The Performant

The Performant: It's so magic

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Terry Allen’s Ghost Ship Rodez and Christian Cagigal’s “The Collection” put a spell on it.

It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but there really is magic in a performance piece in which all of the disparate elements get pulled together just so, and suddenly the show becomes much greater than the mere sum of its parts. Crackling with an electric energy, a show infused with that elusive jolt provokes an integrated intellectual and emotional response that pervades the body entire, and lingers long after the lights come up. But it’s a fickle friend, this magic, and attempting to corral it too earnestly is the surest way to have it slip completely away, like sand pouring through determinedly clenched fingers.

Such a fate befell Terry and Jo Harvey Allen’s “Ghost Ship Rodez” at Z-Space over the weekend.

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The Performant: Ferocious many

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The Ferocious Few and the Anarchist Bookfair disturb the peace.

In the as-yet unwritten book of Bay Area music, at least one chapter should be devoted solely to the bands whose crowd-wrangling skills and attention-grabbing music was honed on the mean streets. From the Mission District’s once-infamous “Live at Leeds” location, inaugurated by punk band Shotwell and later championed by the imitable Rube Waddell (the band, not the ballplayer), to the wriggling mass hysteria of a Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club Parade, to the compact cacophony of one-person clown band Masha Matin, and the finger-pickin’ good Americana of Brian Belknap, the streets of San Francisco, like the infamous hills, are alive with the sound of music.

Of the current ranks of street-side crooners, The Ferocious Few have come to embody the best qualities of the breed. Combining sheer persistence with a driving, southern-rock-influenced, guitar-and-drum combo, at a volume constantly pushing at the edge of 11, the Few prove that safety may be in numbers, but that rock music was never meant to be safe.

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The Performant: Pixel visions

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The Disposable Film Festival turns five.

If you were the kind of kid who, when introduced to the concept of abstract art, would grab the fingerpaints and try to top Jackson Pollock’s “No. 11,” then chances are at some point you’ve harbored a desire to take on the movie industry with your own resources. After all, the tools are out there, within grasp of anyone with access to equipment as modest as a camera-phone or a web-cam. And just as the advent of the analog camcorder was hailed as a democratization of the cinematic art-form, so too can the current craze for digital gear be read not just as consumerist one-upmanship, but an earnest bid for creative parity.

Well, if it’s artistic inspiration you crave, and fingerpaints aren’t cutting it anymore, you need look no further than the Disposable Film Festival, which took place this past weekend, dedicated to screening the best of the no-budget brigade, for motivation. Lest the term “disposable” put you off, festival co-founder Carlton Evans is quick to amend: the technology is what’s considered disposable here, not the creative output. 

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The performant: Lucky buggers

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Fortunate forays into entomophagy and Éire

In the estimable 1885 tome Why Not Eat Insects? (charmingly reprinted by Pryor Publications) Vincent M. Holt puts forth a simple culinary challenge, not in the contrarian vein of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal,” but apparently in earnest. Pointing out a few certain truths about bugs and arachnids often overlooked by the squeamish (their undeniable resemblance to crustaceans, their clean eating habits, and ready availability), Holt goes on to describe with epicurean delight the taste of butter- sautéed locusts and an equally buttery wood-louse sauce. Read more »

The Performant: The mourning after

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Explorations in the language of the living at SFAI and NOHspace

Long before I moved to San Francisco, there were already certain things I’d learned to associate as being quintessentially San Franciscan via some kind of cross-cultural osmosis: the Castro, the cable-cars, Critical Mass, and George Kuchar. Read more »

The Performant: In the Flash

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Bodies and words collide in 'this.placed'

It’s easy to overlook them, two dancers, still as mannequins, positioned near the entrance to the performance space, a silent video of a wet fleshy mouth, open wide as if ready for a filling, projected onto their motionless bodies. Just before the lights go down, they disappear, as does the fleshy mouth. Onstage a much larger projection of mouth, nose, cheek, fills the back wall, as the sounds of kissing, mumbling, chewing, and lip popping create a fanfare for the two dancers (Jill Randall and Amanda Whitehead), who enter while stretching their own faces into humorously exaggerated positions. Finally, Whitehead opens her mouth normally, to recite the jumbled text of Britta Austin’s Flash Fiction “Bite Marks,” which substitutes for music in their energetic duet. Read more »

The Performant: The Secret to Life, the Universe, and Nothing in Particular

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“Celestial Observatories for Cyanobacteria” illuminate the knowledge gap at the San Francisco Arts Commission

“The purpose of our lives is to celebrate the grandeur of the cosmos" -- William Kotzwinkle, Dr. Rat

At the age of eight, possibly inspired by my first encounter with Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wind in the Door, the notion occurred to me that just as individual cells were undetectable (to the naked eye) in the human body, so were individual human beings virtually undetectable on the great organism that is the world, and just as the planet earth was virtually undetectable in the vastness of a single galaxy, that single galaxy was virtually undetectable within the infinite scope of the universe.

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The Performant: Rep flow

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Boxcar Theatre gets hardcore with Sam Shepard

Every year it feels like it’ll be impossible for the ever-inventive Boxcar Theatre company to top their last season, and somehow each year they pull it off. After launching an ultra-ambitious repertory program of four Sam Shepard plays, to be performed in two separate locations over the course of the next two-and-a-half months, artistic director Nick A. Olivero -- who isn’t just producing the festival, but also directing “Fool For Love,” and co-starring in “True West” -- still made time for an internet interview about “Sam Shep in Rep.”

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The Performant: Strangelove

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“City of Lost Souls” at ATA, and “Awkward Dinner Party” at the EXIT Theatre, subverted the Valentine spirit.

Talk about a hot mess. The florid, fluid, City of Lost Souls (1983), Rosa von Praunheim’s seldom-screened, "transgendered ex-pat food-fight sex-circus musical extravaganza" begins with a motley cast of unapologetic misfits sweeping up a trashed-out Berlin burger joint, the “Hamburger Königin” (Burger Queen). Shimmying on the counter, falling out of her lingerie, punk rock’s first transwoman cult darling, Jayne County, belts out “The Burger Queen Blues” while her fellow wage slaves, Loretta (Lorraine Muthke), Gary (Gary Miller), and Joaquin (Joaquin La Habana) gyrate suggestively across the linoleum until the boss-lady, Angie Stardust (as herself), a regal, “old school” transsexual wrapped in an enormous fur coat, curtails their goofy antics with a whistle and megaphone.

In stern German she orders them back to work—preparing for the next round of abusive food fights, which characterize the “service” at her uniquely unappetizing restaurant. A Theatre of the Ridiculous-style foray into the secret lives of gender outlaw ex-pats in flirty, dirty Berlin, “Lost Souls” isn’t your typical romance—but it’s a love story all the same.

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The Performant: Science, Honor, Psychogeography

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The Phenomenauts and Alley Cat Books shoot for the moon.

Trapped in a world they didn’t create, the spacecraft-garage band known to us as The Phenomenauts must surely come from a more evolved time and place, as evidenced by the spiffiness of their natty uniforms -- and the electric jolt of their stage shows. As refinement and heroism (the band motto is “Science and Honor”) are qualities in tragically short supply among your run-of-the-mill rock groups, bands which contain both are bound to stand out, with or without the additions of attention-grabbing technical flourishes such as pinpoint lasers, billows of stage fog, and the custom-built Streamerator 2000, which shoots festive streamers of toilet paper out onto the frenetic crowd. Speaking of frenetic, I love a band that can make San Franciscans dance as if possessed by dervishes with hyperkinesis. For that feat alone, they deserve an intergalactic medal for courage in the face of cosmic indifference.

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