Earlier today the always-awesome San Francisco Bicycle Coalition took me and about two dozen other cheese-loving cyclists around the city on a 15-mile Tour de Fromage. Though I've been toodling around Berkeley and further afield in the East Bay on my beloved Trek for years now I'd never ever biked in the city, and this was the perfect introduction to some excellent routes fully equipped with bike lanes and everything. We met at the Panhandle Statue, hauled ourselves up over Twin Peaks, and then bombed down O'Shaughnessy to Glen Park and the wonderful Cheese Boutique where they had an entire counter of samples waiting for us. I picked up some aged goat Gouda there before we hopped back on our bikes to go cruising through the Mission and over to Hayes Valley to get some bread to supplement our cheese at La Boulange. Then it was over to Polk Gulch to Cheese Plus for more delicious tastings and the purchase of a hunk of cranberry Wensleydale for me before we pedaled up to the top of Alta Plaza Park for an epic picnic with some amazing views besides. And I had so much fun now I want to go biking in the city every damn weekend.
I can say with absolute certainty that I've experienced few things more blissful in my life than the Animal Collective performance Wednesday night at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. The crowd was so tiny (only 300 tickets were sold) that I easily found my spot right at the stage in front of Panda Bear, and when he started to sing "Comfy in Nautica" I almost cried with the beauty of it. "Comfy" is not strictly an AC track, I know, being from Panda Bear's solo effort and all, but I'm glad they worked it into their set, which they allowed to stretch on for two hours. The coastal fog threatened to blanket both band and audience entirely, but I for one barely noticed as I danced joyfully to "Summertime Clothes" and other favorite songs both old and new. The music never stopped as the band blended outros into intros and transformed them live into complex experimental noisescapes, lulling the audience into a momentary trance until the beats kicked in again. The Library's pastoral location tucked into the trees on the side of a mountain could not have been a more perfect venue for Animal Collective's music either, and Big Sur itself really is magic. As close as I live I've spent criminally little time exploring its many charms, but I made sure to do some hiking and noshing during the day Thursday before the dusk-to-dawn tonalism show back at the Library that night, another mind-blower with acts like Windy & Carl and Lyonnais playing alongside DJ sets by Andy Cabic of Vetiver and Geologist of Animal Collective (masquerading as "Obrian System"). It was ambient/drone/noise/space-rock-ariffic.
Aside from my inspiration input posts I'm not usually a fan of the "listicle" format for this blog. However, I'm trying to wrap things up before taking off to Big Sur for a couple days to go dance in the woods with Animal Collective, and I need to clear my copious backlog of recent sights and sounds. All good stuff, I promise:
The new Star Trek movie is probably the most fun I've had in a theater so far this year, and no one was more surprised by this than me. I was uber-skeptical J.J. Abrams had the first clue how to handle the franchise, but the whole thing is perfectly designed to satisfy old fans like me and young whippersnappers alike.
Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson made an excellent case for scavenging as lifestyle at Diesel last Thursday. I recommend buying their new book The Scavenger's Manifesto as opposed to scavenging it though, if for no other reason than to support local authors.
The Bybloemen tulip Daveyana from the Florists Guide, 1828 (UK). As a a woman of Dutch descent of course my favorite flower is the tulip, and this one in particular is practically engineered to cause a rampant case of tulipomania. For another taste of nineteenth-century botany, Google Book Search has the entirety of Robert Sweet's The British flower garden online (including the marvelous illustrations) right here.
It was all about the old school rock 'n' roll when the Detroit Cobras brought some seriously sexy swagger to Slim's Tuesday night. Frontwoman Rachel Nagy joked about the clouds of pot smoke not-so-surreptitiously billowing from the crowd ("San Francisco!") in between growling out lyrics from the band's catalog of vintage tunes rescued from obscurity and given a distinct garage rock edge. And in case you were wondering, the Cobras really do hail from Detroit.
I remember that the first time I saw South African artist William Kentridge's animated piece Tide Table at SFMOMA it brought me to tears with its powerful contrast between the dark charcoal lines Kentridge uses to illustrate the aftermath of colonialism in Africa and the gorgeous music from that continent he uses as score. I had a sneaking suspicion the work in the museum's current William Kentridge: Five Themes exhibition would break my heart all over again, so I put off seeing the show until last Sunday, very close to when it closes on May 31. I shouldn't have been so worried. Yes, there are some hard things to see in the show as Kentridge unapologetically grapples with a host of difficult political issues, but there are also many moments of sheer beauty. I gasped with pleasure at the surreal image of teeming ants transformed into a constellation of stars by reversing black for white in one video, in a room full of other films similarly inspired by the whimsical genius of Georges Méliès. Another gallery is devoted to Kentridge's designs for the upcoming Metropolitan Opera production of Shostakovich's opera based on Gogol's story The Nose, and they thrillingly synthesize shadowy figures marching across a white scrim, elements of Russian constructivism, and quotes by Nikolai Bukharin from the 1938 trial that led to his execution. That room was instantly my favorite part of the entire exhibition, but the section that displays Kentridge's work on Mozart's The Magic Flute is also breathtaking, the way it features a rotating presentation of projections (some on miniature working sets!) soundtracked by the opera's transcendent music. I had not realized how deeply Kentridge has integrated his work with theater, and I am now totally kicking myself for sleeping on the production of Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses that was staged at Theater Artaud earlier this spring in conjunction with the SFMOMA show. Hideous Sunday, however, can tell you all about it.
I hadn't been to the Museum of Craft and Folk Art since it moved from Fort Mason to its shiny new digs in SOMA, despite having walked past the storefront innumerable times on my way to Japanese cream puff bliss at Beard Papa. But their current show Inside/Outside: Artist Environments sounded awesome, especially Hideous Sunday's description of the Mike Shine surf shack that is the literal centerpiece of the exhibition, so I scheduled a visit for last Sunday afternoon. Shine has recreated a full-scale replica of his hand-crafted Bolinas shack with its references to everything from Scandinavian mythology to A Clockwork Orange to hobo art smack dab in the middle of the gallery space, and museum visitors are welcome to interact with it as they see fit. Flip through a shelf full of records or select an 8-track for the stereo (I went with Queen). Curl up with a book in front of the faux fire or use the art supplies on hand to add your personal touch to the sketchbook on the kitchen table. The exhibition covers a number of other California artists whose very homes or yards became exuberant expressions of their craft, with photographs on the walls allowing a virtual tour of many sites all over the state including Sam Rodia's Watts Towers and the amazing Bottle Village in Simi Valley. Many of the environments have fallen into disrepair or have been dismantled completely, so I appreciated the glimpse of some of these obsessively-assembled environments I might never have seen otherwise. The pictures can only show so much, however, and don't be surprised if you find yourself suddenly inspired to plot out a folk art road trip across America.
Have I mentioned the amazing weather we had last weekend? On Saturday it made for a beautiful night indeed to go hear a bunch of bands at a Club Sandwicher's house in Oakland, a venue cleverly dubbed the Cattle Car. True, there was one moment when we were all crammed into the sauna-like garage that I had a moment of genuine claustrophobia, realizing the route to the exit was blocked by dozens of sweaty hipsters. But then I realized said hipsters were doing nothing more than politely rocking out in place and that there was no need to worry about needing a sudden escape route. The line-up on this particular night included Long Legged Woman, Ganglians, Tonstartssbandht, and the awesome Sic Alps, and in between sets we all went and sprawled in the grass in the backyard under the stars and watched the police helicopters circle overhead. I lingered way longer than I should have, especially considering I had a DJ gig bright and early the next morning, but once Sic Alps got going I found myself compelled to stay and dance awhile.