SONIC REDUCER "Obviously I wanted to be part of this wealthy cause ... whoops, I mean, worthy cause a Freudian slip!" blurted Seal to amassed gowns and tuxes at a packed Davies Symphony Hall May 31. Well, it was pretty B&W at this, the Black and White Ball 2008. He went on to explain that he was more than glad to play the benefit bash for the San Francisco Symphony's Adventures in Music education program, until he realized that night's event was just a day before wife Heidi "And sometimes you're out ... in the doghouse" Klum's birthday. "Even though it was written almost 20 years ago, I never knew what this song was about till four or five years ago," he drawled graciously, before easing into a swooningly romantic "Kiss from a Rose." The coiffed and painted debs swayed in the seats behind the stage like tropical palms, the gray-tressed oldsters in tuxes yawned as if their jaws would dislocate, and all the right and leftie blondes flitted to the front as if drawn to a gyrating, white-scarfed flame. The irony that Seal was putting in a high-energy set and working in an establishment-jabbing anthem titled "System" "but you won't get to hear it here because record companies aren't what they used to be, but this isn't that kind of show," according to the UK crooner was not altogether lost on the assembled partygoers at this very establishment affair.
Still, the Grey Goose quaffing, shrimp chomping, and dance-it-up musical offerings lining the closed-off swath of Van Ness added up to a surprisingly solid good time not to mention further confirmation of the latest urban SF curiosity: packs of underdressed, strapless-clad or micro-miniskirted, microclimate-besieged fashion victims who insist on braving hypothermia sans outerwear. Is it really that toasty over the bridge and through the tunnel?
Nonetheless I got a kick out of Extra Action Marching Band, its flag girls drooling faux-blood while chilling, kicking it iceberg-style beneath the polka-dot-lit, fireworks-bedecked City Hall. Pete Escovedo still had what it took to pull me to the dance floor and get the salsa out. Hot on the heels of Harriet Tubman (Noir), Marcus Shelby riled up Strictly Ballroom wannabes in the bowels of the War Memorial Opera House, and upstairs DJ Afrika Bambaataa turned in an unforgettable old-school hip-hop and rock-pop set, sweetly warbling, "I just want your extra time ... " to Prince's "Kiss," as a mob of gorgeous freaks mobbed the stage. Be it ever so old-fashioned and ever so obligatorily glammy, the B&WB was such a ball that I was inspired to use it as the barometer of sorts for a few other music-fest contenders.
B&W BALL BY THE NUMBERS Kilts: two. Turbans: three. Closeted waltz-heads eager to make the Metronome Ballroom lessons pay off: more than a dozen. Misguided ladies who looked like they tried to repurpose their wedding gowns as white formalwear: two. Gavin Newsom look-alikes: a toothy handful. Jennifer Siebel look-alikes: hundreds. Former hippies in formalwear: six. Men in all-white who looked like they stepped out of an alternate "Rapture" video: two. Burning Man references as City Hall was bookended by pillars of fire at midnight: two. Screeching highlights-victims upon seeing their girlfriends: more than two ears can handle. Sneaky types who looked like they've probably worn the same thing to B&WB every year since 1983: more than designers and luxury goods manufacturers would care to know.
HARMONY FESTIVAL (June 68, Santa Rosa, harmonyfestival.com, including Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Arrested Development, and Mickey Hart Band) Expected Gavin look-alikes: zip unless you count the Cali boys who look early Gavin with dreadlocks.