Best of the Bay Area 2016: CULTURE

Best of the Bay Area 2016: CULTURE


There's always something fun to do in the Bay Area. Here are some of our favorite pastimes in 2016.

Local Band to Watch: Los Rakas

Some cool shit went down at the White House this year, and one of our favorites was a performance by Oakland-based Panamanian hip-hop duo Los Rakas. Formed in the mid-2000s in Oakland by two cousins who go by the names Raka Rich and Raka Dun, Los Rakas had their first hit "Bounce" in 2006. Their unique sound, a fluid fusion of Panamanian roots and Bay Area hip-hop, has been called "PanaBay" and they've been known to experiment with new genres in their songs, such as reggaeton, reggae and even New Wave, in their decade-long career. The band announced in April that they expect to release a self-titled album this year. In the meantime, put on your headphones and jam to their catchy single, "We Dem Rakaz."—Sarah Medina //

Spot to Catch a Flick: Alamo Draft House

We've been counting the days since Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse first announced it would bring movies, cocktails, and Texas-style queso to the Mission. The place gives the Kabuki and Embarcadero theaters a run for their money, with designated seating in five theatres—ranging in size from an intimate 34-seat room to a grand 320-seat hall—that screens both first-run premiers and art house flicks. Super high-tech Sony 515DS projectors promise not to display any maddening commercials. Instead, guests who arrive early enjoy a clever pre-show program that's customized for each film. The Alamo serves food and drink (including 27 beers on tap) directly to your seats, which are blissfully equipped with their own little tables. Just jot down your order and wait for the stealth wait staff to zip through the wide aisles of generously staggered stadium seating sans interruption. In other words, this place has absolutely everything we need for date night.—Garrick Ramirez // 2550 Mission St.(Mission)

Colorful New Monument: Robin Williams Tunnel

In a special case of coming full circle, Robin Williams posthumously lent his name to the iconic rainbow tunnel that connects the Golden Gate Bridge with his native Marin. Last summer, the state Senate voted to rename the rainbow arch over Waldo Grade—named after the 1850s Whig Party candidate William Waldo—to Robin Williams Tunnel. The vote came on the heels of a petition, introduced on by assemblyman Marc Levine, that went viral. On February 29, 2016 Caltrans workers installed a new sign that will serve as a tribute to the beloved Bay Arean for years to come.—Anthony Rogers

Center for Anachronistic Media: Mad Monk

From the team behind neighboring Rasputin's, the Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media on Telegraph Avenue opened its doors in April of 2016 after years of construction. The spacious new store is a temple for everyone who loves paper and vinyl, housing thousands of used books and LPs—brought from the basement of Rasputin's—at seriously affordable prices. On a recent trip, I scoured the fiction section, picking up Murakami, Baldwin, Eggers and more for $5 a pop. Look out for a café and music venue being installed later this year. —S.M. // 2454 Telegraph Ave. (Berkeley),

City Beautification Project: Dolores Park Renovation

After almost two years of renovations, the entirety of Dolores Park is finally open again! Improvements on the south side include an ADA-accessible path, an overlook in the southwest corner facing the city skyline, off-leash dog play areas, a pissoir and a new restroom nestled into a hill, bringing the total number of toilets in the park to 27, up from four before the renovation. Now if only we could pick up after ourselves, everything would be lovely.— A.R. // Dolores Park (Mission),

Breakout Star: Daveed Diggs

Bay Area theater freaks collectively swooned when it was announced that Broadway's runaway hit musical Hamilton, a multi-ethnic rap-based telling of America's founding fathers, is coming to San Francisco in 2017. The play may have gotten its start in New York, but in some ways, the SF run represents a homecoming: Rapper Daveed Diggs, who plays two lead roles (Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson) is a native and diehard advocate of Oakland. Diggs is well known in certain elite circles: He's performed for President Obama (twice), the Clintons, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z to name a few. But the son of a Jewish, former-DJ mother and a MUNI bus–driving father has deep roots in the East Bay. Welcome home Daveed, welcome home!—Matt Werner //

Best Spot for Zine Hunting: The Grand Newstand

The Grand Newstand is the cutest (and tiniest) bookstore in the Bay Area. Its headquarters is in the form of a small kiosk on Market & Steuart Streets, right next to the Ferry Building. Opened in June by Courtney Riddle, Grand Newstand stocks local magazines, zines, booklets, cards, and more. Don't miss it the next time you're in a hurry down the Embarcadero.—Shelby Black // Market Street at Steuart Street (Embarcadero),

Way to Soak up Culture: Soundbox

You've never experienced the symphony quite like this. Stroll through a nightclub setting while sipping on handcrafted cocktails at the SF Symphony's SoundBox, an after-hours harmonic experiment in which classical masterpieces are set to a backdrop of abstract imagery by video artist Adam Larsen. — Leilani Marie Labong // 300 Franklin St. (Civic Center),

Boss Music Venue: The Fillmore

The Fillmore, or as we like to call it, the "inspiration for our Grand Foyer when I'm filthy rich," remains hallowed ground to every San Franciscan who yearns for hyper-relevant live music with a touch of historical gravity. The long-celebrated venue still prides itself on varied, sophisticated curation—in 2015 alone, the Fillmore welcomed an absurdly wide spectrum of accomplished artists, from the electro nirvana of Caribou to the alt-American genius of Jeff Tweedy to the dance-pop of Sylvan Esso to the instrumental wonder of Budos Band and beyond. If they're relevant, they've played the Fillmore. —Chris Trenchard// 1805 Geary Blvd. (Western Addition),

Way to Make Friends: Bumble BFF

Founded in 2014 by Austin-based Tinder cofounder Whitney Wolfe, Bumble is a dating app with an empowering twist: Women make the first move, sort of like a grown-up Sadie Hawkins. Wolfe's M.O.: "Let's make dating more modern." It was a good idea, one that Bumble is now applying to friend-making too. This spring, Bumble launched its BFF mode, which allows users to change their profile settings and signal to denizens of the Bumble world that they are now entering the friend zone. Squad goals accomplished.—Sarah Martin //

Reason to Don a Costume: Burning Man Buys Fly Ranch

The Burning Man Project has officially acquired a 3,800-acre property called Fly Ranch in northern Nevada. About 10 miles northwest of Black Rock City, Fly Ranch was purchased for $6.5 million dollars using the anonymous donations from an unknown number of Burners. In addition to Fly Geyser, the area boasts 640 acres of wetlands, dozens of natural spring-water pools ranging in temperature, sagebrush-grasslands, and a small area of playa that opens onto the Hualapai Flat. The non-profit intends to use Fly Ranch year-round to "expand Burning Man activities and existing programs, as well as amplify Burning Man's cultural impact into the wider world." The summer festival will not move to the new location, but will continue to be held at Black Rock City. —Cyrus Campbell //

Game Night Picks: Odious Censor

Odious Lists, a game designed to celebrate those among us with the dirtiest minds, was our favorite Kickstarter success story of 2015. The Scattergories-meets-Cards-Against-Humanity hybrid achieved crowdfunding fame after it was endorsed by Neil Patrick Harris on Twitter, and we laughed our asses off playing the game over a round of beer with our friends. This year, they're back again with a new set up: a dirty version of Taboo called Odious Censor. The game seems to be best enjoyed over (several) glasses of rosé or a couple cold brews—pick your poison.—S.M. //

Legal Win: Paid Parental Leave

Going into full effect January 1, 2017, San Francisco employers will now be responsible to pay their employee's parental leave. You heard it right. Originally, the state covered 55% of funds for up to six weeks, but with this new law in effect, the extra 45% will have to be made up by the employers. This is a huge deal as the United States is just one of two countries that doesn't require paid parental leave (according to the International Labor Organization). One small step for employees, another large step for families citywide. — A.R.

Act of Kindness: Kindness Acts

At the end of the day, kindness makes the world go round — for Nance Cheifetz and Peter Grazier, kindness speaks leaps and bounds. Popping up all over the Bay Area, the two spread their love and kindness to all forms of life. Giving out hot chocolate during rush hour, feeding people out of their souped-up van, or giving out compliments to strangers — their kindness knows no limits. In February of 2014, Grazier started a website to recant the stories from the people he met along the way and soon after created an app. There isn't an angle, a motive, or an underlying factor. Kindness is kindness. — A.R. //

Keep Your Eye On: Siya

One of the most sought after new rappers in the business, Oakland's Michelle "Siya" Sherman is dominating R&B charts with her melodic verses and hard raps. Inspired by Lil Kim, Mos Def, The Notorious B.I.G, Big Daddy Kane, and Jay-Z (to name a few) is set to carve her own way to the top of the charts. After a rough childhood (her mother battled drug addictions while her father served a life sentence), it was R&B legend TANK who reached out to Siya. Her 2012 debut project, "D.Y.K.E" blew away critics and fans alike topping the R&B charts within a matter of days. Siya is making her way in the music industry and those who get to work with her often become highly successful *cough Nyemiah Supreme. — A.R. //

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