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The Do List: Life is Living, Janelle Monáe, Stereolab and More

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Elle Varner headlines the Life is Living festival in Oakland on Oct. 12. (RCA Records)

Looking for things to do in the Bay Area this weekend? The Do List has you covered with concerts, festivals, exhibitions, plays, performances and more.

You can listen to this week’s episode above with Gabe Meline, Sarah Hotchkiss, Nastia Voynovskaya and Rae Alexandra, or read about our picks below.

Life Is Living Festival: The Life is Living festival is an annual party in the park with a purpose. Their tagline? “Keeping Oakland Oakland Since 2008.” You’ll get live performances from Elle Varner (a marvelous singer who’s been in Oakland before, and who counts Michelle Obama among her fans), Shyan’G, Drew Banga and more, plus dance classes, theater, skateboarding, and local vendors. But the important thing this year is the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program; from 10 to noon, breakfast is served, including by some of the very same people who helped found the program in 1969. The festival runs from 10am–7pm on Saturday, Oct. 12, at Lil Bobby Hutton Park (a.k.a. DeFremery Park) in Oakland. Details here.

‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’: On Friday, Oct. 11, you have a chance to see The Last Black Man in San Francisco, a movie that wowed audiences earlier this year with its poetic depiction of two black friends trying to carve out space for themselves in the rapidly gentrifying city. It’s playing at PROXY, a free outdoor “walk-in” theater in Hayes Valley, right off of Patricia’s Green. You’ll recognize Mike Marshall‘s version of this popular song in the film, and much of the movie’s action takes place in the Fillmore, so this is a rare treat to see it just a few blocks from its setting. That’s Oct. 11, at 6pm. Details here.

Janelle Monáe and the Roots: Janelle Monáe came to the Mission District a few years back to lead a march against police brutality, and now, she’s coming back—and bringing the Roots with her—for another good cause. A full 100% of the proceeds from this week’s show go to Tipping Point, a nonprofit that fights poverty in the Bay Area by funding organizations doing on-the-ground work to address homelessness and disparities in employment, housing and education. If you haven’t seen Monáe live, she puts on a killer show that celebrates queer black identity through a sci-fi lens. She and the Roots play the Fox Theater in Oakland on Oct. 12. Details here.


Tommy Orange: Every year, the San Francisco Public Library picks one book for its One City One Book program. This year, their pick is There There, by local author Tommy Orange, which tells the story of generations of interconnected Native Americans living in Oakland. Sarah loved this book, and can’t wait for more people to read it so she can talk about it more. Orange speaks at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 6pm. Details here.

Morbid Desire: If you’re one of those people that starts celebrating Halloween the second October starts, the historic Camron-Stanford House in Oakland has an excellent exhibit to get you in the mood. Morbid Desire has been running annually for the last four years, and is all about the strange, dark world of Victorian mourning customs. It’s a little bit different each year—this time around, the focus is on funeral rites—but it’s always educational, and always entertaining. For Rae, the best part is the fashion; particularly the memento mori jewelry, much of which contains braided human hair and other things you probably wouldn’t want to touch. There are three tours of the exhibit every Sunday in October, and the Camron-Stanford staff are incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic, so it’s always a fun, if rather gothic, way to spend the afternoon. Details here.

Darius Jones: Here’s a chance to see a rising saxophone star from New York who’s been praised all over the country for his innovative, poetic use of the instrument. Don’t expect easy listening—Jones’ work can get dark, and tense, drawing from the history of African-American blues, spirituals and gospel. He headlines the Center for New Music, a jewel of the Bay Area’s experimental music scene; the nonprofit space provides a much-needed venue for avant-garde artists to experiment outside of the pressure to be commercially successful. The tickets are always affordable, and 100% of the door goes to the artist. It’s a place where getting weird is encouraged, and Darius Jones’ show is a benefit for the space. That’s at the Center for New Music on Oct. 12. Details here.

Stereolab: We can’t forget the return of Stereolab, the fiercely creative prog / new wave / lounge band. After a long hiatus, they play three reunion shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco next week, Oct. 17–19. Details here.

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