Bay Area arts: 10 shows to see this weekend and beyond
There are a ton of great shows and exhibits to catch this weekend and beyond in the Bay Area, from a Stevie Wonder tribute show to Michael Franti and Cake headlining a two-day fest in Mill Valley.
Here is a partial rundown.
Songs in the key of Wonder
The fact that Stevie Wonder once dropped in to jam at a Jazz Mafia gig lends a degree of delicious suspense to the Bay Area collective’s annual gig in his honor. Sure, Wonder probably has other places to celebrate his 73rd birthday, but you never know.
But with or without the legendary artist, the Jazz Mafia is ideally equipped to explore his extraordinary catalog, from the era-defining hits to lesser-known gems. Founded by North Bay-raised bassist/trombonist Adam Theis after he moved to the Mission District in 1998, the collective gradually expanded to encompass a dozen different projects and ensembles connected by a devotion to ecstatic grooves.
With the triumvirate of Trance Thompson, Nataly Michelle Wright and Tym Brown, the Jazz Mafia brings a congregation of vocal talent to Stanford’s Studio, where testimony will be taken on the enduring wonder of Wonder. The event promises covers of both Wonder classics and lesser-known works.
Details: 7 and 9 p.m. May 13; Studio at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University; $30-$40; live.stanford.edu.
— Andrew Gilbert, Correspondent
Classical picks: S.F. Symphony, New Century, more
Classical music organizations throughout the Bay Area continue to offer a wide array of new and seldom-heard works; here are a few of this week’s highlights.
Payare’s S.F Symphony debut: Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare makes his long-awaited first appearance with the San Francisco Symphony this weekend; he’ll conduct the orchestra’s inaugural performances of William Grant Still’s 1924 “Darker America.” Hilary Hahn joins Payare and the orchestra in Brahms’ Violin Concerto; Richard Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” completes the program.
Details: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday; Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $20-$175; 415-864-6000, sfsymphony.org.
New works at New Century: About to embark on its second European tour, the New Century Chamber Orchestra concludes its 30th anniversary season with tenor Nicholas Phan in Nico Muhly’s “Stranger” and the world premiere of Hannah Kendall’s “I may turn to salt.” Works by Jessie Montgomery, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and Benjamin Britten are also on the schedule.
Details: 7:30 p.m. today at First Congregational Church, Berkeley; 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Presidio Theatre, San Francisco; 3 p.m. Sunday at Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael; $15-$67.50; ncco.org.
Power Duos, Power Dynamics: The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players close out their season with pairings exploring the power of two: included are works by Anthony Braxton and his son, Tyondai; Miya Masaoka and her husband, George Lewis; and a new composition by Aiyana Braun. Admission includes a 7 p.m. pre-concert talk. 8 p.m. May 11; Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; $35 general, $15 students; sfcmp.org.
“Love is Love”: That’s the title of Friday’s program by the Santa Clara Chorale, featuring the world premiere of “Four Principles of Marriage.” Scott Hanna Weir’s score for choir and orchestra sets text from Obergefell vs. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage. Joining the choir are the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and Santa Clara University Choirs.
Details: 8 p.m. Friday; Mission Santa Clara; $7-$41; scc.org.
“Tres Minutos: An Immigration Opera”: Under artistic director Héctor Armienta, Opera Cultura has introduced a number of new Latinix-Hispanic works; past performances by the company have included “Bless Me, Ultima” and “La Llorona.” This weekend, “Tres Minutos” is the featured work on a program that also includes excerpts from Armienta’s opera, “La Muerte.”
Details: 2 p.m. Saturday; Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater, San Jose; $10-$40; operacultura.org.
— Georgia Rowe, Correspondent
Franti, Cake, headline Mill Valley Music Fest
Michael Franti and Spearhead and Cake are the headliners for the Mill Valley Music Festival, the two event returning this weekend to Friends Field.
Franti, the pop-rock singer, musician and activist, will be joined by his longtime band Spearhead to headline the show on Saturday (they are slated to take the stage 5:30 p.m.). Cake, the quirky Sacramento-born band known for such hits as “Distance” and “I Will Survive,” headlines Sunday evening (slated for 6 p.m.)
Other main stage performers Saturday include Tank and The Bangas, The Dip, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears and Orchestra Gold.
Sunday performers include Remain in Light, a band featuring former Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison and guitarist Adrian Belew, as well as Durand Jones, Valerie June, and The Alive.
There will also be live entertainment on a second stage, plus kids activities, a wellness tent, arts and crafts and other vendors and a wide variety of food/drink offerings.
Hours are noon-7 p.m. each day; general admission tickets are $180 (single-day) and $259 (two-day), with discounts for youths, seniors and others.
It was in 1994 that a little-known act called “Riverdance” appeared in a seven-minute segment on the Eurovision Song Contest. Featuring Michael Flatley and Jean Butler, the performance earned a thunderous ovation and caused something of a story among the 300 million TV viewers worldwide.
The following year, creators Moya Doherty and John McColgan adapted “Riverdance” into a full-length stage show that premiered in Dublin. To say it caught on would be an understatement — it has since appeared in more than 450 (often sold out) venues around the world, been viewed by millions and millions of fans and turned the art of Irish dancing — and its stirring musical accompaniment — into a global phenomenon.
A 25th anniversary tour was playing to packed joints around the U.S. in 2020 when it was shut down by COVID pandemic. Now it’s back, and this week it stops for five performances at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Organizers call the new production “a powerful and stirring reinvention of this beloved favorite.”
Details: Presented by Broadway San Jose; 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday; $38-$103 (subject to change); broadwaysanjose.com.
— Randy McMullen, Staff
Graffiti zines get their due
What most people recognize as graffiti art arose in the late 1960s in such places as Philadelphia and especially New York, which, by the early to mid ‘70s, was the unofficial capital of an art form that many people opposed from the start. Created by everyone from political activists blasting ideas to gang members claiming turf to rebellious young artists with a flair for spray-paint penmanship, graffiti to many in the mainstream represented an defiant underbelly of society that could not be restrained. And a lot of it was pretty damned marvelous. By the late ‘70s, cities were cracking down on graffiti with a variety of means, but artists found new forums to display their talents. During the ‘90s, vibrant and spirited graffiti zines took root in several markets, echoing the scruffy, DIY style and ethos of such scenes as punk and underground rock, tattoo art, graphic novels, and more. And since pretty much every slice of the ‘90s has gotten a new look in the past several years (did we really need a “Full House” reboot, people?), it’s about time someone revisited the graffiti zine golden years. And someone has. San Francisco museum Letterform Archive has just opened what’s said to be the first extensive exhibit in the country looking back at the indie graffiti zines, as well as the artists and writers, that flourished in the ‘90s. Titled “Subscription to Mischief,” the exhibit offers examples and insights into more than 40 zines as well as details and history about the artists involved and the methods they employed. The show was created by Letterform Archive’s librarian Kate Long Stellar with guest curators such as Greg Lamarche, a famed artist and creator of one of the scene’s best-known publications, “Skills.” The exhibit runs through Nov. 1 at the museum, 2339 Third St., fourth floor, in San Francisco. You can visit the museum for free every Thursday, when the hours are 1 to 8 p.m. On Fridays through Sundays, the museum is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and admission is $10 (free to those 12 and under). More information is at letterformarchive.org
— Bay Area News Foundation
A Don Reed finale (for now)
It’s titled the “Never Too Late Show,” but actually you are running out of time to see it, at least in Berkeley. Popular Bay Area actor, comedian and storyteller extraordinaire Don Reed is reviving his acclaimed solo show about his days trying to break into the L.A. entertainment scene for a run at The Marsh Berkeley, in what organizers are calling the “final Berkeley extension.” Now, it never seems the Bay Area has to go too long without hosting a solo work by Reed, who’s also famous for his autobiographical works about growing up in Oakland. But “Never Too Late Show” is worth catching, just in case. In it, Reed, tells of his exhaustive and occasionally heartbreaking search for work with his patented blend of comic and theatrical flair, accentuated with a multimedia component featuring actual footage of his appearance on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and HBO and other comedy specials. Organizers bill it as “a story of laughter, deceit, and ultimately vindication.” Frankly, Reed could read the operating manual for a waffle iron and probably draw deep laughs and insight. “The Never Too Late Show” performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday and May 20 and 27, and 7 p.m. May 21. Tickets are $25-$100. The Marsh Berkeley is at 2120 Allston St. Go to themarsh.org.
Randy McMullen is the Bay Area News Group’s Arts & Entertainment editor for The Mercury News and East Bay Times. He joined the Contra Costa Times, which later became the East Bay Times, as a copy editor in 1992. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a BA degree in mass communications and environmental studies.