Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jeff Wall exhibit at SFMOMA

I had the pleasure of going to the donor preview of this exhibit on Wednesday night, and wow was I blown away. It's an incredible exhibit, well put together and wonderfully shown. Jeff Wall's work is different, and it's clear through his images what his intention and goal is.

I think the most interesting thing about these photos is how they are shown. They are huge: taking up practically entire walls. Also, they are shown by being mounted and lit from the back, like ads at bus stops or in the subway. Wall justifies these two choices of exhibition with two reasons. For the first, he believes in the preservation of traditional art, and so he exhibits his photos in large format as if they were enormous canvases; traditional art style. For the backlit, bus stop ad style, he is exploring the use of cinematography.

Jeff Wall also carefully poses his photos. While we seem to be catching glimpses of spontaneous moments, look carefully: everything is so sharp and clear and clean you can see the slight cinema aspect to it.

One thing I noticed through his photos is that, while his pictures depict enormous scenes, the title is usually a very small part of the photo. Example: one photo is called "Story Teller" and after a long examination, you see the story teller. She is in the bottom left hand corner, very small. I like his inclusion of everything and yet focus on one thing.

Go see this show. It's fabulous, interesting, and extremely nice to look at.

Runs till january 27th 2008
More info click here

I would have to say my personal favorite photos were:

-"The Flooded Grave": Life and death. Life growing in death. Go see it (google it if you are unable).

-"A ventriloquist at a birthday party in October 1947": So. Very. Creepy. And yet...we can't look away.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Aliens in America cast comes to the Bay Area

Okay I don't know if anyone else is as obsessed with this show as I am (so far I know, count 'em, two people who watch it), but I'm throwing it out there anyway. It is certainly, out of the new shows the CW slammed in our face this fall, one of the funniest and one that's doing very well in viewers and reviews. If you aren't watching it, maybe you should check it out.

In any case, whether you're a huge fan, an advocate for the cause of actual funny shows, or if you're just hungry for some fame, I am here to spread word about the CW Cup Youth tournament. This Sunday October 27th in Morgan Hill, the CW is going to be hosting a large festival, complete with games, contests, etc. While I strongly dislike this kind of fair meets too many sponsors event, light shines in this one: Dan Byrd and Adhir Kaylan, the actors who play the two main characters of Justin and Raja, will be there signing autographs.

This TV show is still pretty small and unknown. I remember the cast of Veroncia Mars came to the Bay Area before that show became popular and I missed meeting them. Big mistake.

If you can endure the cheesey festival atmosphere, go for it. Should be very cool to meet these two guys.

When: Sunday, October 27th
Where: Morgan Hill
More info:
Watch "Aliens in America" online:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jenkins Johnson Gallery's current show

Cheap Trick, By Lynn Godsmith

The Jenkins Johnson gallery, famous for their exquisite collections and exhibits, have only two locations worldwide: New York and San Francisco. How very lucky for us. Past shows this year here in San Francisco have featured Don Williams, Ben Aronson, and Nancy Switzer. It's been a very good year to say the least, and yet this current exhibit seems to be the cream of the crop.

Jenkins Johnson is featuring the photography of Lynn Goldsmith, particularly two series: "Icons of Rock" and "Imagination". I can't say I know much about her "Imagination" series, but the "Icons of Rock" is one you must see. The series is a collection of potraits and portraitures of legendary "rock" musicians like Patti Smith, Sting, Frank Zappa, Courtney Love...and of course, Mr. Dylan. The list goes on.

Even if the whole classic rock scene isn't for you, you should go for the pure artistic quality of the photos. They are beautiful artworks, interesting and wonderfully composed. Example? My favorite of hers is the one above, featuring Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. I do not listen to Cheap Trick at all, and yet I can say I adore that photo.

Go for the historical significance. Go for the art. Go for the love of music. If anything, just go because it's here now and we are lucky.

Show runs till October 30th.
Exhibit Page
Gallery Site
Location: 464 Sutter St.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Go! Team at Amoeba

This Thursday October 18, 2007 at Amoeba Records in San Francisco, Brighton six-piece The Go! Team will perform for free. Intimate setting, free, and available to everyone? This almost makes up for the fact that their show this Friday at the Mezzanine is 21 and over. The Go! Team blends cheerleading-like chants with equally cheery samples, creating some of the most colorful music you'll ever hear. Really, the only thing I can compare it to is the mixing of paints on an artist's palette. Throw in some feverish dancing, and you've got yourself the raw sounds of The Go! Team. The vocals are somewhat inaudible, leaving the upbeat tempo of the music to take charge and lead you through some truly danceable melodies.

This band recently released their second full-length CD, Proof of Youth, on the Memphis Industries record label in the US and UK. It's a little different from their debut, Thunder Lightning Strike, which was originally recorded in the founding band member's kitchen, but the underlying musical concepts still hold true - lots of live band recordings and samples, and even special guests like Chuck D.
Here are a couple songs, to get you up on your feet and jumping around:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Man Man heads this way

Wow. Another good show provided by Slim's. It's going to be a good next week.

Man Man are well known for their elaborate live shows, doing things like not pausing between songs or wearing all white. I've also heard talk of them putting on war paint and dancing around. Definitley a band to see live by the sounds of it.

The Wikipedia entry for Man Man says they are " Viking-vaudeville punk-wop rock-and-soul collective". The fact that I cannot even begin to comprehend this genre is perfect, because really, Man Man have created a genre on their own, using multiple instruments in many different ways. They create sounds you never knew could be made.

This show is still relatively unknown, so definitley catch it. After opening for Modest Mouse on their tour, Man Man is getting bigger. The show is Thursday, October 25th.

Show @ 8 (doors at 7:30)
Tickets: $13/15
For more info, click on the title

And here, have a sample. It's my favorite song by them:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Caribou is coming to Slim's

You probably remember Dan Snaith's (who has a, get this, Ph. D in mathematics from the Imperial College London) old stage name Manitoba. The last time this name was used was 2004, when, upon being threatened under lawsuit, he changed it to the now present day Caribou. Caribou's music is often described as "eletronic" or "electronic with some other percussion intrsuments thrown in." I, however, find it much more intricate and eccentric than that.
Caribou released a new album just this past August entitled "Andorra". I came into this album a little late, but I'm very glad I did. The first listen I gave it, I was hooked. Blending equal balances of electronica and percussion with eerie melodies and catchy beats, Caribou keeps you listening in a sort of wonder.

And yes! Snaith will be performing under his Caribou stage name Saturday, October 27th at Slim's. This show is going to be a good one. Snaith performs with a live band, assuming the role of percussionist, and engages the use of video projections, images, and other, shall we say, fascinating technological methods. In a space like Slim's I can see this going very well. The show is popular, but tickets are still available, so snatch one up.
Show @ 9 (doors 8)
For more info, click on the title

And to sample some Caribou (it sounds like I'm offering you some meat dish):
Caribou - Melody Day
Caribou - Irene

(both these songs are from their new album "Andorra")

Sunday, October 7, 2007

SFOpera's premiere of "Appomattox", the new Philip Glass opera

Okay, I don't attend opera regularly. In fact, the last opera I saw before this was "Dr. Atomic", the Peter Sellars opera that also premiered here about a year and a half ago. Funny, because both these operas deal with relatively modern happenings. Of course, the case of the atomic bomb was much more recent than the Civil War (the subject in "Appomattox"), but when they are placed next to classic operatic themes, I think we can call them modern.

But yes, it had been quite a long time since I attended the opera. I happened upon opening night tickets that did not set me back one penny and jumped on the chance (normally they sell for around $625. I find that insane).

"Appomattox" is, as stated, the new opera by Philip Glass, a three-time Academy Award-nominated American composer. He often associated with Kurt Weill and Leonard Burnstein as one of the great composers who has brought music and art to the general public. This particular opera treats the subject of the surrender of Lee and the signing of the treaty to mark the end of the Civil War. The treaty was signed in a courthouse in Appomattox. Hence, the title of the opera.

While "Appomattox" has very realistic ambitions and sets out to perform something very intriguing and interesting, it comes out slightly awkward. At curtain rise, we are presented with a large metal wall that holds just one small opening, where General Grant's wife is standing in era attire. The set is very impressionable from the get-go: the wall rises so high up that we can't see where it ends, and this huge metal slate shines and glints in front of us.

The first act took a fair amount of time to get started. I felt it trudging along quite steadily, like a pace that all the actors felt was comfortable for them...I also felt it when both my brothers fell asleep on either side of me. I remained awake, if only at this point because I was so very intrigued by how the signing was to be turned into an operatic performance and because I wanted the images of Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln singing opera to be in my mind forever.

The music was quite haunting. I would describe Philip Glass' music to be minimalistic, and that is exactly what gave it it's haunting qualities. While everything happening onstage was a bit slow in the beginning, the underbelly of eerie tunes added to the whole thing. I could almost feel myself in the situation of wanting the war to end so badly, but having it continue on regardless. The music was like the ticking of a clock, just wanting it all to be over. The melodies stuck in my mind.

The opera picked up when both Grant and Lee came into the picture. Both were played, in my opinion, very well. Their acting was strong and I felt like I could be watching real war generals conversing with their captains about plans and strategies, only they were singing all the plans very loudly. The scenes showing civilians in the midst of the war were particularly good as well. As the south leaves their cities behind, burning them to leave nothing for the north, lights flashed and bombs went off. Hanging from the ceiling were sculptures of realistic, dead (and life size) horses, strung up by rope, and dangling threatingly (at the sight of them, my mother leaned over and whispered "My friend made those! Don't they look great?" momentarily pulling me out of the opera.) I thought this scene was the most stunning visually, not only because of the dead horses hanging all over the place, but also because the sight of all of these people lined up and watching bombs go off in awe and shock was a strong one.

The first act ended on Lee finally deciding to sign a treaty that Grant will draw up.

The second act starts very strong. The exchange in Appomattox between Grant and Lee is very well done, even managing to throw in some humor. I liked the way they potrayed their conversation, talking about the treaty and the terms of surrender in that courthouse.

Unfortuanetly, the signing, which was what I thought to be the main focus of the play, became muddled and lost in a series of attempts to draw the Civil Rights movement into the play. As they were signing the treaty, they would sometimes freeze, and the audience would become witness to scenes from either the near future or far future, all scenes of Civil Rights movements and events.

While I can understand the importance of the Civil Rights movement in the US (believe me, there have been about twenty papers on it), I just have to say: slow down! Slow. Down. Yes, the civil war had a lasting impact on the US, but save all the events from post Civil War to 1950 for another opera! You'll have plenty of material, Mr. Glass. Because this opera was entitled "Appomattox", most were expecting something about, oh, the signing at Appomattox. Yes, it was present, but it was lost beneath all this intense Civil Rights/black empowerment imagery. The Civil Rights movement also felt diminished through this. Trying to show the progression through a half hour of play was not substantial, and it ended up coming out messy and random.

As the opera ended, they hoisted up the dead horses again, something I do not believe they should have done. The opera ends with many women all singing together, the horses awkwardly being raised (getting caught on thing on the way up) and as their voices are just fading, there is an abrupt blackout. I found this end to be a weak one for such an ambitious and intense opera. I was dubious as I began to applaud, wondering if we had been tricked. I didn't think it could end like that, but it did.

I suppose the thing that most drew me in and brought me to enjoy it despite it's flaws would be the set. I adored the set (and I think I might be the only one). Everything was metallic and modern looking, very angular with lots of lines and straight bars used. The backdrop at one point was a bright orange, taking us in entirely. The lighting was used very well, casting enormous shadows of the actors onto the back of the stage. This made for an impressionable view from the audience. The dead horses were, at least the first time around, visually stupefying and shocking. I often enjoy the set above anything else in plays; having spent so much time backstage, I appreciate these aspects very much (but not necessarily more than the play itself). For "Appomattox" the set definitley did a lot.

From the slow start, to the build up at the end of the first act and start of the second, then the slow decline back down into a messy muddle of information, I felt this opera could be described as: awkward. A sort of tumbling around history, set to beautiful eerie music and incredible, booming voices.
I would say the highlight of the play for me would either be those hanging dead horses, or Abe Lincoln belting out in his long coat and enormouse top hat. That's one to remember.