Category Archives: Arts

The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

DJ Dave
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NOT YOUR USUAL LIBRARY EVENT The Berkeley Public Library Foundation is holding a “spirited after-hours event” on Saturday, Oct. 10. Tall Tales & Local Ales will feature David “DJ Dave” Wittman, of “Whole Foods Parking Lot” fame (if you haven’t seen it, drop everything and watch now). Wittman will be joined by an all-star cast of storytellers, including Kay DeMartini, Scott Sanders, Saida Acevedo, Rachman Blake, Robin Claire and Berkeley High senior Lena Sibony. Musicians from the BHS music programs will perform. Local cider and beer is provided by Crooked City Cider, Hoi Polloi, Sierra Nevada, Triple Rock and Calicraft, plus home-made ginger ale, lemonade and hearty finger foods. 14-years-old and older welcome. The evening benefits “It’s Time for Central,” high-impact renovations at the Central Library, including a new space for teens, renovation of the reference room, expanded space for art installations, improved interior lighting and more. Berkeleyside Nosh is a sponsor of Tall Tales & Local Ales. Tickets are $50 for the first two, and $35 for additional tickets available online. Saturday, Oct. 10, 7-10 p.m., Berkeley Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St.  … Continue reading »

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Liz Cunningham to speak about her book, ‘Ocean Country’

Liz Cunningham
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Liz Cunningham was almost killed by a rogue wave while kayaking.

Just moments earlier she had been enjoying her ride on the open ocean, digging her paddle into the water to navigate the breakers off a California beach.

But the rogue wave pushed her down under the water. She was unconscious for a few moments, and then woke up to find herself upside down. “It was like being inside a water turbine, water rushing fast in all directions,” Cunningham writes in her well-received memoir Ocean Country. “This is really it,” I thought. “I’m going to die.”

Cunningham, who lives in Berkeley, didn’t die, but the wave injured her spine, leaving her partially paralyzed. The wave also took away more than her movement, which she eventually recovered. It took away the love she had for the water and the feeling of freedom it once gave her. … Continue reading »

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Getting actualized with John Schott

Actual Trio 1
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Berkeley drummer John Hanes paid his blues dues at Larry Blake’s in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, a rigorous bandstand education in the fundamentals of laying down a sly Jimmy Reed shuffle and a searing John Lee Hooker boogie. His schooling in the crucible of Larry Blake’s “Rat Band” led to widespread work on the East Bay blues scene, and he attained the kind of authority that let him emerge at the end of a gig backing R&B legend Etta James without the salty tongue lashing she liberally bestowed on drummer’s faking the funk.

When he played with Berkeley jazz guitarist John Schott for the first time about a decade later Hanes immediately recognized a kindred rhythmic spirit. “It was a trio and Myles Boisen was playing a blues shuffle and John was playing rhythm guitar,” Hanes recalls.  “I had experience playing with black blues players in Oakland, and when John started playing this blues he sounded correct. I thought oh my God, he really knows what he’s doing.”

They’ve been collaborating ever since, and kick off a West Coast tour celebrating the release of Schott’s new album Actual Trio (Tzadik) with Berkeley bassist Dan Seamans Friday at the Berkeley Arts Festival gallery and Sunday at San Francisco’s Red Poppy Art House. Schott created the group about four years ago when he acquired the musicians’ holy grail of a regular gig. The group still plays the first Sunday of every month at North Oakland’s Actual Café, and they’ve used the long-running residency to hone a loose-limbed approach drawing on postbop harmonies, graceful song forms, and quicksilver rhythmic shifts. It’s a stylistically encompassing sound that never sheds a blues sensibility. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Trash’ and ‘Shout Gladi Gladi’

Trash, a film by Stephen Daldry
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Over the years, Brazil has given us several neorealist dramas about youngsters trying to survive in the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro (City of God, 2002) and São Paulo (Pixote, 1981). The Rio-set Trash (opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday Oct. 9), proves there’s some life in the old genre yet – and suggests that little to nothing has been done of late to address the problems of Brazil’s stark inequality.

14-year olds Raphael (Rickson Tevez) and Gardo (Eduardo Luis) spend their days scavenging for recyclables on the massive dumping ground that abuts their favela. When the two friends discover a wallet stuffed with cash, it appears things are looking up for the lads – but this, of course, is no ordinary wallet.

Tossed into a passing garbage truck by a man subsequently arrested and tortured by the police, the wallet holds the secrets of a corrupt politician in the form of a lottery card, a key, a flip-book, a letter, and – least importantly – the aforementioned reals. The politician needs the wallet back, or his campaign for Mayor will likely come to naught. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley man at center of new book, ‘Tangled Vines’

Mark Anderson at the Marin County courthouse, where he faced charges that he embezzled $1.1 million worth of wine from his clients. Anderson, a Berkeley native, later set a fire at a wine storehouse to cover his tracks. Photo: Marin Independent Journal
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Today marks the publication of Berkeleyside co-founder Frances Dinkelspiel’s new book, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California. (See our critic’s review.) Its central character is Mark Anderson who was born in Berkeley in 1948 and who attended John Muir Elementary School. Anderson’s childhood haunts will be familiar to many long-time residents: he loved to slide down the circular exterior fire escapes at the Claremont Hotel, he put pennies on the trolley tracks that went down Claremont Avenue, and he snuck through the tunnel that went from school to the cluster of stores on Domingo Avenue.

“The Pappas family ran the Star Grocery and Sam and Quentin ran the Northgate Pharmacy next door,” Anderson recalled in one of a series of letters he wrote Dinkelspiel from the Sacramento County Jail. “Mrs. Dinwiddie’s Dress Shop had wooden mannequins in the store window that were an ideal target for a five-year-old terrorist, who could visualize their wooden ‘body parts’ strewn all over the display, at any cost.” … Continue reading »

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Long-time local supporter of the arts Archana Horsting honored with Berkeley Community Fund award

Archana Horsting, co-founder of the Kala Art Institute, will receive the Berkeley Community Fund's Benjamin Ide Award this year.
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Archana Horsting, director and co-founder of Kala Art Institute, has spent four decades committed to what seems like a paradoxical concept: providing a shared space for artists — precisely the type of people who stereotypically are known as fiercely individual workers.

But Horsting has been proved right with her vision, and serious artists gravitate to Kala in West Berkeley where resources and equipment are shared to cut costs.

So successful has she been, in fact, that Horsting is to be awarded the Berkeley Community Fund’s (BCF) prestigious Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal, or “Most Useful Citizen” award, at their annual dinner fundraiser on Oct. 8.

Previous award honorees include Berkeley notables Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Foundation, and counterculture activist Wavy Gravy.

Horsting, along with co-founder and artistic director Yuzo Nakano, founded Kala more than 41 years ago in a dark, cramped garage in San Francisco “with just one press and a hot plate,” she said. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library opened in May 2013. Photo: Richard Friedman
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BANNED BOOKS WEEK BIKE PARTY Join the Berkeley Public Library for the second annual Banned Books Week Bike Party on Saturday Oct. 3, 10 a.m.-12 noon. This year, the event takes place at South Branch (1901 Russell St.) for a kickoff celebration featuring bike decorating, music and more. Participants will then ride as a group over to the Central Library (2090 Kittredge) via Russell, Milvia and Kittredge streets for a reading from some of the most frequently challenged books. There will be a raffle off a prize for readers at the end. The ride is about 1 mile long and is perfect for beginning cyclists and kids. Info on the BPL’s website. … Continue reading »

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The utopian vision of the Ben Goldberg School

Ben Goldberg - photo by Adam Goldberg
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Interviewing choreographer Twyla Tharp for an upcoming story about her 50th anniversary tour I was struck by her description of her new dance “Preludes and Fugues” set to J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier as belonging to a utopian streak long at the center of her work. “You take a huge responsibility in imagining the world as it should be,” she said.

I haven’t asked him about it directly, but it seems that a similar vision animates Berkeley clarinetist/composer Ben Goldberg’s band Ben Goldberg School.

Featuring alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, Santana trombonist Jeff Cressman, Berkeley bassist David Ewell, drummer Hamir Atwal, and Rob Reich on accordion, the sextet performs 8 p.m. Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory. Founded about three years ago, the ensemble wasn’t created as a vehicle to transmit information as much as to provide a forum for group revelation. Devoted to Goldberg’s melodically charged, blues-and-roots steeped tunes, School creates a rarified musical space in which some of the Bay Area’s most ardent improvisers can fully express themselves. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘The Black Panthers’

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Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, and it’s probably safe to say the party is as contentious today as it was in 1966. Were the Panthers revolutionaries or reformists? Insurrectionists, or social workers working within the system to improve the lot of African-Americans? Focused primarily on self-defense, or intent on overthrowing the government of the United States?

These questions are confronted from the off in The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Oct. 2). The parable of the three blind men – and how each of their impressions of an elephant differ radically – is related by former Panther Ericka Huggins, who states “It wasn’t nice and clean. It wasn’t easy. It was…complex.” … Continue reading »

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Unveiled: Full program for Uncharted Ideas Festival

Speaker grid 9
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The full program for the third annual Uncharted Ideas Festival was unveiled today, and is published below. The festival takes place at the Berkeley Rep, the Freight & Salvage, and on the UC Berkeley campus in downtown Berkeley on Friday Oct. 16 and Saturday Oct. 17.

Full details of speakers and performers at
Register for a one- or two-day ticket now.

Day 1 — Friday, October 16

8:00-9:00  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse lobby
Coffee, Berkeley Rep courtyard
Music by the Michael LaMacchia Trio

9-11:00  Roda Theatre, Berkeley Rep
Opening session
Lance Knobel, Curator, Uncharted

The adaptable mind
Tiffany Shlain in conversation with Peter Leyden

Criminal justice 2.0
Alex Kozinski in conversation with William Turner

Pop-up performance: Meklit Hadero

Liberty and drugs
Ethan Nadelmann in conversation with Frances Dinkelspiel

11:00-11:30 Berkeley Rep courtyard
Coffee break

11:30-1:00 Roda Theatre, Berkeley Rep
Morning session

What next for #BlackLivesMatter?
Pastor Michael McBride in conversation with Joshua Johnson

How I learned to stop worrying and love drones
Chris Anderson in conversation with Peter LeydenContinue reading »

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Change of the century: Musical tribute to Ornette Coleman

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A few nights after Ornette Coleman’s death on June 11 at the age of 85, Berkeley guitarist John Schott put out the word that anyone interested in share music, memories, or thoughts relating to the iconic saxophonist should come by the Berkeley Arts Festival space for an informal gathering.

The event was warm and unscripted with musicians describing life-changing encounters with Coleman and offering impromptu versions of some of his beatific blues. Jazz lovers are almost used to the loss of our foundational artists, as the ranks of players born before World War II continues to dwindle.

But Ornette was far more than a seminal improviser who exponentially expanded the music’s rhythmic and harmonic possibilities. He embodied the playfully heroic duality-erasing ideal at the center of African-American musical innovation. Radical and rootsy, avant garde and populist, philosophical and visceral, genius and trickster, Coleman arrived on the Los Angeles scene in the mid-1950s with an utterly and insistently individual aesthetic and never strayed from his own wending path. … Continue reading »

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Two new movies to watch: ‘Wildlike,’ ‘Racing Extinction’

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East Bay moviegoers are getting a bit of a raw deal this week: there are two worthwhile new features opening this Friday, both in San Francisco, and neither with playdates currently scheduled for Berkeley or Oakland. Coming at the end of the summer release doldrums, it’s surprising and unfortunate that room couldn’t be found on this side of the Bay for either film, both of which are of more than passing interest.

Wildlike (opening at the 4 Star Theatre on Sept. 25) is the sort of drama in short supply since the 1970s. Reminiscent of 2008’s topnotch road movie Wendy and Lucy, it’s a solidly plotted, character driven story with a fine ensemble cast and some gorgeous location cinematography. … Continue reading »

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Jamelle Bouie, Anna Lappé, Meklit, Patrick Dooley sign up for Uncharted Ideas Festival in Berkeley

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The line-up of speakers and performers for the 2015 Uncharted Festival of Ideas is almost complete. Here are just a few of those who have recently confirmed:

  • Meklit Hadero The Ethio-American singer-songwriter co-founded The Nile Project, and her music bridges the frontiers between language, tribes and disciplines.
  • Anna Lappé, co-founder with her mother, Frances Moore Lappé, of the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund, is helping us reevaluate the way we think about food.
  • Patrick Dooley, who founded Shotgun Players in 1992 in the basement of a pizza parlor, is committed to theater as a form of activism. Dooley will be in conversation with culture wirter Scott Timberg, whose latest book is Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class.
  • Joshua Johnson, Johnson, the morning newscaster on KQED and guest-host of public affairs program “Forum,” recently launched the “So Well Spoken” segment and podcast. Johnson will be talking to Pastor Michael McBride, a national leader in the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Sandra Gilbert Gilbert is a pioneering feminist critic who has most recently published Rereading Women: Thirty Years of Exploring Our Literary Traditions.

Continue reading »

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