Tag Archives: review

Dance Recital Sparks Conversation Among USF Crowd

Crouching at the edges of the stage, two students slap shoes on the ground in a slow, steady beat. A group of women step barefoot to the rhythm, staring ominously into the audience. As they reach the other side of the stage, a dancer throws her head back and releases a howling note. A few nervous chuckles arise from the audience, startled by the unsettling first minute of the fall dance concert Edge of Inquiry.

The show has begun nearly 20 minutes behind schedule. Overwhelmed by a demand for seats, the ushers took the extra time pack in extra chairs and to fit attendees into the isles of Studio Theater. Silently, we all wait for what is already unfolding as a slightly strange performance.

“This concert is based in contemporary dance and experimentation, rather than strictly entertainment value” Edge producer Megan Nicely had told me. “It is meant to provoke thoughts and reflection.” The show is comprised of five modern dance acts—four collaboratively choreographed by USF students and four different Bay Area choreographers, and one by guest performer and female drag queen Fauxnique.

The acts are marked by moments of grace, cacophonous shouting, bizarre flailing, melancholia, and confusion. In the enigmatic fourth act “Corked,” a dancer shouts through clenched teeth “You make me feel so good!” as she repeats a series of energetic leaps and contortions that involve slapping herself over and over in the same places on her body. Like much of the show’s choreography, it looks exhausting, painful, and is totally mesmerizing. The boy seated in front of me leans closer to his friend in the fifth cycle of this routine and (loudly) whispers, “What the f-?”

My neighbor is not alone in his perplexity. At intermission, sophomore Andrew Foy reviews the first half of the show. “It’s really good!” He pauses. “But I have no idea what it’s supposed to be representing.”

“Corked” finishes with six women on stage in ‘50s-style dresses singing Etta James’ “At Last” through gritted teeth after hitting each other with giant cardboard signs inscribed with the song’s lyrics. While still slightly puzzling, this is probably the clearest imagery in the show, with the exception of Fauxinque, whose sardonic ode to fashion, high heels, and consumerist couture started off the second half. Other acts feature dancers solemnly gliding offstage tangled in track lighting, women holding drawings of facial expressions in front of their own faces, and figures staggering around to “This Magic Moment” like Frankenstein’s monster, to name just a moments of the 1.5 hour show.

Though the imagery is not completely cohesive, the performance effectively evokes reflection. When the house lights come up, the audience bursts into conversation, revisiting different scenes. “I felt like it was a lot about oppression and fighting back,” 20-year-old Molly O’Shea Smith says after the show. “The dancers emphasize that really well. You can see their pain when they’re dancing. I think it’s about past eras and moving through it.”

As I exit the theater, I once again cross paths with Andrew Foy. “I think it was about emotion and lying about your emotions,” he tells me. “It was so good, but really hard to interpret.” If the purpose of Edge of Inquiry is to promote deeper thought and discourse, the show is an undeniable success. Whether they liked the show or not, audience members walked away with something to say.

Fall Fest Concert Review

Saturday night, USF’s annual Fall Fest concert was filled with stretches of lethargy punctuated by fleeting bursts of transcendence. Out of the roughly 800 in attendance, only a minority seemed genuinely pleased with this year’s performances, featuring the hip-hop group Cali Swag, hip-hop and R&B singer Iyaz, and the Billboard Top 100 staple Mike Posner. The event was hosted by the Campus Activities Board.

After a short DJ set, Cali Swag was the first to take the stage at the War Memorial Gym. The trio, comprised of rappers, Chante “Yung” Glee, Cahron “JayAre” Childs and rapper-DJ, Corey “C-Smoove” Fowler (no relation to the JB-Smoove of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), are perhaps best known for their debut single, “Teach Me How to Dougie”—in many ways the best moment of the night.

Possessed by an inhuman energy from the moment they bounded onstage, Cali Swag endeared the crowd with a seemingly endless reserve of bursting enthusiasm, a feat neither of the following acts successfully managed to replicate.

The group seemed to feed off of each other, weaving around to the delight of onlookers and myself. Their beats’ penetrating base seemed to writhe through the crowd, making for some of the night’s more effervescent moments.

In one of their set’s rare missteps, Cali Swag played a newer track, “Me & U”, during which some female audience members got on stage and, to their general embarrassment, were treated to an awkward pairings in which group members took turns singing verses to visible uncomfortable women, too self-conscious to even dance, sway, or even bob to the beat.

Unsurprisingly, the set was topped off with the group’s debut, “Teach Me How to Dougie,” a track that exhorts listeners to teach a dance, appropriately, that no one really knew how to do. Regardless of the confusion, “Dougie” easily salvaged the uncomfortable pall cast during “Me & U”.

After a thirty minute break, Iyaz, the Virgin Islands native, strutted onstage with palpable confidence, backed by a single DJ. The singer seemed to have adopted a high school persona, sporting a letterman’s jacket and an unusual (for hip hop) interest in rounding up male support, breaking precedent by dedicating his first song to the guys.
That was unexpected. As a man these kinds of shows, you come to expect being ignored, especially when the act is love-obsessed crooner, albeit one largely overpowered by uncomfortable loud background beats. Throughout his performance, Iyaz seemed small for the stage, never quite settling into the performance.
The show’s one predictable bright spot was when Iyaz launched into “Replay”, by far his most mainstream success. After an a cappella rendition of the song’s familiar refrain—“Shorty’s like a memory in my head/that I cant keep off/got me singin’ like…”— the beat dropped, sending a jolt of excitement pulsing through the crowd.

During the intermission following Iyaz’s set, a few audience members expressed their frustration at the drawn out breaks between performances, while another emphatic student labeled it “the worst concert ever.” Her friend, slightly more diplomatically said she appreciated “any reason to dance.”

So it was into this den of despondence that Mike Posner arrived, bent on to wiping away the glum with an eager sincerity. His show, by far the most theatrical of the night, was a study in contradictions—it was once breath of fresh air and a garish cavalcade of smoke and mirrors.

And there was a lot of smoke. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, the quintessential pop star reveled in panoply of frantically whirling lights and fog, backed up by two electro-men known as the “Brain Trust,” each surrounded by computers, samplers and synthesizers supplying Mr. Posner with much of the lusciously pulsating beats his act relied on.

Front and center, though, was a Justin Timberlake-pilfered falsetto, accented by the artists’ remarkable similarity to the singer-turned-actor, both in terms of style and substance. Mr. Posner, like Mr. Timberlake, was convinced of his own boyish appeal, wearing a wide grin from the moment he emerged onstage.

Mr. Posner, while performing one of best-known hits, “Bow Chicka Wow Wow”, echoed Cali Swag’s performance in bringing a female fan onstage for a personal performance; he wore a boxer’s robe and brought a giant teddy bear that he gave to her during the song. Like the women before her, her face betrayed a mixture of surprise, confusion and, most of all, embarrassment.

Over all, the show, buttressed by heavy star wattage and a generous serving of spectacle, was, for me, somewhat of a disappointment. For a venue that large, the crowd seemed modest and mostly underwhelmed, waving their hands in the air out of sheer politeness. The average attendee seemed understandably less interested in the bloodless acts and more interested in meeting up with friends which, for the Campus Activities Board, may constitute a success in its own right.

Edward Sharpe Shines On Railroad Revival Tour

The sky was clear blue, and the sun headed slowly towards the horizon, behind a chain link fence that kept us from the bay at Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. I was waiting in a line with what was later estimated to be an audience of about 8000 people, a population that included some older folks, some with families, but mostly young hipsters in their teens and twenties, with more tall indie boys in skin-hugging jeans than I could conjure up in my wildest fantasies.

The show we were all waiting for was the first stop on the Railroad Revival Tour, a train-traveling concert-playing journey across the American Southwest undertaken by folk favorites Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Their story began at that concert in Oakland last Thursday, and ended yesterday, Apr. 27, in New Orleans. Mine, however, began freshman year, in the spring of 2009, when a shaggy music enthusiast I met in a chatroom sent me a Facebook message with a link to Edward Sharpe’s first demo video, for the now insanely popular song “Home.”

I listened to thirty seconds and came to the instant conclusion that this song would change my life. Over the two years that followed, I religiously pirated Edward Sharpe’s music (and by religiously I allude both to the chaste fervor and the intense guilt that comes with the territory).

And this month, I found myself finally able to see the band I’ve adored anonymously from afar, like most of my other love interests. On the way to the large meadow where the stage was set, I ran into Francisco Fernandez of the Ferocious Few, a local indie band, and underwent a minor fangirl freakout as he serenaded the line of appreciative concertgoers with his song “Back Home.”

Band by Dani

Alex Ebert, of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, reaches out to the fans on the Railroad Revival Tour. (Daniela Ricci-Tam/Foghorn)

“I’m a huge fan,” I gushed hyperbolically, after snapping too many photos, “can you sign my arm?” (He could, and did.)

As I wandered off, it occurred to me that if this was how I reacted to a musician I’ve somewhat admired for a few months, how on earth was I to maintain a professional facade in the pit, just feet away from the band I’ve loved for two years?

Old Crow’s charismatic frontman, Ketch Secor, took the stage first in a genteel Southern cream-colored suit around 6 p.m. Fast-paced bluegrass got the audience dancing and clapping, from time to time giving way to such slow tunes like their cover of “CC Rider,” where the audience swayed gently, mesmerized, and in the stilllness you could see the hanging speakers swinging softly in the wind.

Just like many of their songs, Mumford and Son’s  tirelessly energetic performance, which included many tracks from “Sigh No More” and a few new songs, had a very distinct flow—a building, a receding, a swelling—that raised the weary audience’s spirits and somehow seemed to fill their lungs with the capacity for even more yelling before the indefatigable Britons spewed forth their aggressively emotional hit, “Little Lion Man.”

But it is clear where my biases lie, and I’m not going to make any bones about it: while Old Crow played first and the headliners, Mumford and Sons, played last, Edward Sharpe’s performance was pretty much the beginning, middle, and end of my concert experience.

Dressed in his characteristic long white shirt (well, one could assume it used to be white at some point), frontman Alex Ebert had clearly donned his alter ego– “Edward Sharpe,” a character that in interviews Ebert described as a Messianic figure sent to save mankind–as several members of the audience mumbled to one another that, “he looks like Jesus,” with his long brown hair, flowing garb, wild eyes and bare feet.

The feisty ensemble band, consisting of more members than I cared to count, strummed and trumpeted and clapped and sang as Ebert danced around the stage, getting tantalizingly close to the edge, even sitting down on the side at one point.

During “40 Day Dream” Ebert gracefully descended into the pit, much to the delighted screams of the audience (mostly young women) pushing up against the barrier to high-five him.  As the bridge approached, Ebert climbed up onto the barrier, wobbling precariously.

“Hold me up,” he called out as hands went up from the audience, meeting his own to support him. Someone next to me reached his arms out, spotting from the back, and I took my chance, freed my inner crazed fan, and reached out, grabbing onto his leg. In the giddiness of this moment, I joined in with the audience in the wordless breakdown, “Oooh-ahhh-ahh-ahh, yeah,” finally living out not a forty-day but a two-year dream.

The rest of the show was for me a haze of transcendental ecstasy. It did cross my mind once or twice that none of the other photographers jockeying for positions appeared to be screaming and singing, but I got over that fast. In my brief conversations with the others, it seemed that it had come across pretty hard to them that I was just a college correspondent, but hey, what’s a little dignity lost?

By the end of the show, my feet felt as if they’d been steamrolled, and there were inexplicable bruises all over my shins, and my voice was gone, but I’d howled out the words to “Home,” with all the others, I’d touched Edward Sharpe, everything was going to be all right, and I was going to be blessed forever and ever amen.

The Best (And Worst) Coffee Shops On Haight Street

When I moved to San Francisco as a freshman at USF, I remember constantly hearing one word to describe the USF and San Francisco community: Diversity. We, as Jesuit scholars, love our diversity. Luckily, we live in a city that loves endorsing culturally diverse neighborhood communities (emphasis on “diverse,” just to hammer this point home). Unrelated to this, I love coffee. So what better way for me to spend my time than exploring coffee shops and cafes in each of San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods? Because the Haight is the closest cultural hub to USF’s campus, I will start there.

There are at least ten different cafes in the stretch of Haight Street between Masonic and Stanyan, but this article will only cover a few of them. If your favorite coffee shop isn’t listed then, hey, maybe it’s time  to explore a new one! First up, the infamous Coffee to the People. This establishment embodies all things Haight-Ashbury– its rotating gallery of abstract art work, its 1970’s-esque politically radical collages, the permanent group of street kids at its stoop, and its comfy couches. Coffee to the People is a bubble of socialist utopia. If you don’t mind the wafting scent of customers who don’t shower very often, then this cafe is a great place to settle in and read or browse the Internet. The baristas could stand to be a tad more cordial; then again, their blasé attitudes are probably just the manifestation of their hipster obscurity. When it comes to coffee quality, Coffee to the People is a winner. Their drip coffee always seems to have a bit more flavor than the competition. They also have a fantastic assortment of teas, although I stay away from the Chai- you have to be feeling really spicy to handle a chai latte here. If you’re looking to hang out, do homework, or just people watch in the Haight, Coffee to the People is my number one suggestion.

Somehow, after living a block from it for almost a year, I didn’t manage to visit the Red Vic Cafe until this semester. Luckily, I stopped in to visit a friend at work (the baristas are mostly USF students) and realized that the Red Vic is not just a bed and breakfast– It’s also a great place to study in a peaceful, quiet environment. Free wifi, exceptionally friendly baristas, and the tranquility of their meditation room keep me coming back to the Red Vic whenever I am feeling the hankering for some “me time.” Anything “latte” is good at this place, whether it be a chai latte, vanilla latte, caramel soy latte… It’s good. The drip coffee leaves something to be desired though, so if you are going to go here, go for the fancy drinks. Bring your laptop, sip on the something sugary, and let yourself enjoy the tranquility!

The last stop on this week’s coffee exploration is Cafe Cole, a small little coffee house right off of Haight Street. For me, Cafe Cole is always a hit or miss affair. They have a few strikes against them from the get go. First, they don’t provide free wifi. Second, they are cash only (as are many places in this city), but their atm tends to be persnickety and doesn’t always like to work. Third, there isn’t much seating within the cafe, so if it’s a rainy day, you probably will want to get your goods to go. With all that being said, Cafe Cole does have one unique and amazing thing to offer: wonderfully delicious smoothies. They are one of the few places in the Haight were you can get vegan (or non-vegan) smoothies of all flavors and varieties. They are my go-to for fruity drinks. Their muffins, additionally, are the best in the area (not to mention they are exceptionally large). The downside? The drip coffee is pretty bad. As is the chai. Regular lattes are acceptable, but nothing to write home about. Since this is a coffee-based review, Cafe Cole is, unfortunately, not a place I would recommend for anything espresso related.

Other coffee places to check out in the Haight: People’s Caf and the Blue Bottle coffee counter in the Haight Market. Places to stay away from: Whole Foods Coffee Bar, The Cantina, and Rockin’ Java.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-editor: Natalie Cappetta

Scene Editor: TRacy Sidler

Floating Fish Slabs: Warakubune Sushi Boat Best in SF

I have not yearned for many things in my life. In fact, my parents would call me fortunate. But it does not mean that I have not mastered the facial expression of being discontent and in definite want of something. It pains me to say that I wore this look of displeasure, most recently, because of sushi.

Sometimes you just don’t want to wait. Instant satisfaction is what you’re craving and it just so happens that you can have it in the form of a Japanese delicacy.

So when I sat down at Warakubune Sushi’s boat bar I expected to see a plentiful amount of colorful fish slabs floating by.

Sushi by Rachell

the Special House Roll (Rachelle Phillips/Foghorn)

This brings me to the unfortunate discontentment residing on my face: there was no sushi on the sushi boats.

Aside from three California Roll plates and a Tamago (egg) plate, there was nothing. I was ready to eat the big plastic Marlins right off of the walls.

Most would think that on a Wednesday night, a sushi boat restaurant wouldn’t be that busy. But Warakabune proves the exception – every seat around the cozy boat bar was taken.

If it’s this busy, it’s got to be good! Now if I could only try the food…

I waited and waited, and my demeanor grew more dismal by the minute. Then the chef put out a plate of octopus tentacles. It was this moment that really provoked my displeasure, which alerted the waitress.

“Would you like a menu?” she asked, cheerfully.

“I might as well,” I responded, gloomily.

Sushi by Rachell

The basic but still delicious California Roll (Rachelle Phillips/Foghorn)

I have never had to order from a menu at a sushi boat restaurant before, and to this day the thought of it still depresses me. What’s the fun in that?
After placing an order for a plate of Unagi (barbecued eel – $3.65) and a plate of Kani (snowcrab salad – $3.65), I hoped things would look up for me. The sushi was promptly delivered to me, and do believe that I made haste!

And that’s when angels began to sing. I was transported to a world that believed in peace, and love, and amazing sushi always.

The Unagi was the best I’ve had in my life. The eel was glazed and grilled so perfectly, with a slight crisp on the edge and an inside of magical fishy mush. If I could consume

Warakubune’s Unagi on a daily basis it would make for a better me.

The Kani did not fail to impress, either. The snowcrab was fresh and real – no packaged fishmeal here! My attitude was finally starting to improve.

And that’s when I saw it.

I’ve never been so excited to see a chicken wing in such an unseemly place. In my enthusiastic panic of grabbing the glistening wing off the sushi boat, I managed to smear the dark brown sauce on my forehead.

Sushi by Rachell

The fresh unagi (Rachelle Phillips/Foghorn)

The deep fried piece of teriyaki-glazed glory ($1.95) was just that: glory. It was piping hot from the deep fryer and slathered in spicy salty sticky sauce with a few sprinkles of sesame seeds.

Needless to say I inhaled it. I should have left the sauce on my forehead for a taste later.

I was beginning to get excited! Maybe the sushi chefs inside the bar stepped up their game; I could see the little beads of sweat on their temples and determination in their eyes.

Sushi began to appear on the boats. I saw Uni (sea urchin), Maguro (tuna), Tobiko (flying fish roe), and Hamachi (yellowtail). I also was pleased to see fancier rolls, one of which I grabbed.

The Special House roll ($4.25) included shrimp tempura, avocado, spicy mayo sauce, teriyaki glaze, and snowcrab salad. The combination of ingredients was delicious. The most important thing in a roll like this is that the tempura inside is still hot and crispy, which it rarely is, but here it was!

After the Special House roll I saw a seaweed salad plate ($4.25), which I’m a fan of. The seaweed was crisp and cold and the sesame oil marinade was just right.

Finally starting to feel full, I took one last plate, a basic California Roll ($1.95). The pieces were large and full of the fresh crab mixture. I added a little pink pickled ginger and some creamy fresh green wasabi – yum.

If I’ve learned anything from Warakubune Sushi, it’s that patience might actually be a virtue. Although I had to wait, and stare at plates of octopus, the sushi proved to be worth all of my prior displeasure. I award Warakabune 4 out of 5 fishes for the best sushi boat sushi in San Francisco.

Warakubune Sushi:
307 Church Street
(between 15th St. & 16th St.)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Wed-Sat: 5pm – 10:30 p.m.
Sun-Tues: 5pm – 9:30 p.m.
(415) 252-8383

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

Scene Editor: Tracy Sidler

Noise Pioneers Visit SF

tg1981 copy

Courtesy of Throbbing Gristle

In May of 1981, Throbbing Gristle, the world-renowned noise pioneers often credited with inventing the genre of industrial music, played a final, legendary show in San Francisco and then broke up.  Last Thursday, April 23, the original line up of vocalist Genesis P-Orridge, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson (found sounds/laptop), Cosey Fanni Tutti (guitars), and Chris Carter (synthesizer/laptop) returned to San Francisco for the first time since reforming in 2004, to play a sold-out show at the Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center.

After welcoming the audience to the “Throbbing Gristle Experience,” the pandrogynous, platinum blonde Genesis announced, “I have a story to tell.  It’s a children’s story.  Well, it’s about children being murdered…that counts, right?”  The band then launched into “Very Friendly,” a sadistic tale of a real life pair of Manchester–based serial killers from the 60s.  Welcome to the Throbbing Gristle experience indeed.

The set continued with the hypnotic “Persuasion,” a haunting hymn of psychological perversion, followed by “Something Came Over Me”, an equally depraved narrative sung over the sort of churning beat that might emanate from a washing machine the size of a Muni bus.  Next came an extended instrumental break, with Genesis’ bottle rocket-sounding electric violin screeching through a ghastly hum, heavy like the gasp of an army of iron lungs respiring in unison.

The band then played old favorite “Hamburger Lady,” featuring morbid lyrics of charred flesh, sung over an unearthly buzz, like the drone of a mechanized termite hive.  After the funereal “Almost a Kiss,” Genesis brought her daughter Genesse on stage for an introduction, admonishing the audience not to get “any weird ideas.”

During the melancholy “Endless Not” Genesis crooned, “Will you choose the easy way out” over and over while Christopherson, draped in a faux-Dalmatian boxing robe, unleashed a bass-laden rumble, like controlled detonations inside a cement mixer. Genesis next growled through “What a Day,” her harsh vocals grinding against a wall of sound built from the kaleidoscopic noise of discarded machinery.

The set was perhaps not the transgressive sort of affair that characterized Throbbing Gristle’s earlier career, but the sight of a 59-year-old transgender woman rapping and leaping about with Flavor Flav-like abandon would probably have been radical enough for anyone not savvy to the band’s idiosyncrasies.  The crowd though, composed of financial district suits, leather bound Armory types, and several demographics in between, appeared to be mostly all longtime fans and followers, so nothing in the retrospective set, musical or otherwise, seemed to come as much of a shock. Still, by the time the band closed with the iconic “Discipline,” the audience had been worked into a near frenzy.  Carter and Tutti stepped away from their laptops and held up cameras to take video of their fans as the nuclear winter came to a climax.

Erika M. Anderson opened the night with a twenty-minute narcotic drenching that provided a solid lead-in to the main act.