July 25, 2005

Sad Since

A few weeks ago my brother Brent was in town making some final preparations before his two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Cabo Verde, and I took it upon myself to drag him all over the city for his last doses of American culture. One night we found ourselves at the Make-Out Room to hear AJ Roach and Jolie Holland, but also playing that evening was Sean Hayes, who I'd never heard before. Suffice it to say he was so amazingly good I went home and immediately bought tickets to his next show, this Wednesday night at the Swedish American Hall with Nicolai Dunger. I enticed Carrie into coming with me to revel in the acoustic guitar love. We both swooned at opener David Berkeley's heart-wrenchingly gorgeous melodies, especially when he stepped away from the mic for his last song and let his voice and guitar fill the room completely unamplified. Sean Hayes took the stage next, singing some simple countrified tunes before upping the ante by inviting Ara Anderson and Etienne de Rocher to join him on sousaphone and piano respectively. Appalachian ambient folk hop indeed. Finally it was Nicolai Dunger's turn, and he gamely sang his heart out to a rapidly diminishing audience. I felt his irritation at the people who were walking out mid-set, but those who did remain applauded furiously and sang along when bidden. For his encore he eschewed his guitar and instead pounded out an amazing solo at the piano.

City Lights had a similarly sublime line-up the following evening, but this time the medium was poetry rather than indie folk. The University of California Press is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its New California Poetry series this year with new books by Sarah Gridley, Laura Mullen, and Juliana Spahr, and Mullen and Spahr were on hand to read their work. They were joined by previously published UC Press poets Geoffrey G. O'Brien, Martha Ronk, and Carol Snow. The readings were almost uniformly riveting, and O'Brien in particular took my breath away and had me silently vowing to hunt down his book The Guns and Flags Project. The exception was Mullen, whose smirky delivery rubbed me the wrong way.

Poetry at City Lights is pretty much a given, but going to the dump to see art is perhaps not such an obvious conclusion. SF Recycling & Disposal runs an artist-in-residence program where they encourage a few lucky souls each year to go rooting through the garbage to find art materials. Friday night was Andrew Junge's turn to show off his American Detritus. I really liked his arrangements of found objects, especially his floor-to-ceiling stack of vintage luggage accented by a grade-school diorama and his piece where the word "hope" could be seen glowing in neon from the interior of a Sawzall chest. But the star of the show was a life-size Hummer sculpted out of styrofoam and perfect in every detail. As someone who hates those stupid cars with an unholy passion, I am happy to remark that this was the most delightful Hummer I'd ever seen.

The girl who flips off Hummers also has a fondness for BBC costume dramas, especially ones made 30 years ago like Elizabeth R. I'm slowly working my way through the DVDs, revelling in the political intricacies of court and how damn smart that woman was to rule England like she did. Cate Blanchett has long been my favorite Elizabeth, but Glenda Jackson might be about to edge her out for her portrayal of the Virgin Queen. So far in the series Elizabeth has managed to evade execution as princess long enough to succeed to the throne, and she has firmly refused to marry due to her preference for governing alone. I was raised on Masterpiece Theatre, and sometimes it shows.

I prefer my history done as BBC miniseries, and I like my classical music outdoors on a sunny weekend afternoon. The San Francisco Symphony was kind enough to play a free concert in Dolores Park on Sunday, and Aimee and Sophie and I went and spread out a picnic lunch in the grass. The program had a Spanish theme and featured traditional folk melodies beautifully sung by mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham as well as crowd-pleasing selections from Bizet's Carmen and Rimsky-Korsakov. It was fun to watch Sophie sway along to some of the livelier pieces...when she wasn't running after the popsicle cart.


Swedish American Hall
City Lights
New California Poetry Series
SF Recycling & Disposal, Inc.
Elizabeth R
San Francisco Symphony

Posted by nightfall at July 25, 2005 08:41 PM