Welcome to the temple of these familiars: PJ Harvey and old friend and collaborator John Parish might be issuing a warning shot with the first impressionistic lines of “Black Hearted Love,” the opening track of A Woman, a Man Walked By (Island).
Floating above sultry, grinding guitar lines, Harvey sighs, “I / Think I saw you in the shadows / I / Move in closer beneath your windows / Who / Would suspect me of this rapture.” The word “rapture” arcs off her lower register like a big cat in mid-stretch, mentally prepping itself to pounce. “And who but my black-hearted love?” Theirs is a dark-souled affinity, as Harvey reels out her charred noir.
For kids who were born too late to experience the fabulous freaks and drag delights of San Francisco’s world-famous underground song-and-dance company the Cockettes, your moment has come to truly sample the, ahem, wares of the groundbreaking psychedelic tranny troupe. The Cockettes may be gone, but it hasn’t been forgotten - thanks to the 2002 documentary The Cockettes and, notably, Devendra Banhart’s recent bouts of bearded-lady dress-up (commemorated with a fashion spread in The New York Times Magazine). The group gave safe harbor to performance icons like Divine and Sylvester amid the show tunes, bawdy bromides, and razzle-dazzle visuals, before it splintered in 1971.
The artists and curators were chatty, the mini-sandwiches were tasty, and the mingling was in full swing at Orson Restaurant today as Yerba Buena Center for the Arts announced its 2009-2010 season. Music in the galleries, new large-scale commissions, longer exhibition hours that will allow audiences to take in the exhibitions as well as YBCA’s performances, and a “Big Ideas” program delving into major themes of interest to artists, are a few of the shifts going on at the center.
Spilling over with neo-geo patterning beneath splashes of hot pink, rocky mountains of bling and soaring scraps of edibles, the collages of Hilary Pecis almost beg you to savor them, reach out and caress them - or put them in your mouth. Sensory overload, rampant consumerism, and the nightmare or illusion of plastic plentitude seems to be the sensation the San Francisco artist is striving for with “Intricacies of Phantom Content,” her first solo show at Triple Base.
So many bells, hold the whistles: beauty presides on the Field's Yesterday and Today, released not so long ago by those smarty-pants with excellent taste at Anti- Records, making the group's upcoming turn at Mezzanine on June 6 something of a must-see. Of course, coheadliner the Juan Maclean is a delight, too. The DFA act - now fortified on tour with members of LCD Soundsystem, !!!, and Holy Ghost – long ago circumvented the dangerous inertia hitting so many board-bound electronic acts, and it’ll likely rock the haus with intoxicating, booty-moving nuggets ala international hit “Happy House.”
There must be something in the Oakland water - consider the still full-throttle metal underground centered in the city across the Bay around bands like High on Fire. Annihilation Time, and Saviours, the oft-lauded heavies out to make it louder and harder for all ye headbangers. The 2006 Level Plane album, Crucifire, by the latter group (which includes two vets of Yaphet Kotto, vocalist-guitarist Austin Barber and drummer Scott Batiste) was a blast of badass blasphemy that made Bay metalists perk up and listen: Barber apparently had his issues with archconservative fundamentalists in Arkansas and Colorado where he grew up.
Do you remember rock ‘n’ roll radio? The danger and derring-do of so-called “jungle music”? The wop-bop shoo-bop shoo-bop? Two local bands - Personal and the Pizzas and Shannon and the Clams - tap a good-natured, jokey vein of garage rock that summons those sentiments. Now might be the time to catch them as they play around town – if you’re there, get up in their hair, buy ‘em a brew or even a seafood pie.