Our Weekly Picks November 2-8

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WEDNESDAY 2

"The Unstable Object"

The PFA hosts the West Coast premiere of The Unstable Object, a mysterious, precisely observed work by Daniel Eisenberg. Nearly wordless (but densely aural), the film surveys three work sites: a glassy Volkswagen plant in Germany which doubles as a tourist destination; a Chicago clock producer staffed by the blind; and the alchemical Zildjian Cymbal factory in Istanbul. Occasionally surreal and completely engrossing, the film poetically analyzes differing degrees of labor and manual reproduction. Tomorrow night Eisenberg visits Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to present his film Persistence (1997) and to continue a conversation with Jeffrey Skoller, a UC Berkeley scholar who has edited a new critical anthology on Eisenberg's work. (Max Goldberg)

7:30 p.m., $11

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-1412

www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

www.sfcinematheque.org


THURSDAY 3

Fruit Bats

Starting out life as a lo-fi project of Eric D. Johnson (who has stints behind him as a member of the Shins, among other bands) in the mid 1990s, the Fruit Bats came together as an working live band around the turn of the millennium, and has had somewhat of an open/revolving door of a lineup since — but its releases continue to get better and better. The group's music is full of joyously simple , yet infectiously catchy folk-esque tunes, mixed with a touch of country-fried Southern rock and brightly sung sweet melodies — Johnson keeps the successful formula going on the group's most recent release, Tripper (Sub Pop), which dropped earlier this year. (Sean McCourt)

With Parson Red Heads

9 p.m., $15

Great American Music Hall

859 O'Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

www.gamh.com

 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra's eponymous debut has to be one of my favorite albums of 2011. The brainchild of Portland, Ore., via New Zealand rocker Ruban Nielson, Unknown Mortal Orchestra is like listening to a crate of dusty, warped '60s psych and Motown records after ingesting a couple mind-altering substances. It may have originated in Portland, but I can't imagine a place more suited to this fuzzy drugged out basement-pop than San Francisco. Come get weird. (Frances Capell)

With Gauntlet Hair and Popscene DJs 9 p.m., $12–<\d>$14 Rickshaw Stop 155 Fell, SF (415) 861-2011 www.rickshawstop.com

 

Mastodon

Mastodon didn't please everyone with Crack the Skye, its astral-projecting 2009 concept album, but the band isn't really in the pleasing business. Ever since mid-aughts underground success propelled the Atlanta quartet into the major label limelight, Mastodon has stuck to its wildly inventive, idiosyncratic guns. Pivoting away from Crack's epic song structures and complicated arrangements, The Hunter, released this fall, is an infectious smorgasbord of taut, focused songwriting, heavy on vocal hooks provided by the band's three singers (guitarist Brent Hinds, bassist Troy Sanders, and drummer Brann Dailor). Lyrical topics range from meth-addled lumberjacks to lonely octopi, but the star of the show is Mastodon's boundless, yet disciplined creativity. No note, no matter how unexpected or bizarre, feels out of place. (Ben Richardson)

With the Dillinger Escape Plan and Red Fang

8 p.m., $30

Warfield

982 Market, SF

(415) 345-0900

www.thewarfieldtheatre.com

 

San Francisco Transgender Film Festival

One of the greatest things about San Francisco is that there's a film festival for everyone: green activists, dog lovers, anti-corporate crusaders, horror fiends, outdoor enthusiasts, kung fu fans, and dozens more. Basically, if you can't find a festival that excites you, you probably don't actually like movies. This week alone there's "Not Necessarily Noir" at the Roxie, the San Francisco Film Society's "Cinema By the Bay," the American Indian Film Festival (see Fri/4), and the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. Step out tonight to check out a performance honoring the Transgender fest's 10th anniversary, with artistic director Shawna Virago among those taking the stage. The films kick in this weekend, showcasing two shorts programs from across the globe; all have a transgender element in common, but topics range from boxing, boobs, and bunnies to the search for true love. (Cheryl Eddy)

Through Sat/5

8 p.m., $12–$15

CounterPulse

1310 Mission, SF

www.sftff.org


FRIDAY 4

American Indian Film Festival

Hollywood loves to depict indigenous people as creatures who exist only in the past, battling cowboys or stepping forth to offer solemn life lessons to the likes of Kevin Costner. The American Indian Film Festival, now in its 36th year, offers ample cinematic evidence to the contrary, with a jam-packed week of programming. Ok, there's a Western — supernatural frontier tale Yellow Rock — but there are also documentaries (Wild Horses and Renegades, about the Bureau of Land Management's controversial stance on wild horses), a thriller set in deepest Alaska (On the Ice, which won "Best Debut Film" at the Berlin International Film Festival), and opening night family drama Every Emotion Costs, a Canadian film making its US premiere. (Eddy)

Nov. 4-12, free–$20

Embarcadero Cinema

One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level, SF

Palace of Fine Arts

3301 Lyon, SF

(415) 554-0525

www.americanindianfilminstitute.com


FRIDAY 4

 

"Cat Lady"

Performance artist, writer, and serious prankster Kristina Wong has a way with stereotypes (cf. her mail-order-bride site, bigbadchinesemama.com), but her work defies categories by virtue of the brilliant wit, creative reach, and restless iconoclasm informing such acclaimed pieces as Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (about the high incidence of suicide among Asian American women) and Going Green the Wong Way (which made its Bay Area debut in July). The SF-born, LA-based Wong normally flies solo, but in her anticipated return to San Francisco this weekend, she unveils her first full-length ensemble piece, a work bringing together "animal psychics, aggressive pick-up artists and musty cat ladies" in a hilarious and unsettling exploration of connection at the social and sexual margins. (Robert Avila)

Fri/4-Sat/5, 8 p.m., Sun/6, 7 p.m.; $17–$20

ODC Theater

3153 17th St., SF

(415) 863-9834

www.odctheater.org

 

Wild Flag

Wild Flag's self-titled debut, released in September on Merge, is a breath of fresh air from the former members of Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss), Helium (Mary Timony), and the Minders (Rebecca Cole). As tested rockers from Portland, Ore. and Washington D.C. who've been playing in bands and listening to them for years (Brownstein also had a blog at NPR Music), Wild Flag's tough pop rock feels decidedly different from other new bands out today — in other words, not esoteric indie rock awash in reverb. Wild Flag is vivacious, accessible, and catchy. It delivers a multifarious punch of classic hard rock, punk, and post-hardcore that's downright fun to listen to. And if there's ever been a great live band, it's Wild Flag; these women grew up on stage.(James H. Miller)

With Drew Grow & the Pastors' Wives

Through Sat/5

9 p.m., $19

Great American Music Hall

859 O'Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

www.gamh.com

 

Das Racist

Das Racist is a tough act to define. It's weed rap; it's social commentary. It's catchy and fun; it's edgy and subversive. Or, as Himanshu Suri (a.k.a. Heems) and Victor Vazquez (a.k.a. Kool AD) put it, they're not joking — just joking — they are joking. Since the pair first broke into the hip-hop scene with silly cyber-hit "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," Das Racist has released two hugely successful mixtapes and an album, Relax (Greedhead). Suri and Vazquez may be joking, but with remarkably astute lyrics and a crazy amount of talent, Das Racist is taking over the rap game in a very serious way. (Capell)

With Boots Riley (sitting in with Das Racist), Danny Brown, and Despot

8 p.m., $25

Ruby Skye

420 Mason, SF

(415) 693-0777

www.rubyskye.com


SATURDAY 5

SF Symphony Dia de los Muertos

There is musically much more to Day of the Dead than the ominous-humorous beating of drums, the rustle of voluminous skirts through ofrenda-dotted parks, and the clackity-clack of dancing skeletons bumping knees. There is singing at the symphony! Mexican tenor David Lomelí will join the players in a festive, family-oriented afternoon of favorites like "Besame Mucho," "Granada," and works by Mexican composers. Starting at 1 p.m., the colorful Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco and musical group Vinikai will lead a procession into Davies Symphony Hall, where musically themed altars will be on display. Plus, complimentary pan de muerto from Bay Baking Co and Mexican hot chocolate will be served, eliciting a few shouts of "Yum!" (Marke B.)

1 p.m. procession, 2 p.m. performance, $15–$68

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF.

(415) 552-8338

www.sfsymphony.org

 

DaM-Funk and Master Blazter

The last few times DaM-Funk was in town for shows — a DJ set at Som Bar; an incredible but barely remembered 45 party at Public Works to cap off Noise Pop — it wasn't the full deal. Now the ambassador of boogie will cap off his fall tour with live accompaniment from Master Blazter, strapping on the shoulder synth to accomplish his main goal: throwing a party where everyone gets down. And there's a good chance DaM-Funk has picked up some new old school tricks producing former Slave frontman Steve Arrington's new album which comes out this month, Love, Peace, and Funky Beats. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Matthew David, Devon Who, and Sweater Funk DJs

9 p.m., $20

Mezzanine

444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880

www.mezzaninesf.com


SUNDAY 6

"Beyond This Place" with live soundtrack

It makes sense that Sufjan Stevens would compose the soundtrack for Kaleo La Belle's documentary Beyond This Place. The two have been friends since childhood and the documentary is personal. After 30 years of estrangement, La Belle and his stubborn hippie father, Cloud Rock, embark on a 500-mile bike excursion where La Belle hopes he'll learn whether there's an inextricable bond between himself and Cloud Rock — a man without guilt, regret, or compassion. At the Castro Theater, Beyond This Place screens with a live soundtrack performance by Sufjan Stevens and Castanets' Ray Raposa; a Q&A with La Belle follows. (Miller)

7:30 p.m., $25

Castro Theater

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120

www.castrotheater.com


TUESDAY 8

North Sky Cello Ensemble

When the Yeah Yeah Yeahs burst onto the indie rock scene in 2003, singer Karen O and guitarist Nick Zinner were so fashionable and seductive that I couldn't quite relate to the coolness of it all. I preferred Brian Chase, who looked like a 1980s tech guy by comparison. Besides, the classically trained drummer played phenomenally. All three members have been working on projects outside the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lately. O wrote a "psycho opera," Zinner has been doing photography, and Chase? He's been pounding at the drums with the North Sky Cello Ensemble, a collection of classical musicians whose players have supported the likes of Beyonce and Elton John. How would, say, Debussy sound with a killer rhythm section? (Miller)

8 p.m., free

Brick and Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission, SF

(415) 800-8782

www.brickandmortarmusic.com 

 

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