It's been nearly three months since the Oakland Ghost Ship fire took the lives of 36 people, leaving behind a massive void in the Bay Area's underground music scene.
It makes sense, then, that the shows and fundraisers to honor the victims (of which there have been many) tend to include impressively diverse, genre-crossing lineups. Elegy For Ghost Ship: An Evening of Music In Remembrance, taking place this Thursday, Feb. 23, at San Francisco's beautiful Grace Cathedral, is no exception. Organized by Gabriel Connor (a friend of fire victim Cash Askew), and the Reverend Megan Rohrer (who, like Askew, is trans), the event offers an inclusive space to those affected by the fire.
"After losing a good friend in the fire and being with many other grieving friends, I felt compelled to seek out the mercy of a sacred space where all could grieve, heal, and raise up visions," Connor writes in an email. "Grace Cathedral has a universal appeal among Bay Area residents. The Cathedral also enjoys a history as a beacon for LGBT rights. The architecture and acoustics alone evoke profound feelings that carry beyond the Christian tradition." He noted that several other event organizers as well as performers had lost loved ones in the fire.
The bill of performers currently includes acclaimed throat-singer Enrique Ugalde (aka Soriah); Nethorthot Luku of Earth Child (performing the Japanese art of Butoh); Katabik (a label/music collective playing "estoeric ambient sounds"); the S.P.A.Z. collective (ambient electronica); violinist Maki Ishii Sowash and cellist Victoria Ehrlich of the San Francisco Opera orchestra; Jealous (hypnotic bass guitarist and songwriter Mark Treise); Oakland post-punk band The World; experimental music from Aja Archuleta a.k.a. Piano Rain; Jason Cool on sitar; Singers of the Street (a choir of people who are/have been homeless); readings from Reverends Lyle Beckman and Megan Rohrer, and more.
The cathedral itself, of course, could be considered another performer of sorts; the likes of Duke Ellington have selected its chambers for their unique effect on live music. Non-audio components set up throughout the space will include projections by Terry Estioko from "Viberation," Sabina Luu and Mike Cascino. Organizers plan to arrange an altar at which attendees can place offerings for victims as well.
"A wide range of tones will be heard Thursday night: we’ll have both a solemn funeral and an ecstatic wake; the sacred and secular will voice a common prayer," says Connor of the evening's programming.
"Artist communities in the Bay Area are facing a lack of hospitality and gratitude," he added, explaining the choice of Grace Cathedral as a venue. "Studio spaces are becoming condos; bars and other gathering places have been rooted up and replaced by an unneighborly and hyper-commercial scene."
The hosting by a church isn't without precedent: in the weeks after the Ghost Ship fire, Oakland's Chapel of the Chimes hosted a number of musical gatherings for mourners. "In times like these, it is especially important for churches and centers of faith to open their doors and provide shelter, light, and a canvas," Connor says. "Arts warehouses and churches are not so different; they are each collective bodies, seeking wisdom, doing justice, laboring not for profit but for truth and beauty."