KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.
Sept. 7-11: The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) kicks off the season with a few pop favorites, but also an 80th birthday tribute to Steve Reich, a pioneer of minimalism, and a former Mils College student. Skip the gala on Wednesday (though mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and soprana Rene Fleming will provide terrific ear candy), and catch one of the shows Friday through Sunday, when Reich will take a bigger share of the program. Conductor and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, a longtime champion of Reich and other American mavericks, has invited both the Kronos Quartet and Eighth Blackbird to help out as they explore a classic set of Reich compositions including "Double Sextet," "Three Movements," "Six Marimbas and "Different Trains." Minimalism was never more complex.
Sept. 8-Oct. 2: The Marin Theatre Company had a great season last year, and kicks off its 50th year with the challenging August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. This Pulitzer Prize winner is about a very dysfunctional family gathering in Oklahoma ("O'Neill for Okies" in one description), and is based on some Letts' own family history. Don't judge this based on the over-the-top Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard film. It's a much more nuanced powerhouse on stage. Details here.
Sept. 4: The White Panda are two boyhood friends from Chicago who were easily distractable in college, and are now among the leading DJ duos in the country, specializing in mashups of pop, rock and hip hop hits. Entertainment Weekly has called The White Panda "a veritable party machine,” with more than 100 million SoundCloud & YouTube streams. With great success comes great responsibility or not. Details for their show Sunday at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz are here.
Sept. 8-Oct. 15: Tom Ammiano is back on the stage in San Francisco. The former teacher, school board president, supervisor, and state assemblyman used to do standup at the now defunct Josies Cabaret in the Castro before running for public office. He's a voice for LGBTQ rights, access to health care and other progressive causes throughout his political life, but also in his comedy work. You can hear his weakness for a punchline in this exchange where he explained how he educated his fellow lawmakers about sexual politics, including one Republican assemblywoman who insisted on saying being gay was a sexual preference: "And she kept saying on the floor, 'sexual preference.' And I did go up to her and said my sexual orientation is gay, but my sexual preference is Brad Pitt." Details for the run of Ammiano's show Mincing Words at the Marsh in San Francisco are here.
Sept. 3-5: So maybe Labor Day is not our last chance for summer fun (summer ends Sept. 21, duh) but that's the ritual, and we respect any ritual that demands we take in some live entertainment. So here are some choices:
Take the ferry to the annual Sausalito Art Festival, where the Squirrel Nut Zippers are on the bill with The Blind Boys of Alabahama, Charlie Musselwhite, and The Zombies (kind of zombified after 54 years of touring). Details here.
Tradition also demands that we mention The Scottish Highland Games, where kilts and good beer are appreciated along with the caber tossing. Details for the two-day fest at the Alameda County Fairgrounds are here.
No rest for the geeks over Labor Day. Comic Con comes to San Francisco for the first time, with Jessica Jones star Kristyn Ritter, Star Wars Emperor Ian McDiarmid, cartoonists Erik J. Larsen (From Image Comics) and Paolo Rivera (an Eisner winner), plus Comic Con will feature the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum, homeless now, but still active. Details here.
And for a Cheap Thrill!, try the Golden Gate Park Band at the Golden Gate Concourse on Sunday and Monday for free. Details here.