KQED’s Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.
The arts seem more socially conscious and relevant than ever under President Donald Trump. This week we feature a play about Occupy protests in London, as well as an art show about the prison-industrial complex. For a shout-out, we’ve added Rupa and the April Fishes doing a fundraiser for Indian tribes working to restore threatened salmon runs in California — a timely issue as the President works to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency. Details for Rupa’s show at La Peña in Berkeley on April 14 are here. Now on with rest of the show.
April 13–May 13: Mario Ayala is a young painter from Los Angeles with a small but very worthy exhibit called Pen Pal, about the American penal system. It features three paintings and stationery designed by Ayala, so that gallery goers can become pen pals with prisoners at San Quentin. Ayala was a student at the pricey San Francisco Art Institute, and he told me about how he and his dog were homeless part of the time he was studying art. “It was tough,” he told me by phone from Los Angeles. “I was always working when I was there. But I think it was great, I had a lot of support from friends and the school as well to continue my education and to finish and get a degree. And friends that fed me and housed me when they could.” Details are here for Mario Ayala’s show Pen Pal at Ever Gold at the Minnesota Street Galleries in San Francisco’s Dogpatch through May 13.
April 15–30: Mimi and Rodolfo first met on stage 121 years ago, at the premiere of Puccini’s La Bohème. The story of a penniless but beautiful seamstress who meets an equally penniless but handsome poet seems very contemporary, considering how many in the Bay Area are trying to survive in the gig economy. Opera San Jose’s Sylvie Lee and Julie Adams alternate as Mimi, and Kirk Dougherty plays Rodolfo, in this new version set just after World War I in a Paris that is also home to Nijinsky, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel. This is a perfect opera for first-timers and buffs alike, because the songs are dazzling, and the story will make you laugh — and then break your heart. Details for San Jose Opera’s La Bohème are here.
April 20–23: Joe Henderson was born 80 years ago, so SFJAZZ has a terrific reason to offer a series of shows honoring Henderson — who died in San Francisco in 2001 — by recreating four of his classic albums. All the better that four of the Bay Area’s best saxophonists are doing these fresh takes. Dayna Stephens opens the fest with a recreation of Henderson’s Power to the People on Thursday, April 20, then Patrick Wolff does Our Thing on Friday, April 21. The great Howard Wiley recreates Lush Life on Saturday, April 22, and then Mad Duran performs tunes from Henderson’s 1966 Blue Note session Inner Urge on Sunday, on April 23. You can’t go wrong no matter what night you go. More details here.
April 14–May 14: The ideals of the Occupy movement, with its central thesis of standing up for the 99 percent, are alive and well in today’s anti-President Trump resistance. So this seems a good time for the play Temple by Steve Waters, which examines the legal and ethical issues Occupy raised for city and religious leaders when protesters camped out in front of the beloved St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Temple, a recent hit at London’s Donmar Warehouse, features a terrific cast with Paul Whitworth, a longtime leader at Shakespeare Santa Cruz; the promethean Sharon Lockwood; and Lontyne Mbele-Mbong, who was excellent last year at the Aurora in Breakfast with Mugabe. Details for the show at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre are here.
April 14 & 17–19: Whitney is a band from Chicago, but their laid-back, country-soul sound (credit partly due to drummer Julien Erlich’s falsetto) sounds entirely Californian. Band leaders Max Kakacek (Smith Westerns) and Erlich (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) formed the band when they found they could write beautiful music together. They’re so hot that they’re playing Coachella, but they’re stopping first at Gundlach-Bundschu Winery on Friday, April 14, in Sonoma (a great, intimate venue), and they’re back in the Bay Area at the Independent in San Francisco for three nights, April 17–19. Details for the Gundlach-Bundschu show are here. And you’ll find details for the Independent show here.
April 14: One more shoutout from David. He’s intrigued by the music of electronic music artist Victor Fenton, also known as FKJ. The acronym means French Kiwi Juice (of course), a reference to Fenton’s French and New Zealand heritage. The music is just as eclectic. Details for FKJ’s show at the Warfield on Friday are here.