Suddenly, it’s September. Where did summer go? Wasn’t there supposed to be frolicking, foolishness and far-away travel? Fortunately, the Bay Area is devoted to enjoying free-form fun with friends and family, regardless of the season. Here then, are novel ideas for stretching your summer and events geared to throw up sturdy guardrails that defy autumn’s onset and refuse resumption of return-to-school-or-office mentality.
Go to Jail
Actually, head to Berkeley and visit the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s (BAMPFA) season-opening exhibition, “Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration.”
The group exhibition in BAMPFA’s main gallery space is a dynamic, intense presentation of freshly commissioned works by 12 emerging and established artists. Invited to delve into the historical, sociological and philosophical gridiron underlying incarceration and the realities of contemporary prison life, the works demonstrate the artists’ impressively varied explorations of materials, technologies and genres.
As part of the creative process for the project organized in 2020 by the Arizona State University Art Museum (the exhibit premiered there in 2021), the 12 artists—four of whom are from California—participated in workshops and public conversations with curators, scholars, students, prison activists and community organizers. Involved in a wide range of issues relating to incarceration, such as oppression, power structures, dominance, penitence, racist stigmas, prison architecture and aesthetics, civil justice and the exploitation of Indigenous people in particular, the artwork is nothing short of ambitious.
Assistant curator Claire Frost says in an interview, “‘Undoing Time’ brings together 12 contemporary artists to present new visions of incarceration and its impacts on society as it pertains particularly to the western U.S. and Latin America–a geographical focus that is central to BAMPFA’s mission to be relevant both locally and globally. Working across media from photography and video to drawing and participatory installations, these artists’ work asks us to reconsider not only incarceration itself, but the ways in which its representation in visual culture has the power to reorient our understanding of law, criminality and justice (and turns) towards healing rather than punishment.”
Of particular interest to local visitors might well be Oakland-based artist Stephanie Syjuco’s Shutter/Release (2021). The photography-based installation was created using the “healing brush” tool in Photoshop and symbolically removes evidence of colonial and carceral structures from 19th and 20th century archival images from the Philippines. The images, thus “healed,” are placed on aluminum plates and silhouettes traced to produce “liberated” profiles and landscapes.
In an artist’s statement, Syjuco, who was born in Manila and has lived in Oakland since 1974, explains the work “borrows from various archives of anthropological photographs depicting Indigenous people in the Philippines as racially inferior. Stemming from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some photographs derive from Bilibid Prison in Manila, a prison established by the Spanish colonial government in the late 19th century, which still imprisons more than 25,000 people.”
Notably, BAMPFA’s exhibit extends off-site to Alcatraz Island. There, Pulitzer Prize winning artist and composer Raven Chacon’s sonic meditation on the histories of Alcatraz fuses actual recordings made in Bay Area prisons with archival footage of broadcasts produced by Native American activists in 1969 during their 19-month occupation at Alcatraz in a protest involving civil rights abuses.
Grab a Guitar…or hoist a banjo or any acoustic string instrument and start strumming and humming, toe-tapping and wagon-circling. Freight & Salvage’s annual Berkeley Old Time Music Convention swings out of the last two years of pandemic restrictions with a five-day music and dance festival. The lineup hops multi-directionally with performances by local and national solo performers and bands and includes Cajun and square dances, an open cabaret, the beloved stringband contest, and concerts and parties presented in various venues throughout Berkeley, so check the website carefully for locations.
With festival plans in hand, throw caution aside when it comes to attending the welcoming party and Cajun dance at Ashkenaz. Same rules apply at the closing night square dance party that includes a bevy of headline artists: Earl White Stringband, Tatiana Hargreaves & Friends, Corn Potato String Band, Right To Parlay, Evie Ladin, Robin Fischer and Mark Schatz.
Make sure to peruse the concerts carefully if you can’t attend all of them. Catch rare, special appearances by musicians such as Earl White, whose playlist harks back to “old time” music and highlights White’s fierce fiddling that bears the blended influences of Scottish and Appalachian folk music.
The festival consistently provides artists with deep histories in bluegrass and traditional acoustic music, and lineups never shirk when it comes to presenting forward-thinking musicians breathing new life into the established art form. Hargreaves represents that old-new wave: On Laurie Lewis’ Grammy-nominated album, The Hazel And Alice Sessions, her command on the fiddle is undeniable. While solidly rooted on traditional foundations, she is simultaneously adventuresome.
Allegra Thompson, development associate at the Freight and radio host of Pig in a Pen, KPFA’s bluegrass and roots country radio program, looks forward to the festival’s return to live programs. ”I have this week marked on my calendar every year; it’s sort of a special holiday for the old time music community here in the Bay Area. Besides the nightly concerts and dances, I’m especially looking forward to the workshops.”
In addition to the concerts, the festival does indeed host noteworthy workshops—”Black Americans in Old Time Music, Then and Now: a Presentation and Discussion with Earl White”; “Adding Melodic and Rhythmic Variations to Fiddle Repertoire” with Tatiana Hargreaves; and “How to Play with Another Fiddler: Seconding and Harmonizing” with Aaron Jonah Lewis, among many others. If you’ve never ventured into bluegrass or roots music or have decided your dancing days are over, this festival could be a game-changer.
Bonnie Raitt last appeared at the Greek Theatre on Sept 24, 2016, with special guests Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers. On Sept. 18, she returns with Just Like That…, her 21st album and third release from her indie label, Redwing Records. Reaching the top of the music charts within the first few weeks, Raitt’s latest is the capstone on a year that saw her being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Grammy Awards, receiving the Icon Award at the Billboard Women in Music and having her Nick of Time album inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
Special guest Mavis Staples joins Raitt at the Greek. Witness and worship these two powerful voices with something to say and the vocal chops with which to say it (not to discount Raitt’s fine hands on guitar) in the gorgeous, open-air amphitheater. If that’s not enough, Jack Johnson has added a second show due to popular demand (the first show sold out quickly) and appears Sept. 29 with his “Meet The Moonlight 2022 Tour” and special guest multi-instrumentalist Ron Artis II.
Gather with Grace
Fox Theater hosts singer, actress, author, traveler and artist Grace Jones on Sept. 23. From shaking up the disco scene in the late 1980s in New York City nightclubs to revolutionary albums such as Nightclubbing and Living My Life that revealed the soul, house, reggae, new wave, R&B and electronica influences on her music, to writing her 2014 New York Times best-selling memoir, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, Jones is always a moving target.
Go for grandeur, expect glam and get out to see in-person an entertainer who lit up the motion picture industry in films such as Conan the Destroyer (1984), co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; A View to a Kill (1985), co-starring Roger Moore as James Bond; the vampire thriller, Vamp (in which Keith Haring painted her body for her role as an exotic dancer); and others.
Gather groceries the fun way and find new friends by visiting a farmers’ market in a different neighborhood than your usual haunt. There are over 40 farmers’ market locations in Alameda and Contra Costa counties alone.
Access to fresh local produce, cheeses, meats, nuts and other goods doesn’t end in August and can be found in Hayward, Alameda, Berkeley and Oakland (at multiple locations), Dublin, Walnut Creek, Concord, Moraga, Orinda, El Cerrito, Fremont, Richmond, Martinez and more. Take a road trip or stay close to home; either way, these groceries are bought for a good cause and support local farmers and food crafters.
It’s game-on for people able to high jump over to SF JAZZ’s Miner Auditorium in San Francisco on Sept. 16 for a “Ballet and Basketball” chat. Join Alonzo King, co-founder and artistic director of LINES Ballet, and Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, as they explore topics beyond professional dance and sports to address social justice, human rights, mindfulness and self-care. Proceeds from the event support Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s new works and educational programs. VIP tickets offer a post-conversation cocktail reception and meet-and-greet with King and Kerr.
Grooving on food and music at a state fair is a summertime given, which makes the Alameda County Fair’s California Soul Food Cookout and Festival on Sept. 17 and 18 a must-go. The two-day cookout event combines soul food with “R&B Legends” on Saturday and a “Gospel Explosion Extravaganza” on Sunday.
Food trucks, jewelry, books, T-shirts, souvenirs, hats and handmade craft goods are available. But go to hear R&B stars such as Musiq Soulchild, Marsha Ambrosius, Angie Stone and Kevin Ross, hosted by comedian Mario Hodge. Return on day two for artists Fred Hammond, Karen Clark Sheard, Bishop Cortez Vaughn, Charles Jenkins and James Fortune, as well as KDYA Gospel radio host Steven Parker.
Guzzle or sip, but whatever your speed, hustle up and pick up one of 21st Amendment’s Summer of Sip craft beer packages, featuring late summer beers such as Close Encounters of a Hop Kind, Hell or High Mango, Coaster Pils and others. There’s something poetic in that Amendment’s craft brewery’s founders Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan became friends during a summer class on brewing science at UC Davis and subsequently formulated a plan to create their popular brewpub and artisan beers.
The summer IPAs and Pilsners boast tropical fruit and “snappy quenching” flavors and aromas, according to the website. Not sure about snap, but anything that leaves a summery aftertaste to linger on the taste buds is good in our playbook.
For all events and venues, check websites for specific dates, times and COVID-19 safety protocols.