Suzie & Gabe’s Picks: A World Series Singer, Mid-Century Design, and 50 Years of 'Sgt. Peppers'

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Barry Zito, a man who we personally witnessed pulled from a game in the first inning after walking in a run, now thinks he's found the 'secret to life': songwriting.

Correction: The tribute to 'Sgt. Peppers' now takes place one night only, on Saturday, June 3. (Not Thursday and Friday as stated.) Details here.

Festival season is heating up, with an upcoming deluge of bands playing in the hot sun for thousands of dehydrated teenagers; Cy gets back next week and he'll give us the rundown. Meanwhile, we've got a couple comedy festivals in this week's show: Comedy Clusterfest, running June 2–4 at the Civic Center, and Chris Hardwick's IdIOtfest running June 24 and 25 at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Also, a quick mention for an exhibit of work from the late San Francisco artist Rex Ray, which runs through June 30 at Gallery 16; details here. And now on with the show.

May 28: Before he basically won the World Series for the Giants in 2012 and finally earned his obscenely high salary, Barry Zito was used to being booed. Like, for years. Which is why, when the pitcher retired from the game, he said it had helped him “develop the thick skin” he’d need for songwriting, and added: “If you hear a song of mine, I hope you’ll be honest about what you think.” Well, Barry, honestly, it’s not bad at all. The lefty takes the stage with his guitar for his homespun songs -- and maybe a few curveballs -- on May 28; details here.

Rachel Schutz, who plays Elisabeth in 'Les Enfants Terribles' for Opera Parallele.
Rachel Schutz, who plays Elisabeth in 'Les Enfants Terribles' for Opera Parallele. (Opera Parallele)

May 26–28: Opera Parallele presents a new production of Philip Glass’ Les Enfants Terribles, hot on the heels of Glass’ 80th birthday. This is a company that presents contemporary opera that doesn’t often get performed -- they brought us Terence Blanchard’s ‘Champion’ last year, and recently Jake Heggie’s ‘Dead Man Walking.’ Les Enfants Terribles is from 1996, and though this production has a multidimensional film aspect to the set design, it keeps the original accompaniment of just three pianos -- ‘cause that’s so Philip Glass. Les Enfants Terribles is at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; details here.

Mina Momeni.
Mina Momeni.

June 2–3: It was 50 years ago that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, and to mark the milestone, Undercover Presents hosts two nights of the entire album played front-to-band, wildly reimagined by 15 different bands. As an example: the vocalist for "When I'm Sixty Four" is Mina Momeni (above), from Tehran -- who, since women in Iran are forbidden from pursuing singing careers due to religious restrictions, will be singing through a pre-recorded track accompanied by a string quartet from the Awesöme Orchestra Collective. I spoke with Musical Director Joe Bagale about his drastic reinterpretations -- including jazz, hip-hop, Indiana ragas and more -- and he told me there was one famous moment on the album he didn't want to mess with: the long, final piano chord, which lasts for almost 45 seconds. "I tried strings, and I tried a synthesizer treatment," he told me, "but in the end, I couldn't do anything better than a bunch of pianos." Details on the shows here.

Henry Dreyfuss and James Conner, 'The Swinger,' Land Camera Model 20 for Polaroid, 1965.
Henry Dreyfuss and James Conner, 'The Swinger,' Land Camera Model 20 for Polaroid, 1965. (Courtesy of the Cantor Arts Center)

Through Aug. 21: In the South Bay, there's an interesting exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center called Creativity on the Line: Design for the Corporate World. And if you’re a fan of mid-century modern, it’ll make you look at things like airport seating and classroom furniture in a whole different way. Focusing on products and pamphlets, it includes designers such as Paul Rand, Charles and Ray Eames, and Dieter Rams. As explored in KQED Arts' review by Sarah Hotchkiss, the show really gets to the tense relationship between corporations and artists, where designers were told to be creative but not too creative. In Silicon Valley, where we know Apple’s design was heavily influenced by Dieter Rams, it has an extra resonance. Details here.


May 31–June 25: A new play premieres this week, centered around a meeting between a young journalist and the brilliant musician Gil Scott-Heron. Grandeur is a world premiere from the Magic Theatre, the work of playwright Han Ong. It’s hard to think of Gil Scott Heron without thinking of this heartbreaking New Yorker profile on him in 2010, so a play about his relationship with journalists has plenty to draw upon. I saw Gil Scott-Heron at his last appearance in San Francisco, and he was remarkably good -- and with a huge adoring crowd, so there should be plenty of interest in this play. It's directed by the Magic's Artistic Director Loretta Greco, and has a cast led by the great Carl Lumbly. Details here.