The Performant

The Performant: Strangers in a strange land

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Dan Carbone and Kitka resculpt old terrain

From the dark corner of the stage throbs the low rhythm of a skin-clad, Celtic-style drum and the strum of acoustic guitar, while in the light a man clad in a white dress shirt sways in hypnotic time, eyes shut tight, arms flung wide. “Sleeping, sleeping,” he croons softly, “I’m only sleeping.” Still swaying, he begins to tell the tale from the beginning, about a little baby boy whose “brain is knitting itself in an unusual way.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking in this first moment that the man is speaking of his own infancy, after all, brains don’t come knit much more unusually than that of East Bay-based avant-gardian Dan Carbone. But the infant’s name is not Dan’s, and though his brief and tragic backstory reverberates through much of the rest of the play, the infant soon yields the spotlight to his younger brother, the creator of the piece, “Father Panic,” which made its stage debut at the Garage on Friday. 

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The Performant: Discord fever

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San Francisco Tape Music Festival unwinds at ODC

The fact that it's raining makes it an unexpectedly perfect night to attend the San Francisco Tape Music Festival. The water rushing through pipes and sweeping across the rooftop of the ODC Theatre adds an extra layer of ambience to the cacophonic tones emitting from a modest bank of speakers, squatting on the stage like forbidding monoliths. The here-and-now intrusion of the rainfall ties even the most outré compositions of the evening together in an entirely unanticipated manner, from the oldest (dated 1857) to those created this still-young year by members of the current incarnation of the San Francisco Tape Music Collective and sfSound.

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The Performant: World on fire

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The Crucible’s “Machine: A Fire Opera” puts a blowtorch on it

First off let’s just all admit that fire is freaking cool. Or, rather, hot. And fire art? That’s about as hot as it gets. ‘Cause it’s art, see, but it’s also fire, and fire is awesome. Unless it’s busy burning down your apartment, then maybe not so much. But we are talking abut fire art right now, and if it’s fire art you want, then the first place you’re going to want to go is West Oakland’s Crucible, one of the most intriguing arts studios in the Bay Area.

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The Performant: Power to the people

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Mugwumpin’s deconstructive history of Tesla electrifies

It is one day and 69 years after prolific inventor and notable oddball Nikola Tesla died of a heart attack, yet in the raw, unfurnished basement of the Old Mint, he stands quite alive before a contingent of captive theatre-goers, explaining his views on solitude.

“Be alone. That is the secret of invention,” he assures us, smiling in the manner of a man who knows he is about to be disagreed with. He has a lot of opportunities to display that same tight-lipped countenance throughout Mugwumpin’s “Future Motive Power,” as being disagreed with is one of the most recurring themes of Tesla’s biography. A man of compulsive and erratic habits and stubbornly-held views on the future impact of his own inventions, Tesla’s indomitable personality could be as hard to fathom as his scientific contributions were impossible to discredit. Channeled by Mugwumpin artistic director Christopher W. White, he alternates -- in a manner akin to his most famous electrical system -- between comedic mania and tragic inflexibility, as the patterns of his life entwine literally and figuratively with those of his dearest-held principles and hard-won triumphs. Read more »

The Performant: The Great Leap Forward

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A year on the city's wilder side, and looking ahead to more fine times

End-of-the-year roundups are all well and good, allowing us the opportunity to celebrate one last time the innovations of the past. But I’ve always preferred to look ahead into the future, so in that spirit here’s a shortlist of some of my fave Performant coverage from 2011 of ongoing and perennial events that you can still look forward to checking out in 2012—and beyond!

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The Performant: Tripp hop nation

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Going balls out for Berlin-style ping-pong with American Tripps

The only thing lacking is a haze of cigarette smoke curling over the lone ping-pong table bogarting the cosy dance floor of Project One. A polite jostle of players, perhaps 25 strong, rings the table, shoulder to shoulder. Each one clutches a paddle in one hand, and, more than a few, a drink in the other. The game is “Berlin-style” ping-pong (also known as rundlauf)—a participatory style of play in which every participant gets a turn serving or receiving as the circle shuffles one spot at a time, counter-clockwise around the crowded table.

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The Performant: Tradition! Tradition!

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Golden Girls, Kung Pao Kosher, Merry Forking Christmas ... the holidays are coming whether you like it or not.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the holidays just keep on coming around. And unless you plan on hibernating the entire month of December away, sooner or later someone is going to force you into an ugly sweater and drag you to some seasonal entertainment designed to fill you with goodwill towards all humankind -- or some such optimistic twaddle. Even so, there’s certainly no reason you have to subject yourself to endless renditions of Tchaikovsky’s famous suite or stale Bing Crosby carols in order to fulfill your holiday spirit quota. Alternatives abound here in Babylon-by-the-Bay, and you’re sure to stumble across a few that speak to your own imitable tastes.

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The Performant: Please appropriate me

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Bryan Boyce and Negativwobblyland pump up the culture jams at L@te

Nighttime at the Berkeley Art Museum. An undercurrent of glee emanating from the patrons, as with a roomful of children up past their bedtimes. Enhancing the playground vibe, a giant orange mountain of rippling wooden waves designed by Thom Faulders, squats in the middle of the room, serving as seating for the assembled crowd, as well as pre-show entertainment as we scramble up its sides.

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The Performant: Cheap thrills

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Bargain Basement Mondays and Amoebapalooza

The upside to living in a city as notoriously pricey as San Francisco is that despite the myriad opportunities to blow too much cash on a mediocre time out, there are plenty of options for cheaper entertainments, keeping the broke-ass among us from being eternally housebound. This weekend in particular, a couple of low-budge music showcases offered those too skint to make it to Iggy Pop a way to afford more beer by charging less cover, and one even threw in the pizza! Sure, rocking out with the godfather of punk would have been quite a bang for its buck, but at least Bottom of the Hill and Café du Nord offered economical alternatives to hanging out in a drafty San Francisco flat Google-stalking Mike Watt. Not that I’d know anything about that. Read more »

The Performant: TLC for the holidays

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Try to ignore it as we might, the end of another year draws near, accompanied by all its attendant solstice-cycle celebrations -- last ditch attempts to keep warm perhaps. Well, spike the eggnog with everclear and pass the bacon-wrapped latkes, in my book a little conviviality goes a long way in making bearable the quickly darkening days, the applejack-crisp night air. Sure, shaking off the hibernation vibe can be hard to do, but a good compromise between comatose and cabin crazy is to cuddle up to nightlife’s cozier side: intimate venues, good company, low lights, warm interiors. The Lost Church provides all of the above with its lushly-appointed “parlor performance” space and a tight-knit crew of regulars who call the venue their artistic home, plus homegrown music, a multi-media nod to vaudevillian theatre, and quiet cheer.

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