Feeling fire with Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco and the Flamenco Room at Thirsty Bear. Plus, upcoming parties with Mark E., Danny Krivit, and some Mighty all-stars
SUPER EGO It was one of those nightlife experiences so magical it turned anthropological, so dreamlike it felt familiar — a long-awaited re-encounter, a foretold déjà vu, a pre-jà vu, if you will. (And I just know you will.) The dust-soaked Spanish heat, the rustle of pleated lace, the handclaps, the catcalls, the foot-stomps. Ancient, Roma-derived acoustic rhythms knotted together in the windowless tavern's charged air, its tiled, yellowed interior crowded with dark oak tables and heavily varnished paintings — and more than a few heavily varnished patrons, besides.
Earlier this year, we'd braved a gaudy riverfront of Euro-douche tourist bars in Seville to seek out famous flamenco hideaway Casa Anselma, which instantly whisked us back hundreds of years to an idealized Spanish moment of clanking tankards, bangle-clad gypsies, passionate duels, tragic affairs, and completely bonkers over-the-top drama (not to mention stabbed bulls and expelled Jews, ahem). All the overbearing sorrow and icy hauteur of traditional flamenco was found there, but with a wink of course. The art form is nothing if not a party, with its songs about drunken flirtation and impulsive action, its motion composed of impatient seductions and ridiculous come-ons, edged toward climactic applause by alternating spells of self-conscious posing and cartoonish rejection.
And then, after her students had twirled before the claque of ace musicians, the imposing Doña Anselma herself rose, ordered all the lights out but the candle at her table — this was at three in the morning — and launched throat-first into a series of epic cantes that held us rapt for over an hour. Olé!
I recently relived that heady experience at Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco's "45 Años de Arte Flamenco" performance at Marines Memorial Theater. The fantastic local professional dance company — the second oldest in the state, and the first in the country to mount full-length Spanish dance numbers (www.theatreflamenco.org) — proudly fierced up rapturous chills, led by charismatic artistic director Carola Zertuche with great performances by dancers Juan Siddi and Cristina Hall, and a crackerjack band of musicians, including singer Kina Mendez and guitarists José Luis Rodriguez and José Tanaka. (Another lauded local flamenco troup Caminos Flamencos, comes to Marines Memorial Fri/2-Sun/4, www.caminosflamencos.com.)
As it happens, we have a great, free(ish) weekly flamenco fix in San Francisco — Sunday night's Flamenco Room at Thirsty Bear Brewing Co., with shows at 7:30 and 8:30 (www.thirstybear.com/flamenco) Thirsty Bear's a neat spot that safely navigates the heretofore undiscovered Bermuda Triangle separating zesty local microbrews, authentic Spanish tapas, and adventurous young techies. It's super cute. The small Flamenco Room troupe, led by Kerensa DeMars, puts on an energetic but absorbing 20-or-so minute set, guitarist's fingers and dancers' feet flying. You can grab a housemade barleywine or a $6 beer-cheese pairing and watch from the bar, or reserve a table for a full-on tapas meal — duck rillettes and a glass of Cava, sí. Stop in on your way back from the weekend, or your way out for the week, for a hot-cool Spanish treat.
I spent a good part of the late '90s flying to NYC for the ridiculously transporting Body and Soul parties this man threw with Francois K. and Joe Clausell, mixing everything from Nuyorican funk and bebop jazz to gospel house and Detroit techno for everyone from gangstas to voguers (and gangsta-voguers). Danny's vinyl style is expansive, witty, and welcoming, he's a true spirit of the night.
Fri/2, 10 p.m.-4 a.m., $10 before 11 p.m., $15 after.