Whether the presidential inauguration is making you queasy or giving you a thrill, it's always a good idea to turn off the TV and take in some shows. As extras this week, we're suggesting the pianist Holly Bowling's reimagining of the Grateful Dead's songs at the Center for New Music on Jan. 25. Or for pure musical pleasure but with a political payoff, try an inauguration night (Jan. 20) benefit concert by Frequency 49, a San Francisco-based woodwind sextet, with all proceeds going to the American Civil Liberties Union, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco.
Now on to the show.
Jan 21 and 22: Symphony Silicon Valley isn't like most orchestras. For one, there are no charismatic conductors; instead General Director Andrew Bales picks the repertory, finds a good conductor, and then counts on his devoted musicians to make it all sound great. That formula is working well, and this weekend Bales got Paul Polivnick (a regular) conducting two pieces by American composer Kevin Puts (once a composer in residence at the California Symphony), Leonard Bernstein's Fancy Free (gorgeous), and a violin concerto by Dmitri Kabalavsky that features virtuoso Mayuko Kamio. Details here.
Jan. 25–April 30: Diane Arbus was such a brave photographer, daring to shoot pictures of people on the street who many of us might have been too shy to approach, and outsiders like a fire eater on Coney Island, or a stripper backstage in Atlantic City. And her subjects stare right back at you. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is presenting a show of Arbus’s early work (curated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art) called Diane Arbus: In the Beginning, and these 100 pictures show her already mastering that penetratingly direct gaze. Details here.
Jan 21: The Bay Area's Andrea Claburn is a young, underappreciated veteran of the West Coast jazz scene. David notes that she's a true jazz singer, getting the most out of her chosen instrument. She also does her own arrangements, and wrote five of the songs on her new album, Nightshade. She's a graduate of Berkeley's California Jazz Conservatory, where she now teaches. For the album, and her gig Jan. 21 at the Jazz Conservatory, she's working with an all star band: Matt Clark on piano (her regular accompaniist), Erik Jekabson on trumpet, Terence Brewer on guitar, and Jon Santos on percussion. It's a CHEAP THRILL!, just $15, and it should be very good. Details here or here.
Jan 25–Feb. 19: I know everyone is gung ho about Hamilton finally coming to San Francisco, but my feeling is that the Fun Home tour is just as big a deal. This is Lisa Kron (Well) and Jeanine Tesori’s (Caroline or Change) Tony-winning musical based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, about growing up lesbian in her parent's funeral home, with a closeted gay dad and a withholding mom. It’s a beautiful and sad coming-of-age story, and the first Broadway musical featuring a lesbian character in the lead. Details here.
Audiences for Fun Home also get to christen the refurbished Curran Theater. Owned by Carole Shorenstein Hays, one of the great local theater producers (Fences), Shorensteing-Yas says she just spent two years and a "zillion dollars" (she won't reveal the actual number) refurbishing the Curran, which is near Union Square. As she sat in her favorite seat way up in the balcony, I asked Hays why attending shows at the Curran means so much to her. "Being in the audience," she said, "illuminates the mind and settles the soul. We’re suddenly together and understanding that we're not alone. The audience for me is as sacred and as essential as the artists on stage, and when we’re all together, we really become our best."
Jan. 21: American Wrestlers make music for dancing and thinking, not chokeholds. They're a St. Louis band led by Scotsman Gary McClure and his wife Bridgette Imperial. They make terrific music with smart lyrics, and I love how tricky categories are in pop music these days. One article about the group described them as alt-rock, indie, power pop, lo-fi, and shoe-gaze. Take your pick, but see them at Bottom of the Hill. Details here.