Category Archives: Arts

Photos: Green Day makes triumphant return to Berkeley

Green Day. Photo: Kelly Owen
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They famously got their start in the late 1980s playing local venues like 924 Gilman and Berkeley Square, and Thursday the mega-band that is Green Day today made a triumphant return to their roots by playing the newly renovated UC Theatre on University Avenue.

The concert was a sell-out, as you might expect, and security, including some provided by Berkeley Police, was tight.

Almost as soon as the band took to the stage at 9 p.m. lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong was referencing the band’s local credentials.

“The representative from Alameda County has the floor,” he hollered, slightly altering a line from one of the band’s biggest hits, Holiday, which was next up on the slate. (Holiday is from the 2004 American Idiot album which went on to be adapted for the stage by Berkeley Rep in 2009.) A little later, after playing a couple of other standards, Armstrong reminded the capacity crowd about the group’s origins to much applause, shouting: “We’re fucking East Bay boys!”

If you were at the concert, tell us how you liked it in the comments (now that we have them back).

Kelly Owen took the photographs here for Berkeleyside.
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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Crowds gather on Shattuck Avenue during Sunday Streets. Photo: Ted Friedman
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SUNDAY STREETS Last weekend’s showers occasioned a scramble to reschedule Berkeley’s fifth Sunday Streets celebration. This Sunday, Shattuck Avenue will be closed from Haste to Rose — 17 blocks — in a celebration of local businesses and organizations. Storefronts will be unobstructed, and business owners are encouraged to promote commerce and visibility by setting out seating on the street, hosting activities, and otherwise inviting interest and community. There’s a bewildering variety of activities planned from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., including plenty of live music, children’s activities, and sports and fitness. This year’s Sunday Streets also includes Salsa Sunday on Center Street in the downtown and the Vine St. Block Party in the Gourmet Ghetto. Participants are encouraged to walk, cycle or take public transit to Sunday Streets. Shattuck Avenue from Haste to Rose, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 23. … Continue reading »


Shotgun Players’ powerful ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

David Sinaiko as George, Josh Schell as Nick, 
Megan Trout as Honey, Beth Wilmurt as Martha
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Fifty-four years after its Broadway debut, the award-winning Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (1928-2016) hasn’t lost any of its strength and force. The alcohol-fueled psychological mêlée among George, Martha, Nick and Honey retains its full intensity and potency. Without the tight direction by Mark Jackson and the excellent performances by Beth Wilmurt, (Martha) David Sinaiko (George), Josh Schell (Nick) and Megan Trout (Honey), that might not have been the case. After all, in the wrong hands, the drama’s acrimony could easily be exaggerated into a SNL sketch. But no worries; this performance succeeds beyond expectations. I sat on the edge of my seat, totally engrossed during the entire three-act, three-hour performance.

After a university faculty party given by Martha’s father, the university president, long-married Martha and George are visited by a younger couple, Nick, a 28-year old university biologist and his unsophisticated wife, Honey. As the long night wears on, Martha and George bitterly attack each other’s psychological sensitivities with biting and sarcastic wit, as Nick and Honey first observe and finally participate in the virulent dissection of Martha and George’s marriage. Soon, the cracks in Nick and Honey’s own relationship are revealed, as the games that pit illusion against reality escalate to a dramatic climax.

Albee’s ingenious and erudite dialogue adds a dynamic and spirited flair to the drama. It’s delivered in a spontaneous and authentic way with characters interrupting each other in lifelike repartee. In this beautifully crafted play, one must listen carefully to grasp the multiple layers beneath the pathos of George and Martha. … Continue reading »


Jeff Denson’s ever widening circle

The Jeff Denson Quartet plays the California Jazz Conservatory on Friday. Photo by A-Retrospective.
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Starting a record label in the 21st century might seem like a fool’s errand, what with collapsing CD sales and streaming services that offer less than a pittance per thousands of plays. But jazz bassist/vocalist Jeff Denson offers an object lesson in the power of a savvy and well-curated outlet. Over the past year, his new label Ridgeway Records has released a series of stellar recordings introducing some of the region’s most promising young artists, like Berkeley-reared guitarist/composer Ian Faquini’s Metal Na Madeira.

The label is also a vehicle for his own music, and Denson celebrates the release of his latest Ridgeway album, Concentric Circles, Friday at the California Jazz Conservatory, where he’s a founding professor in the school’s accredited college program. Featuring bassoon virtuoso Paul Hanson, pianist Den Zemelman and drum maestro Alan Hall — who released a fantastic Ridgeway album Artic introducing his Ratatet with Hanson and Denson earlier this year — the quartet brings together two earlier ensembles.

Denson first performed around the Bay Area with Hall and Hanson in Electreo, a texturally acute collective trio that explored a constellation of spacious compositions laced with Hanson’s finely calibrated electronics. He forged a deep connection with Zemelman when he recruited the pianist into a trio designed to accompany octogenarian alto sax legend Lee Konitz, a group documented on the first Ridgeway album The Jeff Denson Trio + Lee Konitz. … Continue reading »


Big Screen Berkeley: ‘The Battle of Algiers,’ Do Not Resist’

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I first saw Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 feature La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers) at Berkeley’s UC Theatre sometime in the mid 1980s. To say it was an eye opener would be an understatement: here was a ‘war movie’ that told its story from the perspectives of both sides. Who was I supposed to root for?

I didn’t see the film again until the Criterion Collection released their outstanding three-disc DVD edition in 2004. Criterion’s timing was perfect: the then 40-year old film was about to become an unexpected hit at the Pentagon, where America’s generals used it as a training aid to combat Iraq’s growing urban insurgencies.

Newly restored, The Battle of Algiers begins a weeklong run at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Oct. 21. Restored or not, though, it’s a classic of modern cinema that always rewards another viewing. … Continue reading »


Berkeleyside’s 4th annual Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas: Fighting the good fight

Mark Bittman talks with UC Berkeley's Jill Bakehorn. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Sitting down on the stage of the Berkeley Rep Roda theater to talk with Autodesk distinguished researcher Andrew Hessel about the synthetic genome project in the first session of the fourth annual Uncharted Festival of Ideas, Quentin Hardy, deputy technology editor of The New York Times, said, “Uncharted is our humble attempt to make America smart again.” It was a joke, but it resonated throughout the two-day festival.

The Republican candidate for the president was not actually name-checked that often during the festival, but the reasons for his rise and his impact — what speaker Aaron James, author of Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump, described as “American-born fascism” — both in this country and globally, underscored much of the discussion this year.

View photo galleries of the Uncharted 2016 festival: day one and day two.

Uncharted curator Lance Knobel, co-founder of Berkeleyside which produces the festival, deliberately avoids planning the program with a theme in mind, preferring that themes emerge organically. And if there was one that rose to the top this year it was that there is a silver lining to Trump’s ascendency: the fight to ensure he doesn’t enter the White House has brought issues and campaigns that were dormant back on the table. Positive change can be spurred by hatred, negativity and fear-mongering.

Scroll down for ways to connect with Uncharted and to see photos of the 2016 festival. See a gallery of day one photos and day two photos. … Continue reading »


‘Tangled Vines’, wine’s dark side, now in paperback

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The book tells the story of Berkeley native Mark Anderson, who set fire to a wine warehouse in Vallejo on Oct. 12, 2005. The arson destroyed 4.5 million bottles of fine California wine worth at least $250 million. It was the largest ever crime involving wine.

Ninety wineries lost wine in the inferno, including Sterling Vineyards, Saintsbury, Long Meadow Ranch, Viader Vineyards, Justin Vineyards and others. Among the bottles lost were 175 made in 1875 by Dinkelspiel’s great-great grandfather, Isaias Hellman, from a vineyard in Rancho Cucamonga in San Bernardino County, then the heart of California’s wine industry.

In addition to writing about the arson and exploring why Anderson set the fire, Dinkelspiel traces the history of that southern California vineyard. There were five killings associated with Cucamonga Vineyard, many of them racially motivated. The 580-acre plot of land also reflects the history of California in many ways; it was controlled at different times by Native Americans, Californios, a Confederate sympathizer, a German-Jewish immigrant turned businessman and a wine monopoly that controlled 80% of the production and distribution of wine in the state.

Berkeleyside’s independent reviewer Thomas Riley called Tangled Vines “a stunning new look at the dark side of California wine.” Book reviewer Mal Warwick gave it five stars. The book was a New York Times bestseller, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller, a finalist for the Northern California Book Award and was named a best wine book of the year by the Washington Post and Food and Wine magazine. … Continue reading »

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Black Panthers focus of new UC Berkeley exhibit

Members of the Black Panthers lined up at a Free Huey (Newton) rally in DeFremery Park in Oakland. (Photo by Stephen Shames/Polaris)
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By Kathleen Maclay
UC Berkeley News

Oct. 15 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers. While the group is closely identified with Oakland, the Panthers also had roots in Berkeley. For a time they had their headquarters on Shattuck Avenue. Steven Shames, a history student at UC Berkeley, met Bobby Seale, one of the Panther founders, in 1967 and went on to take thousands of photos of those involved in the movement. 

Five decades after the founding of the Black Panther Party, an exhibit of two dozen photos taken from the front lines of the history-making, activist organization rooted in the San Francisco Bay Area opens Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The “Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers” exhibit in the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Documentary Photography at North Gate Hall stirs memories of the Black Power movement for those who remember it, and instruction for those who don’t.

It also offers a bracing backdrop to current national dialogue and tensions around race as seen in reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement, protests following fatal police shootings of black men and boys, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem, and more.

Ken Light, the journalism school’s Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism, said the photos by Stephen Shames “bring history alive and show the power of photography to record and share the Black Panthers’ social consciousness with generations that have only heard about them. Millennials and Gen Xers who are marching in the streets and raising their voices can share in the power, the pride and the struggle that was started over 50 years ago and come away with a renewed sense that Black Lives Matter.” … Continue reading »

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A Moroccan journey with Yassir Chadly and Howard Wiley’s Cannonball

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Sufi mystic and Berkeley Recreation aquatics specialist, master of traditional North African instruments, storyteller, and pioneering jazz improviser, Yassir Chadly contains multitudes. Over the years he’s recorded with jazz luminaries such as Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders, and Omar Sosa, but musically he’s been sticking close to home since the 2012 death of trumpeter Khalil Shaheed. Together, they founded the Mo’Rockin Project, a band that fused traditional Moroccan songs with jazz and R&B, a repertoire Chadly hopes to revisit someday. Until he locates the right partner the Casablanca-born multi-instrumentalist can be found playing traditional music, as when he returns to Ashkenaz Friday with a group of East Bay Moroccan musicians including percussionist Mostafa Raiss El Fenni, who owns Sahara Import on Piedmont Avenue.

“I like to show the people raw Moroccan music, no preservatives,” says Chadly from his house in El Sobrante, where he and his wife recently settled after decades in Oakland. “People like to hear something authentic, as if they’re in Morocco, so they don’t have to travel.”

An informal ensemble that practices at Sahara Imports, Chadly and the Moroccans draw on a shared repertoire of celebratory wedding songs, incantatory Sufi trance music and Gnawa grooves, a tradition brought to the Maghreb in past centuries by West Africans. A skilled percussionist and string player known for his work on oud, castanet-like karkabas, goblet-drum darbuka, and frame-drum bendir, he often leads the ensemble from the three-string bass-like ginbri (or sintir). … Continue reading »


A mystery aunt revealed in Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s new novel

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Lucy Jane Bledsoe is a Berkeley resident who has written five novels, two collections, and seven children’s books. Her new novel, A Thin Bright Line, which she will discuss Oct. 16 at 5 p.m. at Laurel Bookstore in Oakland, is based on the life of her aunt, who died in a fire when Bledsoe was 9. She later discovered they had many similarities.

Alison Bechdel, the author of Fun Home, described A Thin Bright Line as “gripping historical fiction about queer life at the height of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement.” Berkeleyside recently caught up with Bledsoe to learn more about her novel.

Why did you write a novel about your aunt’s life?

In 1966, when I was 9 years old, my aunt and namesake, Lucybelle Bledsoe, died in an apartment fire. I remember her well; she was kind and funny. But details about her life were elusive. My dad, her brother, told me that she studied for, and passed, the bar exam, without ever going to law school. My mom told me that she was terribly independent and that even in the 1950s and 1960s she wouldn’t let men hold doors open for her. It frustrated me so much that I couldn’t know her better. Yet when I questioned my parents, I couldn’t get more than these few stories from them.

One day a few years ago I was telling a friend about my aunt and she suggested I Google her. Since Lucybelle died in 1966 and was just a farm girl from Arkansas, I didn’t expect to find anything. But I did: two items popped up on the internet. One was an obituary in the Journal of Glaciology. The other was a three-page entry in a new scholarly volume published by Routledge called The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to Mid-20th Century.Continue reading »


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

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UNCHARTED FESTIVAL OF IDEAS Berkeleyside’s fourth annual Uncharted Festival of Ideas kicks off tomorrow, Friday Oct. 14, at 9 a.m. (coffee and pastries from 8 a.m.),  and runs through Saturday Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. The event — the Bay Area’s only ideas festival — is a heady mix of conversations, standup comedy, workshops, live music, dance performances, socializing, book signings, and a party in the heart of Berkeley. Guests include Mark Bittman, Eve Ensler, Jay Rosen and Jessie Bridges. There are still a limited number of tickets available, including a few special $10 tickets for the Saturday sessions (use code KPEE when buying a ticket). See Full Program / Buy Tickets. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Command and Control’; ‘Girl Asleep’

A Titan II missile as seen in 'Command and Control'
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If you’ve yet to read Eric Schlossel’s 2014 book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, allow me to proffer a strong recommendation — but be warned. If you’re at all nervous about the possibilities of a nuclear apocalypse, it won’t put your mind at rest or help you sleep at night.

Nor will its big screen adaptation. Command and Control (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Oct. 14) underscores the book’s conclusions and suggests that, despite receding into the deep distance of our collective cultural and social memory, the danger posed by The Bomb remains clear and present.

Schlossel framed his broad history of catastrophic close calls around a single incident, the near detonation of a nine-megaton warhead at a Damascus, Arkansas missile base in September, 1980. That incident is the singular focus of this new documentary, co-produced by Schlossel and directed by Robert Kenner, previously responsible for the noteworthy climate change denial doc Merchants of Doubt. … Continue reading »


Ruth Whippman: Why are Americans so obsessed with happiness?

Ruth Whipmann cropped
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For her new book, America The Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks, Berkeley resident Ruth Whippman embarked on what is described on her website as “an uproarious pilgrimage to explore the American happiness machine, tackling both the ridiculous and the sublime.” We caught up with Whippman —  ahead of her conversation with Lauren Schiller at Berkeleleyside’s Uncharted: Festival of Ideas on Oct. 15 (tickets here) — to ask her more about what her research uncovered. 

What prompted you to write ‘America the Anxious’?

We moved to Berkeley from the UK in 2011. I was immediately struck by the fact that there seemed to be a real cultural focus on happiness here, almost an obsession— something that was very different from my experience back in the UK. In my first few months in the States I probably had more conversations about happiness than in the rest of my life put together, whether that was people worrying that they weren’t quite as happy as they could be, or evangelizing about the different methods they were trying out to become happier, such as mindfulness or positive thinking or various self-help techniques.

There seemed to be a real anxiety around the topic, with this constant feeling from people that there was this perfect ‘happy-ever-after’ out there for the taking that they weren’t quite managing to achieve. As a journalist, I was curious as to what was behind all this, so I started looking into it and found that there is a multi-billion dollar industry devoted to selling happiness in America and that it is growing all the time. Americans spend more time and money looking for happiness than any other nation on earth. But, despite all this effort, they rate as some of the least happy and most anxious people in the developed world. The book was my journey to understand why, and what was going wrong. … Continue reading »