Searching for Switchboards, Salesmen, Sounds of Nature and More

The Real Vocal String Quartet performs at the Switchboard Music Festival on April 4. (Photo: Lenny Gonzalez)

Black SpiritualsSwitchboard Music Festival

Every spring, the Switchboard Festival highlights the kind of music they describe as “fall[ing] in the cracks between genres” — the dreamy modern jazz, droning improvised electronic music, or the clarinet-and-sax duo that samples the sound of Yosemite’s waterfalls who would normally be too weird for the standard niche festival. The Real Vocal String Quartet (pictured at top) do a mean Regina Spektor cover, Oakland duo Black Spirituals (pictured here) create atmospheric soundscapes, and capping the festival is an extended reimagining of Terry Riley’s groundbreaking composition In C. A ticket buys entry for all of the festival’s nonstop eight hours of music, and thanks to a unique setup, audience members can come and go freely throughout the day without disrupting the musicians. Details and ticket information here.

DeathofSalesman‘Death of a Salesman’

Arthur Miller was born 100 years ago this year, and so theater companies all around the country are presenting his plays. His best-known work, Death of a Salesman, remains the definitive statement on the American Dream. In San Jose Stage’s production directed by Kenneth Kelleher, San Jose Stage Artistic Director Randall King plays Willy Loman, the tired, broken father who urges his son to choose a better future. Willy is the ultimate tragic hero, sad and self-delusional; in Kelleher’s words, Salesman “melds the past and the present into a tale that examines time and the American meaning of life.” The play runs though April 26. Details and ticket information here.


In a Venn diagram of “weirdest,” “longest-running” and “band from France,” Magma sits completely at the center. The group, defined largely as prog-rock but also encompassing elements of jazz, classical, choral madrigals, experimental noise and more, plays a rare show in the U.S. at Slim’s. Founding drummer and main composer Christian Vander has a knack for the unexpected, be it uncommon time signatures or wild cross-pollinations of styles, garnering the band a strong cult following around the globe. From the band’s first album — a concept record of humans who flee Earth and take up residency on the planet Kobaïa, Magma has performed in an invented language, Kobaïan, much like the Icelandic band Sigur Ros would do decades later. Prog fans won’t want to miss this rare stateside performance. Details and ticket information here.

Kara WilkesAlonzo King LINES Ballet

How many reasons do you need to see Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet? This season, the company’s 32nd, brings another bold collaboration, this time with natural soundscape artist Bernie Krause, whose recordings of animal ecosystems will be shaped by composer Richard Blackford. Add to that the return of King’s “Concerto for Two Violins,” with the Bach performed live by the Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players. But the two top reasons to see LINES are King’s visionary movement style–sleek, virtuosic, and alive to burning moments of vulnerability–and the heart-laid-bare dancers, led by stately Kara Wilkes (pictured). Details and ticket information here.

HisNameIsAliveHis Name Is Alive

“Livonia” sounds like the name of an ancient Scandinavian village full of centuries-old wooden churches and haunted stone buildings, but no: it’s the Michigan hometown of Warren Defever, founder of the long-running musical outfit His Name is Alive. But the imagery is nonetheless on point. Defever occupies a medieval headspace in his music, and over the years has employed a rotating cast of female singers to explore his gothic outlook. Through it all, he’s remained rooted in Wisconsin, even titling His Name Is Alive’s debut album Livonia, released on the UK label 4AD in 1990. (The fact that it started as a demo tape called I Had Sex With God should give audiences a hint of the irreverence to expect at this intimate, small-club show.) Details and ticket information here.

Searching for Switchboards, Salesmen, Sounds of Nature and More 3 April,2015The Do List


The Do List

The Do List scours the Bay Area for superb and surprising performing arts events, with an eye for local talent, new discoveries, and fun opportunities across the price spectrum. Every Friday morning at 6:23 and 8:23am on KQED Radio, you can hear Do List regulars Cy Musiker and David Wiegand discuss the upcoming week’s best picks.

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