Cy and David's Picks: A Fresh Look at an Old Musical, Great Lieder, and a BottleRock Preview

Cage the Elephant at BottleRock 2015. (Photo: Gabe Meline)

May 21: The Malcolm X Jazz Festival features some great local performers on three stages of dance, spoken word, and music. The festival is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, and you can bet you'll hear about that from poet and jazz singer Avotcja (she's reviving her "Oaktown Blues"), and from writers Kamau Daoud and Chinaka Hodge. There's also music out of NOLA from Mr. Blazio and his New Orleans Second Line Band (displaced from New Orleans after Katrina), plus DJ Davey D, dance from Fua Dia Congo, and more. Details for the Malcolm X Jazz Festival at Oakland's San Antonio Park are here.

SF Porchfest
SF Porchfest (Photo: Courtesy Porchfest)

May 21: SF Porchfest is back for a second year. This free (Cheap Thrill!) community building event puts musicians in backyards, garages, and on front steps all over the Mission District. If you don't like one band, wander down the street, meet some neighbors, and check out another show. Deadbeat Dads, Dirty Cello, Claudia and Friends, and Los Pereguinos Còsmicos are among the featured bands. Details for SF Porchfest's day of music on Mission District stoops are here.

Through June 12: On a Clear Day You Can See Forever was both a lovely earworm of a song, and a mixed success as a stage musical by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner. Now New Conservatory Theater is reviving a 2011 rewrite of the show by Peter Parnell.  It mixes some elements of the original Broadway and the later film productions, but most significantly gives the show a gay lead, replacing the reincarnated heroine Daisy (played by Barbara Harris on Broadway and Barbara Streisand in the movie) with David.  If anyone can pull this off, it's The New Conservatory Theater. Details for their production here.

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Through June 18: Meanwhile, Theatre Rhinoceros, San Francisco’s “Live Professional Queer Theater” is doing a version of Present Laughter… Noel Coward’s semi-autobiographical comedy about an actor having a midlife crisis because he’s turning 40. (David and I laugh at midlife crises before the age of 60). Theater Rhino is making the most of the subtext for this show, that the hero “thinks the world of himself, and so do all his girlfriends and boyfriends." Details for Present Laughter at Theatre Rhino are here.

May 21: Ian Bostridge literally wrote the book on Schubert, a dissection of his most famous song cycle, Winterreise, and he'll do a recital of Schubert Lieder Saturday at Herbst Theater. It's a great example of the kind of intimate performance San Francisco Performances has perfected under founding President Ruth Felt. She's stepping down in August, to be replaced by Melanie Smith, former director for the San Francisco Girl's Chorus. "Over the years," Smith told me, "San Francisco Performances has cultivated and developed an audience with very sophisticated ears, passionate about these forms of music. They love it. They become sort of groupies for some of these artists. And I think that’s unique in this city still." Details for the Ian Bostridge recital are here.

Attendees enter Oakland City Hall for the first annual Oakland Book Festival
Attendees enter Oakland City Hall for the first annual Oakland Book Festival (Photo: Courtesy Oakland Book Festival)

May 22: The Oakland Book Festival (another Cheap Thrill! It's free) is back Sunday for a second year. The theme this year is labor, allowing for discussion of everything from the gig economy, as Uber moves its headquarters in up the street, to a panel called “Working in Silicon Valley." Expect 200 writers including locals like Mary Roach, Greil Marcus, Frank Chin, and Arlie Russell Hochschild. You'll find children's book authors at Laurel Books across the street. Details on all the panels and readings are here.

May 27-29: BottleRock Napa Valley is a week away, but it's by no means too soon to plan how you're getting there and what bands to catch. We're partial to the pop grooves of Grouplove (above), guitar shredder Buddy Guy, Oakland's Fantastic Negrito, LA's Ozomatli, Brooklyn’s Pimps of Joytown, The Pharcyde, the old master Stevie Wonder, and the classic goofball of Cheech and Chong. But note that BottleRock is sold out, so your best chance to catch some of these bands, and in far more intimate venues, is at the "aftershows." We're thinking retro rockers The Struts playing The Ritz in San Jose one night, and joining Grouplove at the Napa Valley Opera House the next; The Pharcyde at Napa's Uptown Theatre; San Fermin and son of a preacher man Son Little both do shows at Silo’s Club in Napa, and lots more.  "Aftershow" details are here.

May 21: One more Cheap Thrill! Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino is staging The Popul Vuh, the Mayan creation myth, in a free performance in the schoolyard at  Cesar Chavez Elementary Saturday at 2pm. How often can you see a play in Spanish, English, and Quiché?  Details here.