After last week's less-than-optimal experience at the SF Street Food Festival I know I was not the only one who was a little apprehensive about this weekend's Eat Real Festival in Jack London Square. Fearing a repeat of too-long lines and not enough food, I headed over before noon on Saturday and found to my delight a huge variety of food trucks, carts, and stands, all spread out over a large area that nicely dispersed the crowd. Each vendor had a sign that clearly detailed what was on offer and if there were any vegetarian options, as well as some fun details about their ingredients and their business. I made a beeline for the fabled Crème Brûlée Cart and had my dessert first in the form of a dark chocolate/raspberry pot of deliciousness. Then I grabbed a fresh-squeezed strawberry juice from Urban Nectar to keep me cool in what was probably the longest line at the fest, the queue for the Korean taco truck Seoul on Wheels. Still it was only about a ten minute wait before I was happily gulping down my BBQ tofu taco and licking the sauce off my fingers. Nothing at the festival was priced above $5, and proceeds are being donated to food charities La Cocina, People's Grocery, and Community Alliance with Family Farmers. Leave it to Oakland to do a street food fest right.
So last night I stepped off the shuttle from Outside Lands and walked right over to the Oven, which was really earning its moniker last night thanks to the sweltering weather that was still very much in effect after dark in the Mission. It was a delightfully female-centric evening, with San Francisco's own awesome Grass Widow celebrating the release of their new self-titled 12" and with Portland's Purple Rhinestone Eagle and the always-fabulous T.I.T.S. also playing. The only bummer was that it was so crowded and so sweaty inside that it was only possible to listen to a few songs at a time before it became necessary to hightail it to the open air in the back yard. I accidentally got doused with water from a hose at some point and I didn't even mind.
My festival quota is full for another year thanks to having spent almost all of today in Golden Gate Park at Outside Lands. It was hotter than Hades so I dressed light and made sure to pack a liter of electrolyte water, snacks, reading material, and sunscreen, and then rather than trying to hoof it all over the park I just hung out at the one stage that had all the acts I really wanted to hear:
Akron/Family - These guys are carrying the tribal-beat freak folk flag high, and I love them for it. Half of Howlin Rain came out to jam with them for part of the set to divine effect.
The Dodos - Their song "Fools" is my favorite track of the entire decade, and now that I've finally heard it live I can die happy, especially with the long drawn-out intro they did for it today that had me jumping up and down for so long my heart nearly gave out. Oh my hell they are amazing.
The National - I had heard these guys were good in person and I adore their albums, but I was still not quite prepared for the mind-blowing emotional honesty of their performance. Singer Matt Berninger has a voice that grabs you and will not let go.
Tom Jones - The man is a consummate showman. And you haven't experienced cute until you've seen an entire meadow of hipsters dancing joyfully to "It's Not Unusual". Yes, panties were thrown.
Pearl Jam - Really I just meant to check out a song or two on my way out the gate, but I heard the opening chords of "Why Go" and suddenly I was running over to the stage like I was 16 again, which is about how old I was the last time I saw Crazy Eddie and company. I then proceeded to rock out.
I also appreciate that art by excellent local artists like Clare Rojas and Matt Leines is incorporated all over the festival grounds. Of course the bands continue for two full more days, but I'm fully done after my one good day today. I need a shower and a massage. Not necessarily in that order.
The fact that I have the day off from work tomorrow combined with the absolutely gorgeous weather in the city this evening put a definite spring in my step as I walked up to Union Square after work for some music from the Shotgun Wedding Quintet. Part of the SFJAZZ Summerfest series of free concerts, the show attracted a nicely mixed crowd of jazz aficionados, hip-hop heads, and plenty of curious tourists. The Quintet freely references New Orleans jazz, funk, old-school hip-hop, reggae, and freestyle rap, all held together by frontman Dublin's steady stream of words. Sometimes the lyrics get a touch cheesy, but the music itself stirred up some genuine nostalgia for me, reminding me of time spent at SF's Storyville back in the day. Not bad for five white guys.
It was adorable on Sunday afternoon to see all the hipster rocker types out in the bright sunlight at the 2nd annual Rock Make Street Festival, armed with sunglasses or just plain squinting against the glare. I took some time to browse the fine selection of local crafty vendors, but really I was there for the bands. The standout for me in the music line-up was the Sacramento/San Francisco group Two Sheds, who alternated between gentler twang-infused tunes and full-on psychedelic noise blast supplemented with some good ol' country stomp. Singer/guitarist Caitlin Gutenberger has an amazingly gorgeous voice too, and the crowd was suitably enthusiastic. A lovely way to wrap up a weekend full of festivals.
I was happy to fill in one of the huge gaping holes in my personal film lexicon Saturday night when I stayed in and watched Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront. Film Night in the Park was actually screening it that same night in Union Square, but I was not feeling up to battling hypothermia on a San Francisco summer night so I snuggled up with Richter in front of my computer instead. I ended up being very glad I chose to watch it in the privacy of my own home because I was fully unprepared for how smokin' hot Marlon Brando is in that film. Holy moly. Now I need to go back and rewatch A Streetcar Named Desire, which I last saw when I was far too young to appreciate Brando being a jerk in a wifebeater. Devastatingly handsome leading man aside, it seemed an appropriate moment to see the film with both Karl Malden and Budd Schulberg having passed away this summer. Eva Marie Saint and Rod Steiger are of course great in it too, and as much as I enjoyed finally seeing the famous cab scene in context I think my favorite part was actually when Terry picks up Edie's glove when she drops it and absent-mindedly pulls it onto his own hand while they continue walking and talking. Such a small moment, but so perfect.
The Bay Area is obsessed with street food right now, and that point was smashed home on Saturday when the SF Street Food Festival set up shop on one block in the deepish Mission and every foodie within a 25-mile radius proceeded to converge on the row of booths. I arrived in mid-afternoon and did a quick round to assess the situation, but with lines 30-deep in some places and many items sold out I decided to cut my losses and head to Humphry Slocombe for a sundae instead. Friends who were there right when the gate opened had better luck and reported gorging themselves on the delicious offerings, so that's how I'll roll next time. I couldn't really be grumpy with all the proceeds going to awesome local non-profit La Cocina, and I was also pleased that the organizers wanted to use the fest to call attention to San Francisco's crazy regulations regarding street food that only serve to hinder creative food entrepreneurs. I remember being blown away in Bangkok with every conceivable inch of city sidewalk lined with vendors selling everything from fresh cut fruit to soups and noodles and tasty snacks. That's real street food, and San Francisco should be so lucky.
If there's one place where I totally lose my head it's at the SF Zine Fest. I have a history of walking in with the intention of just doing a casual browse and yet walking back out again with my pockets full of nifty things. Beyond mere retail therapy I am always inspired by the sheer amount of creativity on display, by people still taking the time and energy to make things. Here are some of my favorites from my visit on Saturday:
Christine Wu - Her tiny one-inch-square zine The Adventures of Kitty the Cat features sewn binding and is (as advertised) about a cat. Cuteness abounds.
Sarah Oleksyk - Her Kitten Cavalcade print caught my eye but her other prints are totally rad too. Otter Erotic! Cerberus Pug! She also does a beautifully-drawn mini-comic called Ivy.
Matt Leung - Great posters for all of the shows I should have been at, ever.
Jen Oaks - She had done a series of prints for the fest called Employees of the Month that were disgruntled-looking kitties in dress shirts and neckties. Yes, I will stop at any table with a cat on it.
Indrind Press - Two very nice lads who make wonderfully creepy comics. The Pompadoured Troubadour, also called: Suffer Little Children, or: The Imaginary Origin of Steven Patrick Morrissey earned a heartfelt "fuck yeah" from me.