anti-Defamation League said: "The 'OK' hoax was actually just the most recent in a recent series of hoaxes in which 4channers (and members of other, similar places on the Internet such as 8chan and Reddit) have tried to take innocuous items, symbols or gestures and falsely attribute white supremacist meanings to them in order to fool liberals and get them to spread such false messages."

The Express reached out to Spirit, which released the following statement: 
Halloween, by its nature, takes on many issues and is often expressed in paradox. Costumes are inspired by a variety of sources, specifically trending topics. The costume available at Spirit Halloween pokes at the topical issue, and reflects the on-going headlines and hashtags surrounding the president. In context, this costume sits next to a piggybacking on Mr. President, a host of masks showcasing Trumps many personas and a cut out of presidential BFF Putin, all of which were created with the intent of being ironic to the current political climate.

But is it ironic or just insensitive?

Consider Party City's “Wall” costume. For many immigrants, the border wall represents deportations and the separation of families. The chants of “build the wall” at Donald Trump’s rallies have translated to actual wall prototypes currently being built at the San Diego border.

This Halloween, it's important to be mindful of what others are experiencing and exercise good judgment when choosing what costume to wear.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

This Weekend's Life Is Living Festival Has Been Postponed Due to the Fires

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 3:50 PM

As air quality from the fires up north is expected to worsen in the Bay Area in the next two days, organizers of the Life Is Living festival, which was scheduled for Saturday at DeFremery Park in West Oakland, have decided to postpone the event. Here's the word from the organizers:

The 10th Annual Life Is Living Festival slated for this Saturday, October 14th at DeFremery Park in West Oakland is POSTPONED due to fires and our growing concern for the health and wellness of our people. We are calling on our community to support immediate relief efforts for our friends and family impacted up North.

Stay tuned for breaking updates at

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