Cy and David's Picks: John Adams at 70, Lemon Twigs, and Comedians Resist

The singers of Black Arm Band perform Dirtsong about aboriginal culture in three local concerts. (Photo: Courtesy of Black Arm Band)

KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great shows around the Bay Area this week.

The personal sometimes makes for powerful political art. This week, we're featuring Aboriginal women from Australia singing in protest of efforts to stamp out their culture, and comedians worried that President Trump may order their deportation. Oh, and no Superbowl talk here -- except to say go see a show instead.

Feb. 7–12: Black Arm Band is a troupe of musicians and singers from Australia, doing songs from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. They’re making three stops in the Bay Area with a show called Dirtsong, about the Australian government's now-discredited effort to stamp out indigenous culture through residential schools. (If you think that's a remote concern, recall that the U.S. government tried to do the same with Native Americans.) And the music is stunning. Details for Black Arm Band's show at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford on Feb. 7 are here, for their show at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis on Feb. 8 here, and for Zellerbach Auditorium at UC Berkeley on Feb. 12 here.


Feb. 3: Every President needs a few good court jesters. And Bay Area comedians have been anything but shy about mocking our new President and his policies. Karinda Dobbins and Dhaya Lakshminarayanan are hosting a show called The Resistance, featuring Imran G, a Muslim American, Johan Miranda, a dreamer, Irene Tu and Luna Malbroux. I'm guessing here: there are probably no pro-Trump jesters on this bill. And it's a Cheap Thrill! Tickets as low as $10 for an evening of comedy at the New Parkway in Oakland. Details here.

Feb. 3–25: We’ve been featuring composers' birthdays recently, and this month it's all about Berkeley’s John Adams turning 70, with Cal Performances and the San Francisco Symphony staging some of his most ambitious works. Cal Performances is presenting choreographer Lucinda Childs ballet, Light Over Water, set to a 1983 electronic piece by Adams -- with a set deigned by Frank Gehry and a chance to hear all three artists talk about the piece.

John Adams
John Adams. (Photo: Christine Alicino)

Then, the SF Symphony performs The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a gorgeous oratorio about Mary Magdalene with lyrics by Adams' frequent collaborator Peter Sellars, and Sherezade 2. Both are feminist works, windows into Adams politics, and a reminder that the composer of operas like Doctor Atomic (the making of the atomic bomb) and Nixon in China has always loved drama and big emotions. "I’ve been inspired by composers like Wagner and Verdi and Mahler," Adams told me, "to not be afraid to create a large form which can draw the listener in. I’ve always wanted to keep that ability for power and emotional depth in my music." Adams was associated with the minimalists like Philip Glass early in his career, but he added that "for me, it was a little bit of a sparse bread-and-water diet. And I’ve tried to use my music to probe a lot of human issues that demand a larger musical vocabulary." Details for the Cal Performances shows are here. And learn more about the San Francisco Symphony concerts right here.

Feb. 4–25: Flamenco is a perfect dance form for telling stories of passion. And Noche Flamenca is doing just that with its production of the ancient Greek tale Antigone, in which the daughter of a king defies her father and the state to uphold a deeper form of justice. Artistic Director Martín Santangelo created this piece in 2010 after a Spanish Judge was suspended for his efforts to honor those who fought against Franco, allowing families to bury their relatives previously left in mass graves. We think Sophocles would enjoy this version of his story. Details for the run of the show at Z Space in San Francisco are here.

Feb. 4The Lemon Twigs hail from somewhere on Long Island, but the band's sound is from a country all its own. Teenaged brothers Brian and Michael D’Addorio sound a bit like the later-era Beatles, and dress and style their hair a bit like early Rod Stewart. They picked up some of their musical chops from their dad, Ronnie D'Addario, once a songwriter, session musician and producer, and added a level of charming goofiness evident in their videos. Details for their show at Brick and Mortar in San Francisco are here, and the show at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz are here.