The Performant: The Witching Hour -- Puritan girls gone wild and midnight museum marauders


Checking out the local arts and culture scene ...

There’s no doubt about it—San Franciscans love a rock opera. From the faux-real heavy metal anthems of “Live Evil” to the afterlife explorations of “Exit Sign,” the suicide art movement of “Thanatics” to the human sacrifices of “Wicker Man,” we like our rock operas loud, messy, and tinged with darkness and humor both. So an original rock opera about the Salem Witch Trials seems an obvious pairing between our love of the darkside plus power chords. Appropriately held at the Temple nightclub on Howard, “Abigail the Rock Opera” straddles the SF rock opera line between serious and silly.

There’s some damn fine singing, particularly from Alexis Lane Jensen who plays Betty Parris, and Daniel Knop, who plays her father Samuel Parris as well as a curiously fey Giles Corey in a silver mop-top/Andy Warhol wig and every 60’s British Invasion mannerism to ever make it onto the Ed Sullivan show. There’s some really solid rocking out thanks to the band, particularly guitarist Kurt Brown (who not coincidentally co-wrote the music with Knop). Plus there are dead babies, bloody aprons, moonlit excursions in the woods, goth-y girls in leather corsets and modest bonnets, and angry men wearing glittery facepaint, Thanksgiving pageant hats, and smug patriarchal entitlement.

There are some downsides too—namely over-reliance on video projection, hard-to-follow lyrics, and not enough campy abandon. I’d have liked to see the goth angle played up more as well as the glam. Perhaps a Klaus Nomi or Gary Numan homage tucked in between the standard rock anthems, or even a little synthesized EBM and some serious stomping. But for now they’ll be performing every Thursday at 9 p.m. through September, and one hopes they’ll make it at least to Halloween, with or without a darkwave makeover.

Meanwhile, it may have been midnight, but the YBCA was far from dark during the DIYbca party last Saturday. People dressed in hand-crafted costumes floated through the hallways of the museum like so many neon-colored moths, drawn to the flames of creative crowd-sourcing and hi tech/lo brow design hacks. In the Forum, reality television was getting a send-up with the Drinking and Dancing competition featuring fun-guy trio Adonisaurus, while in the gallery, old-school industrial noisemakers Kwisp jammed on bicycle parts, metal sheets and springs, and bits of old electronics before leading a hands-on, build-your-own thumb piano workshop (the best use for bobby pins and cigar boxes ever!).

A stencil workshop with queer street artist Jeremy Novy, creative cobbling with Mrs. Vera and SCRAP, a Puma shoe design competition, and a create your own techno music lab hosted by LoveTech rounded out the midnight hour, blurring the line between performer and participant to its most malleable degree. In other words, even the fun was being crowd-sourced, and pretty successfully so. Party promoters take note. You can hire all the big brand bands and fog machines and light-show designers you want, but for a really memorable event, you might want to consider adding a crafting circle to your lineup. Just saying. [Editor's Note for craft aficionados -- there is a wild Haute Gloo craft table every Friday night at the Stud's Some Thing drag party! And it totally works.]

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