The Performant: Impossible weekend! Or: what to do when there’s everything to do?


Bicycle Music Festival and "A Clockwork Orange Afternoon"

Oh lordy, let me catch my breath. Weekend, you have officially kicked my ass.

Merely mortal, I found it difficult to plot an itinerary efficient enough to be able to hit every event that beckoned my attention over those bright and sunny 48 hours. Would I attend the annual Juneteenth street festival or a lecture on the benefits of zombie domestication? Journey to the End of the Night or a CLASH scavenger hunt? Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at Stern Grove or Klaus Kinski at YBCA? Cloning myself seems a more attractive option by the day.

Spoiled for choice, and seeking the sun, I was wooed by the Bicycle Music Festival on Saturday afternoon. Located in the comfy meadow just past the De Young in Golden Gate Park, the Bicycle Music Fest kicked off with local folk rockers StitchCraft. Heather Normandale’s Jolie-Holland husk accompanied by her own guitar and Joey “Cello Joe” Chang wafted sweetly in the mild breeze while a team of stationary-bike pedalers powered up the PA system. 

Introduced by festival organizer and Rock the Bike founder Paul “Fossil Fool” Freedman as an “OG” of the Bicycle Music movement, Normandale is a fixture with the Pleasant Revolution bicycle-powered music touring group, including a five-month tour of Europe with fellow BMF-featured performers, The Ginger Ninjas, as well as a participant of the Shake Your Peace 2009 Winter Walking Tour. Next up, Cradle Duende brought the gypsy noise followed by Evan Francis and fellow jazz mafiosos  who played a mellow, sax-heavy set, warm as the rare June sunshine.

Solar-charged, pedal-powered, and ready for shade, I made tracks on Sunday for “A Clockwork Orange Afternoon” at the Edinburgh Castle. A celebration of the 40-year anniversary of the notorious Kubrick film made of the Anthony Burgess book of the same name, choice excerpts were read, and partly enacted, by Castle regulars: Jack Boulware as narrator, pub proprietor Alan Black as a slew of bit characters (including a spot-on interpretation of the Prison Chaplain), and bowler-hatted Crispin Barker as “Little Alex”. 

At 49, the book itself is still pretty spry, alternating between restless and relentless, full of ultra-violence, yes, and weepy devotchkas and the red, red vino on tap -- but not far below the shock value of its remorseless protagonist’s actions lies Burgess’ unwavering belief that the basis for our humanity is our power of choice, for good or for ill. 

“When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man,” asserts the prison chaplain doggedly, a statement echoed by Burgess himself in his 1986 essay “A Clockwork Orange, Resucked". Stripped of his ability to choose his own moral path, and simultaneously losing his ability to listen to Beethoven’s Ninth (for Burgess, a self-taught composer, this was undoubtedly the ultimate cruelty), Alex pays dearly for his state-sanctioned “freedom”. And nearly fifty years later, the dire implications of the “Ludovico technique” still provoke as strongly as any spot of “twenty-to-one”.


Also from this author

  • Bee true

    The documentaries of Berlin and Beyond

  • Divining the entrails

    New Last Gasp releases explore the unsettling art of Laurie Lipton and Elizabeth McGrath

  • The Performant: Epochalypse Now