The Performant: The Great Leap Forward

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Damn, it's Hood Slam!
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY NICOLE GLUCKSTERN

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!

Sea Chantey Sing: The monthly Sea Chantey sing <www.nps.gov/safr/historyculture/chantey-sing.htm> at Hyde Street pier just turned thirty, but it feels utterly timeless, and is guaranteed the most fun you’ll ever have sober on a Saturday night, no contest. The multi-generational turnout always includes salty old pros benignly rubbing elbows with landlubbers who think the Pogues wrote “South Australia,” and just as no-one is turned away for lack of funds (it’s a free event), no-one is turned away from participating, even if “participating” means sitting in gap-mouthed awe of the regulars whose encyclopedic recall of dozens of Chanteys would make Alan Lomax weak at the knees.

Home Theatre Festival: It’s almost embarrassing how I can’t stop gushing about the homegrown phenomenon that is The Home Theatre Festival. Seriously, it’s like I’m a pre-pubescent girl at the Gymkhana, swooning over the stallions. But it’s hard not to be enamored of an event that took a devastatingly simple concept (hey artists, make art at home for fun and profit!) and turned it into a branded, annual festival whose participants span the globe and whose influence just keeps spreading. Don’t think art made at home is “legit”? You’re on the wrong side of history, friend.

Hoodslam: Real-life superhero training or reckless mayhem? This monthly amateur-wrestling tournament, currently located at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, is a rough-and-tumble turf war between spandex-clad Zombies, dubious family dynasties, videogame-inspired villains, mobsters, gimps, dark overlords, and carnivorous werewolves. Further cranking the sensory overload to eleven with acerbic commentators, an aggro-metal house band, fire-eating babes, a seven-foot tall Pink Panther referee, and the uber-suave ring announcer Ike Emilio Burner, whose booming introduction of each match rolls across the room like a tsunami of too cool, Hoodslam taps into an almost primal gladiatorial urge with an unmistakably Oakland swagger.

The Lost Church: Neither lost, nor a church, this hidden temple of tunesmiths and troubadours worships at the altar of Americana with offerings of the dirty blues, Appalachian-style folk, and alt-rock in a retro jewel-box theatre space. And speaking of theatre, they do that too on an occasional basis, and an evening at The Lost Church might turn out to be a combination of all of the above—an intriguing alchemy.

American Tripps: Spreading the gospel of Berlin-style Ping-pong since August 2011, American Tripps has attracted a cult following of sporty young things in sweatbands who gather every couple of weeks around a single ping-pong table for a rousing evening of rundlauf. Another deceptively simple concept just waiting for someone to come forward and run with it (in this instance, Allan Hough of Mission Mission) American Tripps is a perfect balance between being challenging enough to attract good players and easy enough to keep the uncoordinated masses in the game, whether it’s the first round, or the thirtieth.

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