We finally made it back to Art Murmur this last Friday. It had been several months since the last time we made it down there. We probably would not have made it on our own, but the excuse of hanging out with friends we had not seen in a while was also irresistible. In the intervening time, the first Friday art gallery night in downtown Oakland has continued to grow. This night several blocks of Telegraph Ave were closed to traffic and filled makeshift stages, street vendors, buskers, food trucks, and drunks. It was also my first time shooting out on the street with the replaced D800, and I took couple dozen shots. This is my favorite one of the night. I saw her first and lined up to get her contrasted against that outrageous orange wall, and then she saw me and gave me this fantastic smile. That’s hella Oakland for ya.
Now that I’ve got your attention… Shots from a concert of sound artists at Liminal Space in Oakland last Friday. Thomas Carnacki performed a piece with video projections. Opening the evening was Zachary James Watkins, followed by Vulcanus 68. Grinding, howling soundscapes, architectural imagery, and nice little art space. I’m looking forward to next time.
It can be a challenge to actually get out and experience what living in a culturally rich place like the Bay Area offers. Often it takes a trigger, like visiting guests, to break one out of the routine, day-to-day drudgery and into the consumption of our local cultural color.
Upon the arrival of dear friends from out-of-town this past weekend, we headed over to see the Gaultier show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Crossing the bridge for non-work-related reasons is a treat in itself; I just don’t get to do it often enough. When I do, I remember a little more about why I wanted to live here in the Bay Area in the first place.
In any case, the show was spectacular, by which I mean heavy on spectacle. The coupling of mannequins with images was captivating. I saw a lot people spending a long time staring up at the radiant faces. Nonetheless, I did eventually manage to notice and thoroughly enjoy the clothing. While the show was seductive and beautiful, it was also quite interesting, often humorous, and informative for a fashion neophyte like me. I’ve seen fashion displayed in art museum settings before, but I had not really experienced couture as “fine art” in this way.
I was surprised to find that there was no restriction on photographing the show (although I was stopped from taking iPhone video of a singing mannequin). So, I was quite happy to explore the challenge of shooting in the dim light with many obstacles (i.e., people). I didn’t really go above ISO 1600 because I wanted to minimize sensor noise, so exposure times were slow. But I’m sure the VR feature in my lens helped out a lot. Here is a first pass at processing some of the results.
Dean Santomieri and Thea Farhadian perform at the Berkeley Arts Festival space on University Ave, May 26th. This début performance for the duo included a set duets, followed by solo pieces in which Mr. Santomieri read a spoken word piece, while Ms. Farhadian played a suite of short pieces for violin and computer. They concluded with another set of duets. While rehearsed, the duets are largely improvised pieces ranging far and wide over jagged harmonic terrain, sometimes incorporating prepared instrument techniques. While perhaps not completely lacking a tonal center, the effect of the many of the pieces was that of unbounded tonal exploration. Challenging, yes. But thoroughly enjoyable.
I was standing just in front of Oakland City Hall late in the afternoon, getting ready to decide whether I would march to the port during the Occupy Oakland event. Just then, an older gentleman approached me and asked me if would take his picture, and offered to pay me. He said, “I told my wife I was going to come down, and she didn’t believe me.” I replied that I would be happy to take his picture but that he didn’t have to pay me. He took a few steps toward the building and turned to me.
After I took the photograph, he again offered to pay, and again I declined. So, he said, “You’ve got a box of bananas coming.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but asked him how I would get the pictures to him. He handed me a card with an email address on it. That’s when the box of bananas became clear. He is the owner of a produce company. The email on the card started with a woman’s name, which I inquired about. “That’s my wife,” he said with a grin. I said, “Well, won’t she be surprised?”
It is pure coincidence that after a lengthy hiatus, this next post is again related to the Berkeley Arts Festival. Dean Santomieri reprised his spoken word presentation from the previous performance and he was followed by jazz quartet The Glasses. Mr. Santomieri’s set was one piece shorter and all around tighter than last time. The Glasses came together to perform songs penned by bassist Safa Shokrai. The rest of the quartet was: Chris Grady, trumpet; Larry Leight, trombone; Dave Mihaly, drums. I hear that the quartet usually includes a violin rather than trombone, but the arrangements and the chemistry for this performance were outstanding. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear more of them in whatever configuration they can muster. The light was low, but I managed to get a few decent shots.
When I was interviewing for my present job, the conpany’s live-work balance and tendency to hire interesting and creative people were offered as plusses. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I was just interested in the job. But it turned out to be true; there seem to be a larger than expected number of musicians and artists working there. It has helped me to reconnect with art activity that I have lost touch with after years of grad school, parenting, and full-time work. A case in point was last Friday evening when I ventured out to the Berkeley Arts Festival to see one of my co-workers perform his spoken word/sound art. The venue presents visual works on the walls along with the performances on the stage.
Dean Santomieri is well-known in the performance scene around the Bay Area. I’m sorry not to have been familiar with his work prior to getting this job, chatting at work, finding lots of common interests, and exchanging recordings. In any case, the performance last Friday was wonderful. Dean is a great writer and story teller, and he accompanies himself with a battery of electronics and guitars, creating a aural environment that nicely supports the spoken word without ever getting in its way. The writing, what I might call magical realism, drew me in right away, eliciting a curious mixture of delight and trepidation.
And it was inspirational too. I’m not giving up photography, but I’m pledging to myself to fire up the old electronics and get back to work. And speaking of photography… I wish I had sat closer and gotten a shot of Dean playing that crazy, electric resonator guitar. I will next time.
In honor of Record Store Day today, I took our guests for the day, Sarah’s sister Carrie and BF Glenn, up to Down Home Music. As many of you know, this is one of the most important records stores around for folk, Americana, jazz, and more. The result was that I picked up the 10-disk box set of Bob Wills’ complete Tiffany Transcriptions. I was absolutely overjoyed to find it there. I had it in my shopping cart on Amazon for awhile and then it sold out. But the double joy today was that not only did I find it, but I supported an independent record label/company/store that’s a major player in documenting Americana and folk music from around the world.
If you didn’t do it today, get out there tomorrow and buy something from your local indie record store. And if you are in the SF Bay Area, definitely check out Down Home Music. Really.
Ever since starting this new job, I have been meaning to start biking to work. But, not having been on my bike for months, I was wary of just jumping on, riding the six miles or so to work, and then being in any condition to start working upon arrival. Some kind of warm seemed to be in order.
As it happened, I heard for the first time yesterday about the East Bay Bike Party, their ride through my end of the East Bay. But since I couldn’t find start details, I wasn’t sure whether I could even participate. I had sort of written it off. By the time Theo and returned from his Cub Scout pack meeting, it was after 8 pm. In fact it was just as we arrived home that we heard loud music and a gawd-awful racket outside. We went outside to look, and there it was: the bike party.
One of the organizers stopped to chat me up and give me flyer with the route on it. Hmmm… I decided to go for it. I went in and quickly through camera in bag, put on a hoodie, pumped up the tires and rode off into the night to catch up.
I caught up with the party at Cedar Rose Park and stayed with it until the final destination at Albany Bowl. I hate to be such a johnny-come-lately evangelist, but damn that was fun! Riding through the night, taking back the street, or at least the right lane, whooping and hollering is a great return to simple pleasures.