Cy and Erica's Picks: Monterey Pop, Bless Me Ultima: The Opera, and a Visit to North Beach

10 min
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers all dressed up for a city sponsored Summer of Love concert (Photo: Courtesy of Obscura Digital)

This week my co-host Erica Lewis takes us to North Beach, a neighborhood famous for literature and music, and she reads a poem from her new collection Mary Wants to Be a Superwoman about her black, white and Cherokee heritage. Somehow we couldn't fit in the fact that Flower Piano is back at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, or that this week sees the return of two film festivals: The SF Black Film Festival (with an appearance from Danny Glover), and the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival (Frameline), providing essential viewing for communities that often get short shrift in Hollywood. Now on with the show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNrygTqx0FA
June 16–18: The Monterey International Pop Festival is back, 50 years after it set the standard for the modern rock festival. In many ways, the Summer of Love in San Francisco was a rather dreary few months, but the bands and the hippies made for an inspiring musical event at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. Monterey Pop made the reputations for so many bands: Jimi Hendrix, Steve Miller, Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish and the Grateful Dead.
Many of the artists appearing this year are doing tributes to the great performers of 50 years ago: Leon Bridges is channeling Otis Redding (who was riveting), blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr stands in for Jimi Hendrix (though no word on whether he's going to immolate his guitar as Hendrix did), and the Head and the Heart fill in for the Mamas and the Papas. If you can’t go, stream the classic D. A. Pennebaker film Monterey Pop and look for Otis Redding singing "I’ve Been Loving You Too Long." Details here.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers all dressed up for a city sponsored Summer of Love concert
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers all dressed up for a city-sponsored Summer of Love concert.

June 21: The city of San Francisco is putting on its own Summer of Love concert (despite the legal fight with a promoter trying to do the same) at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, with a free concert with former members of the Jefferson Airplane, the Chambers Brothers, Moonalice and others. Just in time for solstice. Details here.

Khary Moye and Jeunée Simon play Day and Henrietta Lacks in the TheatreFIRST world premiere of Lauren Gunderson and Geetha Reddy’s HeLa at Berkeley’s Black Oak Theatre
Khary Moye and Jeunée Simon play Day and Henrietta Lacks in the TheatreFIRST world premiere of Lauren Gunderson and Geetha Reddy’s HeLa at Berkeley’s Black Oak Theatre. (Photo: Cheshire Isaacs/TheatreFIRST)

Continuing through June 17: HeLa is a world premiere play by Lauren Gunderson and Geetha Reddy, playwrights who often write about women and science. HeLa is about Henrietta Lacks, the African American woman (profiled in a Rebecca Skloot book and HBO film) who died of cervical cancer in 1951, but whose cells have lived on, and been exploited by scientists without permission from the family. TheatreFIRST Artistic Director Jon Tracy has pledged that at least half of the shows the company will produce will be by female-identified authors, with a majority written by people of color. Good start. Details here.

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June 17: Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, is the quintessential Mexican-American novel and perhaps soon the quintessential Mexican American opera, or so its producers are hoping. Composer and librettist Héctor Armienta at San Jose’s Opera Cultura has been working for some years now on a musical version of this story set in New Mexico. It's the tale of Antonio and the story of his coming of age in rural New Mexico under the care of a spiritual guide and healer named Ultima. Details for the workshop performance at San Jose's Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, better known as MACLA, are here.

Emcee Infinite presents a rap opera with Opera Cultura
Emcee Infinite presents a rap opera with Opera Cultura. (Photo: Courtesy of Emcee Infinite)

June 24:Opera Cultura has another intriguing project. Rapper Carlos Aguirre, known as Infinite, has teamed up with singer Alexandra Sessler to work with San Jose youth, including kids at juvenile hall. They've been creating a rap opera, and Aguirre and Sessler have shaped the kids’ songs into The Rap Opera Project. Details here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLsWHq3U7n0
June 22–24: Joe Goode is celebrating his 30th anniversary making dances for his own company. He’s a choreographer whose work can resemble dance plays, with dialogue and characters addressing the audience. This celebration at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts features Nobody Lives Here Now, about the aging process for a dancer, and how fragile our bodies are. That concern about our failing bodies is a preoccupation for Goode and many Baby Boomers (speaking from personal experience). Erica noted this dance is about the unglamorized body, a welcome break from the artificial standards we all fail to live by. Details for the Joe Goode Performance Group show are here.

Cy Musiker and Poet Erica Lewis at the Comstock Saloon
Cy Musiker and Poet Erica Lewis at the Comstock Saloon. (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

To fully appreciate these next items, you'll have to listen along with the Do List episode (the podcast is above; go ahead and click "play"). Erica and I met for a drink and a talk about San Francisco's literary history at the Comstock Saloon, a bar and restaurant in North Beach.

June 18 & 20: First, we talked about the prolific trombonist Adam Theis and his upcoming show with a big band at Doc's Lab in North Beach (the former home of the Purple Onion, where Woody Allen and Richard Pryor got their starts). Details here. And we had to mention Theis' other gig at the Black Cat, not far away in the Tenderloin, on June 20. Details here.

June 18: And then Erica read from her new collection of poems Mary Wants to Be a Superwoman, about her family and her black, white and Cherokee heritage. Details for her reading Sunday at Bird and Becket Books and Records in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood on Sunday afternoon are here.

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Erica -- thanks so much for being the Do List co-host this week!

Cy Musiker and Erica Lewis in KQED's Studio B
Cy Musiker and Erica Lewis in KQED's Studio B. (Photo: Chloe Veltman/KQED)

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