Cy and John Vanderslice's Picks: A Feast of Music Festivals and an Ode to a Good Kid

12 min
Phono del Sol Festival in Portrero del Sol Park in San Francisco (Photo: Courtesy Phono Del Sol Festival)

Yes, The Do List is changing. We're welcoming guest hosts to join me in the studio each week, and we're so happy to start this state of perpetual renewal with John Vanderslice, a singer-songwriter, record producer, and master of the analog reel-to-reel at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco and Oakland.  John also helps organize the Phono del Sol Festival, and that's part of our lineup on the show this week. And one more thing. The Do List needs your help. We want to know what you think about our experiments. Follow this link to a few short questions. Please answer them by Monday, June 12. And thanks! Now here's the show.

June 9-10: Huichica is one of those little music festivals that get a lot of love because they're not the big gobstoppers like BottleRock or Outside Lands. Huichica still manages the warm, outdoor wine and food country vibe, because it's hosted and sponsored by Gundlach Bundschu Winery in the town of Sonoma.  The artists that caught our ear include Heron Oblivion, who make psychedelic rock withdreamy vocals from singer Meg Baird, Cass McCombs (John loves his latest album), and Robyn Hitchcock. (Hitchcock's ode to San Francisco, Eye is another of John's favorites.) And we both love Gospel Beach and Christopher Owens’ (Girls) new band Curls. Details for Huichica are here.

June 22-24: Gad Elmaleh is the Moroccan-born-French version of Jerry Seinfeld. He does observational comedy about everyday stuff, like dating and airline travel (and he was a guest on Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee), but his best jokes are about culture clashes. He's a Sephardic Jew from an Arab country who speaks Hebrew, French, Arabic, and now Elmaleh’s trying to make it in the US even as he’s still mastering English.  Details on Elmaleh's show at the Improv in San Jose later this month are here.

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June 10: The Switchboard Music Festival is all about classical chamber music by living people. Which sounds so obvious, except new music gets such a raw deal from the big classical arts organizations, and way too many audience members. Don't be scared. A lot of the music is just lovely (Splinter Reeds), and there's an ambitious mini-opera by Dina Maccabee and Jesse Olsen Bay based on Gertrude Stein's children's book Roses are Blue. Veteran Bay Area new music crusaders The Kronos Quartet play the final hour of this marathon show (3-9 pm). As John notes, new music expands your brain.  Details for the 10th annual Switchboard Music Festival at Z Space are here.

June 15- 17: Ojai in Berkeley is another annual festival of new music, an extension of the Ojai Music Festival in the idyllic little town of Ojai east of Santa Barbara. A new artistic director picks the music every year, with pianist and composer Vijay Iyer in charge for 2017. He's programmed a new  concerto he wrote for the talented violinist Jennifer Koh, a concert with Indian musicians, including tabla master Zakir Hussain, plus an opera by trombonist and composer George Lewis, who writes avant-garde scores (like Iyer) mixing jazz and classical. Details for these Cal Performances concerts at Zellerbach Hall and Zellerbach Playhouse are here.

June 9-11: John and I couldn't resist adding these three concerts from the San Francisco Symphony, with Susanna Mälkki guest conducting. She's very sympatico with the musicians in Davies Hall, and I'm always wondering, who will someday replace the ageless Michael Tilson Thomas. Mälkki's record here, especially tackling contemporary works, would seem to make her a great choice. She's conducting  Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1 with the great Garrick Ohlson. Details for the concerts are here.

Margo Hall and Aldo Billingslea star in Fences at California Shakespeare Theater
Margo Hall and Aldo Billingslea star in Fences at California Shakespeare Theater (Photo: Kevin Berne/California Shakespeare Theater)

June 15-July 9: Margo Hall is directing brownsville song (b-side for tray), a Bay Area premiere by Kimber Lee at Shotgun Players in Berkeley. It's a show about a black high schooler who plays by all the rules, and still something awful happens to him and his family. I'm a big fan of Hall as both an actor and director. She’s so good at finding the humanity and individuality in the people she plays, and she's terrific at helping her actors do the same in the shows she directs. Details for brownsville song at Shotgun in Berkeley are here.

June 17: The Phono del Sol Festival was John's brainchild seven years ago. He lives nearby and saw how Potero del Sol Park was lovely and sunny, with birthday parties galore on weekends, but still underused. John invited the Bay Bridged to come on board to help produce this daylong fest, in which pop and rock mixed with Dvorak. The mission continues: feature the wonderfully eclectic sounds of Bay Area bands, plus a rich mix of food trucks. This year Melina Duterte, known as Jay Som, is one of the headliners, riding a wave of praise for her first full album (Everybody Works). You can also hear the ingenious chamber jazz and Afro-pop of Bells Atlas, singer-songwriter Sean Hayes, indie rockers Never Young, rappers Duckwrth and R&B singer Rayana Jay from Richmond. John thinks Thee Oh Sees do one of the best live shows of any band, and will make a great closer. Details for Phono del Sol are here.

A few extras this week: John recommends Bombadil, an acoustic folk-pop band from Durham, NC, with a serious interest in Tolkien, and a fastidious approach to recording (no electric instruments ever).  Details for their gig June 11 at the Cafe du Nord are here.  I squeezed in Lizz Wright, part of the lineup at the SFJAZZ Festival. Wright has the warmest, most sensuous voice, and is doing a tribute June 9  and 10 to Ella Fitzgerald. Details here.

KQED's Cy Musiker and Do List guest co-host John Vanderslice
KQED's Cy Musiker and Do List guest co-host John Vanderslice (Photo: Chloe Veltman/KQED)

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