Friday, April 1, 2016

This Weekend's Top Five Events

April 1, 2 & 3

by Sarah Burke
Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 4:00 AM

It's the weekend already! What a treat. And here's how to enjoy it:

A scene from Oakland Lost Landscapes.
  • A scene from Oakland Lost Landscapes.
Oakland Lost Landscapes
Historian and media activist Rick Prelinger’s popular Lost Landscapes series will be coming to The New Parkway (474 24th St.) for a free presentation of Oakland-specific material on Friday, April 1 as part of First Friday Shorts. Oakland Lost Landscapes is a montage of rediscovered and rarely-seen film clips taken by news cameramen, amateur videographers, and industrial filmmakers at times when the city looked very different than it does today. Although Prelinger — whose archive of 60,000 such films from across the country now lives at the Library of Congress — researched and compiled the Oakland Lost Landscapes collection, his student Alex Cruse will be giving the presentation on Friday. Cruse is an Oakland-based writer, interdisciplinary artist, and educator who worked at the Prelinger Archives between 2012 and 2013 and is now the primary producer of the Lost Landscapes series. Unlike most screenings, talking is encouraged during Lost Landscape presentations. “We should think about not just making films, but making events as well,” Prelinger told the Express in 2014. “I want to use historical film material as an opportunity to get people talking about issues that might be hard to talk about.”— Sarah Burke
Fri., April 1, 6-8 p.m. Free.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Fight to Save Betti Ono Continues

The gallery has launched a fundraising campaign and will host a First Friday event.

by Sarah Burke
Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 3:16 PM

  • Bert Johnson/File
As the Express reported last month in our feature "Will Oakland Lose Its Artistic Soul?," Betti Ono Gallery (1427 Broadway, Oakland) is facing threat of displacement due to a 60% rent increase (which comes out to an additional $22,000).

Betti Ono Gallery, which aims to elevate marginalized voices and creative work, has been located in a city-owned building adjacent to Frank Ogawa Plaza for the past five years. Despite repeated requests, the gallery has been unable to obtain a long-term lease from the city, according to Betti Ono founder and director Anyka Barber. 

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Too $hort’s 30th Anniversary Show Couldn’t Have Been Long Enough

The East Oakland rap legend celebrated thirty years of making music with an epic, star-studded anniversary show at The Fox Theater.

by Nastia Voynovskaya
Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 2:32 PM

  • Jacky Johnson

Saturday night’s Too $hort show at The Fox Theater felt like the concert equivalent of a late-career museum retrospective — with as much ceremoniousness and fanfare as one might expect for an artist who has been canonized as an all-time great.

Everyone recognizes Too $hort as a rap legend — and a force in Oakland music, period. But at the concert, which was billed as his anniversary show celebrating thirty years in the industry, Too $hort confirmed his icon status with a hugely entertaining, dynamic set. In addition to flexing his skills on the mic, he punctuated his performance with bits of nostalgic storytelling, Oakland history, and surprise performances from fellow OGs E-40, Raphael Saadiq, Richie Rich, and Freddy B., in addition to younger artists such as Mistah F.A.B., and — in lieu of the late Eazy E — Lil Eazy E, the West Coast legend’s son.

Between songs, Short Dog’s many colleagues and longtime supporters gave impassioned speeches about his significance to rap history. Many people touted the hustle and imagination it took for him to transcend hip-hop trends and stay relevant in a genre that’s typically considered a young person’s game for over three decades.

After all, Too $hort was forty years old when he released “Blow the Whistle” in 2006. And though it’s now regarded as a quintessential hyphy classic, as the rapper pointed out in a recent video interview with the rap blog HipHopDX, he was already well-established in his career when it came out and didn’t need another hit. That’s the thing about Too $hort: Hits flow out of him. He’s unstoppable.

Inside the dimly lit Fox Theater, with its ornate, art deco interior, Too $hort took the stage looking like a rock star in a black shirt and ox blood leather pants — which he later traded for an all-black look decked out with shimmering, gold rhinestones. Instead of a DJ, he performed with a huge, nine-piece-or-so band (the number of musicians, backup singers, and friends on stage seemed to grow throughout the evening, so I wasn’t sure on the final count).

The crowd varied in age and ethnicity, though there was a large presence of Black folks in their forties and fifties. Copes, one of Too $hort’s old friends, was selling reprints of his original Oakland City Players t-shirts emblazoned with a Playboy Bunny over the Town skyline — a design that was popular locally in the Eighties and Nineties. He coined Oakland’s famous nickname, Oaktown, in the Eighties, and he had a binder full of old articles and photos to prove it. The night felt like a celebration of Oakland culture and history that, refreshingly, didn’t promote gentrification.

Though a lot of folks love hyphy-era Too $hort, his set list made it clear that the earlier, funkier parts of his catalogue are what he holds dear. While, sometimes, rap shows with live ensembles can often come off as overwrought, the musicians jived well with Too $hort’s music, and their playing never overshadowed his verbal dexterity. In fact, the band added a new sense of dynamism to Too $hort’s mob music classics.

During “Freaky Tales” — a track from 1989’s Born to Mack in which Too $hort recounts various sexual exploits over a hypnotic bass line for over nine minutes — his band launched into a Phish-style jam session. Too $hort made it a point to highlight that he cares about musicianship throughout the night. At one point, he invited Kev Choice, his pianist who is also a well-known Oakland rapper in his own right, to launch into a lengthy keyboard solo. The crowd gleefully cheered on his ostentatious, jazzy playing.

There were plenty of surprises throughout the night, as a throng of local legends took turns joining Too $hort on stage. E-40 — probably Too $hort’s only living equal in terms of gatekeeper status in the Bay Area rap scene — gave a heartfelt speech about his and $hort’s long friendship and creative partnership. The two of them performed the player anthem “Bitch” off Forty Water’s Revenue Retrievin’, and the elated crowd screamed along to every instance of “biatch” — Too $hort’s favorite word, as he famously explains in “Blow the Whistle.”

Though Freddy B. was one of Too $hort’s lesser-known guests, his appearance was by far one of the most special. He and Too $hort regaled the audience with tales from their days selling tapes together in the Eighties in East Oakland. Freddy B. recalled how people would commission him and $hort to dedicate personalized freestyles to them called “special requests,” which the duo would do for fifty to a hundred dollars a pop. “We were getting paper,” said Freddy B. His understatement provoked uproarious laughter. “In fact, we’re still getting paper.”

Raphael Saadiq joined Too $hort on stage for a large portion of the night, which was also a rare treat. Though he was the original lead vocalist of Toni! Tony! Toné!, the group reunited without him in 1998 following a hiatus during the early Nineties. Saadiq has enjoyed a successful solo career and done notable behind-the-scenes work with D’Angelo and The Roots, but his work with Toni! Tony! Toné! is one of his biggest contributions to Oakland music history and R&B in general. He regaled the crowd with his impressive vocal chops and, at one point, even brought out his bass.

Mistah F.A.B., who is famous for his incredible ability to freestyle for indefinite lengths of time (Fabby Davis is the prince of the O / The freestyle king, man, everybody know, as he rightfully declared in “N.E.W. Oakland”), also joined Too $hort for an extensive portion of the evening. F.A.B. freestyled at length about the history of the hyphy movement and Too $hort’s cultural importance, upping the concert’s sentimental factor even more as a slideshow of Too $hort’s album covers played in the background.

The show’s plush setting and flashy presentation was befitting of Too $hort’s extensive accomplishments as an artist. But it also spoke to how much mainstream America has embraced hip-hop. Too $hort’s sleazy stage banter and raunchy rhymes contrasted with The Fox Theater’s museum-like environment, and I felt a sense of satisfaction from witnessing him flagrantly subvert the Eurocentric concept of “low” and “high” art forms.

Too $hort came up during the Reagan era, at the height of the AIDS and crack epidemics — a time when mainstream media vilified rappers for creating art that reflected the struggles Black communities were facing. Hearing Too $hort perform his timeless piece of storytelling rap, “The Ghetto” — with Saadiq crooning its soulful hook — was a poignant reminder that, inherently, hip-hop is an affront to white supremacy and the police state.

While Too $hort is well known for his pimp persona, his sexually explicit lyrics often overshadow the strong contingent of socially and politically conscious content in his music. And while much of his ouvre is admittedly pretty sexist, Too $hort had something of a feminist awakening in 2012 following an in-depth Ebony interview with the scholar Dream Hampton, in which they had a frank conversation about the dual burdens of racism and misogyny that Black women face.

While it would be an overstatement to say that Too $hort has wholly reformed the misogynistic tendencies in his work, it was commendable that at one point in the night, he announced that there were too many male voices on stage. He later brought out a female MC to finish the last verse on “Don’t Fight the Feelin’” from his first studio album, Life Is ... Too $hort. (Sadly, I didn’t catch her name, but she was raw.)

The evening ended with an unexpected speech from Peggy Moore, Mayor Schaaf’s Senior Special Adviser. She honored Too $hort with a letter of recognition for his contributions to the performing arts in Alameda County. Seeing Too $hort get an official designation from the local government was as much a testament to his artistic accomplishments as it was a reminder that Oakland is an exceptional place thanks to people like him — not because of its recent influx of yuppies.

After Moore left the stage, Too $hort brought back E-40, Saadiq, Richie Rich, Mistah F.A.B., Freddy B., and the rest of the guests from throughout the night. He gestured to his band as if he wanted to do an encore, but the house lights had already been turned on and venue staff were beginning to usher people out of the theater. As with all magical evenings, the show didn’t feel nearly long enough. But Too $hort already knew that in 1988 when he pointed out that Life Is … Too $hort

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Friday, March 25, 2016

This Weekend's Top Seven Events

March 25, 26 & 27

by Sarah Burke
Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 10:32 AM

It's officially spring ! Go out and celebrate:

SALTA Dance Collective: Pseudo, Anti, and Total Dance
SALTA, an East Bay experimental dance collective that holds a monthly roaming dance series with the goal of activating unlikely spaces with movement, is teaming up with the similarly non-traditional performance platform AUNTS to take over the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2155 Center St., Berkeley) on Friday, March 25, from 6–9 p.m. The dancers aim to turn the museum’s new home into a “dance deck, disco, shrine” by performing throughout the galleries, responding to the architecture and the artwork within it. SALTA and AUNTS have curated a lineup of over sixty performers to fill the space, ranging widely in discipline. More than fifteen video artists will also be there to light up the galleries with projected imagery. The first one hundred people to attend will receive free entry. After that, the event will be free with museum admission.— Sarah Burke
Fri., March 25, 6-9 p.m. Free with museum admission.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

'Not Ur Baby Pt. II' Is Not Your Average Art Show

The all-female group show will put the spotlight on women artists and benefit survivors of sex trafficking.

by Sarah Elizabeth Adler
Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 2:34 PM

  • Courtesy of Vanessa Vigil
Vanessa Vigil is only 22 years old, but the local artist and photographer has a curatorial savvy that outweighs her years. Last August, frustrated with male-dominated art spaces, Vigil curated Not Ur Baby, an all-female art show that raised nearly five hundred dollars for Oakland anti-human trafficking organizations. Now, less than a year later, Vigil is poised to repeat that success with Not Ur Baby Pt. II, another all-female group show and benefit that will be held March 26 from 1-7 p.m. at Oakland Terminal (2600 Union St., Oakland).

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Friday, March 18, 2016

This Weekend's Top Five Events

March 18, 19 & 20

by Sarah Burke
Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 7:00 AM

We hope you're not too hung over from St. Patrick's day, because between experimental electronic shows, spiritual zine releases, and art shows about queer dating platforms, you're going to be pretty busy this weekend. See below. 

Beast Nest, Un Operator, Slanted Square, and Flower Pattern
Emeryville’s Sgraffito Gallery took a brief hiatus from its monthly music showcase, PFC3, but is back once again with an electronic music lineup featuring several artists with an experimental edge. Beast Nest is the project of interdisciplinary Oakland performer Sharmi Basu, whose ambient, psychedelic sound collages have political underpinnings. As a queer artist of South Asian descent, Basu uses her work to invoke her feminist, anti-colonial politics in subtle ways. For instance, she dedicated her latest piece, #tfuugly (Or, “That Feeling When You’re Ugly”), to Black and Brown girls who are thriving despite Eurocentric beauty standards. Meanwhile, Un Operator, who is based in Utah, makes thumping, minimal house music that’ll get the party moving. Slanted Square, on the other hand, is a noise artist whose droning compositions share similarities with Beast Nest’s abstract work and Flower Pattern’s atonal, reverb-laden synth playing.— Nastia Voynovskaya
Fri., March 18, 8 p.m. $5.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

This Weekend's Top Seven Events

March 10, 11 & 12

by Sarah Burke
Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Rainy weekends aren't just ideal for Netflix and chill. They're also perfect for indulging in cultural activities. Oh hey, there's a list of those below. 

While ambient production dominates the new wave of R&B and rap, producer XXYYXX pioneered the current style of atmospheric, trip-hop-oriented beats when he was a teenager making electronic instrumentals in his Orlando, Florida, bedroom. Now based in LA, the nineteen-year-old has risen to considerable acclaim in recent years. He produced rising singer SZA’s “Child’s Play” on her debut album, Z — arguably one of the Rihanna collaborator’s best singles — and his recent remix of Tinashe’s “Let Me Love You” is currently making the rounds on SoundCloud. But narco’d-out instrumentals are where he truly shines. Take “About You” from his self-titled 2012 album: underwater synths, bass notes that fall like droplets, and warbled vocal samples create a fascinating mélange of malleable sounds over rigid trap high hats. Catch XXYYXX at The Independent on Saturday, March 12.— Nastia Voynovskaya
Sat., March 12, 9 p.m. $20.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Behind Berkeley's Big New Mural on Telegraph Avenue

Illustrator and muralist Nigel Sussman brings color and creativity to a boarded up storefront on the beloved East Bay street.

by Sydney Johnson
Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 2:32 PM

  • "Wired" by Nigel Sussman

For the last ten months, blank plywood has covered the once iconic Berkeley bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., which for 51 years stood at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way. Now, passersby have a captivatingly silly, insightful, and even mouth-watering mural called “Wired” to look to in remembrance of both the closed bookstore and the overall spirit of Telegraph Avenue.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

This Weekend's Top Seven Events

March 4, 5 & 6

by Sarah Burke
Fri, Mar 4, 2016 at 11:59 AM

I know, it's tempting to stay in on this rainy weekend and listen to the brand new Kendrick Lamar album on repeat. But Kendrick's music isn't going anywhere — and neither is the rain, according to our local meteorologists — so you might as well make the most of the weekend while all of these exciting events are happening. See below:

Turbo Sonidero Futuristico.
  • Turbo Sonidero Futuristico.
Turbo Sonidero Futuristico
San Jose DJ Turbo Sonidero Futuristico throws the recurring party Sonido Clash, which is a showcase for electronic music with Latin roots in the South Bay. He also has performed at many East Bay dance parties over the years thanks to his association with the Oakland DJ collective Trill Team 6. Turbo specializes in haunting and surreal cumbia remixes that take the upbeat South American folk genre and transform it with disorienting, hypnotic electronic effects and occasional R&B and hip-hop samples. While most cumbia is bouncy and jovial, Turbo’s productions retain the genre’s danceable feel while inserting dark and unexpected twists. He performs in Oakland at Lounge 3411 in the Laurel District at the free party Well Nourished Rhythms alongside San Francisco disco producer Jessica Hagen.— Nastia Voynovskaya
Fri., March 4, 9 p.m. Free.

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