As the fate of CELLspace became more clear in early 2014, I knew that I’d have to deal with the murals I’d been facilitating on the building’s facade. The masonite and wood panels were easy enough to take down and store. I had worked directly with the artists so had been in contact with most of them about the fate of their art. One mural went to the Bike Kitchen (they funded its creation). Jet Martinez didn’t want his and didn’t want it to be saved. Many of the artists were OK possibly selling the panels, with some funds going to my Stencil Archive project. Swoon had no desire to save her art and was sad to know the art space was going away.
While in process, the Bryant St. panels came down a bit too early after a tagger painted throw-ups on about three of the panels in July of 2014. I found out later (one of the tagged artists knew the guy) that this person was shit-faced drunk and didn’t even remember destroying three murals. Two of the murals were significant pieces, one being SPIE’s “All our Relations” from 1996.
Alarmed at the vandalism, I got volunteers to quickly take down the panels I had spent months trying to save and rehome. I caught flack from the folks still in the building and had a very terse conversation with the management there about making the space vulnerable and unattractive. Well, it is a warehouse and you can easily redo the windows with your own plywood. As the months advanced, Vau de Vere had many other issues to deal with in the space, and eventually were asked to leave by the developers who planned to build the largest condo building in the Mission.
YouTube has become the great DJ in the cloud. Can’t quite remember that song you last heard in 1987? Find it on YouTube! Digging through the shaky, poor sounding live vids and other detritus can be a pain. But usually, good nuggets are easily unearthed in a matter of minutes. Trading links is fun too, so here are some recent tunes I’m spinning in my video cloud DJ player:
At the CELL Events meeting several months before this event, we looked at the proposal that City Lights had filled out. Woah… David Byrne, Dave Eggers, and Michael Chabon reading at the CELLspace! I had read Eggers and Chabon, and loved house managing these type of events (you know, the events that end by midnight and have sober, adoring fans that don’t destroy things or fight). So I instantly offered to work this event.
When the day rolled around, I showed up a bit early, thinking that this was going to be a great opportunity to hang out with some amazing artists and writers. I was correct in thinking this: City Lights was well equipped to handle this event and showed up early as well to get things set up. The line of fans started early too, possibly three hours before the doors opened. Because of the stars in the house, I had a great crew of CELLspace folks helping with the set up. Pod was on tech and I can’t recall who was on the video. Actually, I think everyone who was working at CELL showed up to help out. Deborah even showed up and helped with the set up (she’s always good with event aesthetics).
When Byrne, Eggers, and Chabon rolled in, they were the most laid back bunch. David Byrne had no ounce of pretension on him. I introduced him to Pod, who got to work intimately with Byrne’s laptop. He was here to do a PowerPoint presentation after all. The line kept growing outside. I kept checking on them, making them laugh, answering their questions. They were extremely happy to be there, so that they could see David Byrne in an intimate warehouse setting. Local celebrities started showing up prior to doors. Beth Lisick and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were there, probably a pile of other people I have forgotten. Lisick wrote a great account of the reading portion for the SF Chronicle:
David Byrne was wandering through the capacity crowd at CELLspace last Sunday trying to find the bathroom, looking like somebody’s cool dad who’d gotten a little lost. The cavernous performance space was the perfect spot for the hundreds of fans who showed up to check out the triple-threat lineup of lit star Dave Eggers, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon and the visionary Byrne.
Eggers got things started with a few pieces he’d written under pseudonyms, immediately wrapping the crowd around his little finger, while Chabon read an excerpt from a story published in The New Yorker last April. (I was struck by the fact that when Chabon uttered the phrase “orange and purple velour” during his reading, no one made a sound, but the exact phrase, if uttered by Eggers, would have drawn a ripple of laughter from the room.)
But Byrne’s PowerPoint presentation about his new book, “The New Sins,” a written and photographic examination of religion, love, the afterlife and the human soul, was definitely the highlight. Funny, far out and gratifyingly profound. As he presented his ideas about virtues that are actually sins and why graphic designers have their own place in hell, I imagined a future with David Byrne as some sort of universal leader.
Lisick must have left after the readings, along with hundreds of other people, because she failed to write about the most amazing part of the night. As Byrne hung out with fans, some of whom gave him pieces of art, I stood at my usual by-the-bathrooms House Manager perch. Paradox Pollack, a caretaker living in 2048 Bryant, ran up to me from the main entrance. “I’m sorry! I can’t stop them!” he yelled at me in a pleading tone. “What are you talking about?” I asked.
Just then, from outside, a snare drum ratatatted loudly, echoing through the gallery. Then about 15 drums started, along with maybe a dozen horns. I looked at Paradox with surprise. “Extra Action Marching Band,” were the four words he told me, just when the motley crew entered the gallery space loud as hell. I turned around and considered running to Eggers and Byrne, apologizing for the anarchistic intrusion. Instead, I decided to let things run their course. Whenever Extra Action rolled into CELLspace, they did whatever the hell they wanted to do.
David Byrne loved the interruption from the fans. He’d been super nice to everyone who stood in line to meet him, but now he got up on the table where he was signing autographs and danced to the marching band. I walked over to stand with Pod and enjoy the moment. Paradox told us that Extra Action had gathered at 16th Mission BART and played all the way to Harrison Street. They then got quiet and walked to CELLspace so that they could make a surprise entrance. Paradox just happened to be on the sidewalk when they rolled up. So here they were, hurting our ears and making David Byrne laugh and dance.
Byrne liked them so much that he had Extra Action play with him at a concert in SF. He then took them on tour for a while. Eggers’ McSweeneys and City Lights had several more events at CELLspace around this time, mostly with authors that I’d read.
August rolled around in 2001 and the SoundLab couldn’t pull off a third concert three months in a row. I had an idea: Israeli master musician Yair Dalal was going to be in the United States in September. I had several of his CDs and loved his music. I found his website and cold-emailed him with the proposal of playing World Remix at CELLspace. Dalal plays many instruments and fiercely upholds his beliefs in peace for all peoples through music. His family hails from Iraq, making him a Mizrahi (Eastern) Jew. He always plays with Muslim, Christian, whatever-religion musicians with no hint of animosity towards their beliefs. When the Oslo Peace Accords were signed, Dalal set up a multinational orchestra that played in celebration of the event.
He was perfect for World Remix!
This flyer was never printed, and only used online. I took this photo during a 1999 trip to Israel. The hamsa design was based upon a stencil I had created and cut out for Chales Gadeken’s 2000 Illumination Project. The hand-written Hebrew and Arabic was from Deborah Ben-Eliezer’s cousin Roy (the IDF taught him to be fluent in Arabic). The Hebrew text to the right was taken from Yair Dalal’s CD insert and speaks on music and peace.
As the SoundLab tried to craft a concert around him, Dalal waited a while to confirm the gig. I assume that he was looking for better money and a better hall to play in. He didn’t find one, mostly because the Bay Area didn’t really know him, his politics, and his music. I got the Jewish Voice for Peace involved with the project and let them sell cabaret-table tickets for a higher price. They also got to serve concessions to the tables and took all the profits. The SoundLab got the door.
I also got Judy Cohen, a friend of Deborah Ben-Eleizer (whose father is from Iraq and attended the concert) to perform a one-woman piece about a sexual experience in Tel Aviv. I had seen Yuri Lane beat box about a year prior in Oakland, so tracked him down and booked him as an opener too. He rocked the house and went on to book CELLspace for a one-man show that sold out, got extended and then toured. I think the African band approached us to perform, and they ended up being OK and running way too long! Dalal was impatient to go on early: “If I play late, they will fall asleep to my music!” Deborah hosted the event, bridging the gap from the Middle East to San Francisco. DJ Sep barely played due to the over booked night (my mistake) but she got paid and thoroughly enjoyed the night.
About 250 people attended and World Remix again proved to have a deeply diverse audience. Dalal was nothing but sweet and supportive of the event and the space. Jef Stott got Jim Santi Owen to play tabla with Dalal, adding a great layer onto what would’ve been a duet with Dalal and his amazing percussionist. The event was nothing but perfect in my mind. Everything worked out and came together with flawless satisfaction. We even had an amazing camera shoot of the whole thing, which is what was edited down for the segment on CELLtv.
The night was full of politics, which was great for World Remix. Dalal told stories of meeting Palestinian musicians who had their hands chopped off because they played secular music or played with Israelis. He preached peace with his music and between songs. This concert was held September 6, 2001. Five days after that the World Trade Centers in New York City crumbled to the ground. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the contrast that happened within a week’s time: the peace, love, and music of an Iraqi-Israeli and the war, hatred, and death of 9-11. There was a radical innocence at World Remix III, and it was lost a week later.
The wars, invasions, occupations, and stupidity of the coming years dispersed the World Remix project. Not until Pod suggested a Romani Remix in 2005, which Jef and I pulled off to mediocre effect, did we try to recapture the magic. World Remix III helped me find my center just before the wind got knocked out on September 11. Yair Dalal came back several times to the Bay Area to teach Eastern-Jewish music to the community and was an artist-in-residence for the Jewish Music Festival.
I’ll never forget that amazing night of music at CELLspace.
Pod had the idea all along that the World Remix concert series would run often and have a political angle of some sort. With a serious lack of funds to produce the series, we still somehow managed to pull a second concert together in a short time. I always leave out the “246(i)” in the title of the series. Not sure why, but Pod put that in there to signify something having to do with culture and borders. Pod and I also developed a mission statement: 246(i) World Remix is “a new concert series emphasizing cross-cultural collaboration and active social context.” I have to remind myself that this was just before the 9-11 attacks, so Pod and I thought that we were doing something different here in San Francisco. And we were seriously trying to create change in the world.
I made this flyer art with a scan of a shirt I had bought in Israel (the background) and an oud from a CD insert. The right side of the flyer was intentionally pixelated to symbolize Lumin’s roots in the traditional and the digital.
World Remix II starred Lumin and featured Ledoh. We mixed together digi-Middle Eastern styles with East European vocals and Japanese butoh dance. I can’t remember who we brought in to be our political/grassroots guests, but we made a point to politicize World Remix and thus the people that came to the events. I was getting great feedback about World Remix. These were some of the most diverse audiences that CELLspace had ever seen. Before our eyes, we were really remixing things!
This concert came off quite easy due to the fact that Jef Stott was one-third of Lumin and a hard-working member of the SoundLab. Delphine Mae was dancing with Ledoh and a member of the SoundLab as well. All the other groups were connected to Lumin somehow, and so we had an smooth production. I recall about 250 people attended World Remix II, and the band (or most of them) got paid.
Once again, glad that Jonathan captured it all on video and put it on CELLspace.tv (I think it was him).
“This is a critical moment in history for reinstituting the lauguage(s) of music as the primary mode of human interaction from neighborhood to global relations” – World Remix I statement
Ten years ago, Pod, Jef Stott, and I (along with 5-6 other folks form the CELL SoundLab), got the idea of creating a music series that, if anything, mixed genres and indigenous styles in a way that made people scratch their heads. So we mixed Cali-style Qawwali with beatbox/tabla improv for our first World Remix concert. Simran Gleason, Deborah Ben-Eliezer, Rob Penn, and Andrew “Kid Beyond” Chaikin also filled in many gaps for this first attempt at bringing different people together in CELLspace (probably the most amazing place in San Francisco for doing this).
I recall Jonathan Youtt as the man behind the video for this event. Nothing but appreciation for everyone who put this music series together (with almost NO BUDGET), including Meyer Sound for getting conned into loaning us an amazing PA system!
Back in 2000, Dave X, Charles Gadeken, Skot Kuiper, Jonathan Youtt, and a pile of other artists and volunteers cooked up an idea of video-taping CELLspace events and putting it on a Public Cable channel every week. CELLtv ran for a few years before the project lost steam (these people worked real hard on cranking out the episodes). Skot posted the episodes on his YouTube channel last month.
Here is the episode that aired Jonathan’s Funky Puppet Supper video edit.
I was pulled into this project as a producer, so with no budget and only a few weeks time, I helped an amazing group of artists pull together a show that included circus, puppets, Commedia dell‘arte, and food! There was little rehearsal, but ringer acts came in and filled the void. Foam master sculptor Ian Greeb showed up and helped craft the huge head and did pre-show walk around. Dan Chumley and Temple Brady educated the commedia actors and fleshed out a sketch of a story line with the other players. Stephen Bass and All Star Stilts added a bit of buffoon to the whole mix. About two dozen people in all made this thing happen, and Jonathan Youtt gets props for even thinking up the idea (based upon a Clown Cafe that happened at CELL some years earlier).
The FPS segment is towards the end of this episode of CELLtv. Here’s the link for FPS via this site (the only archive of the shows).
My friend Kevin White got an NPR media hit today when Josh Ritter’s video “Curse” premiered on “All Songs Considered.” Though he assisted, Kevin is credited as drummer/puppeteer Liam Hurley’s mentor in the transcript. Can’t embed the video, so here’s a pic of Kevin in a shoot, and here’s the link for the NPR video (a great video btw!).
ALSO: Here is a blog post I wrote in 2006 while spending a day with Kevin, and Liam, during their job with NYC Park and Rec.’s puppet roadshow.
Heya HappyFt pardners. Haven’t posted much in the past weeks because I’ve been laying low, reorganizing, re-energizing, and trying to land from a year or so on the road. So not much has gone on in these yon parts of the Left Coast. Well, I did come out of a great men’s meditation retreat at Spririt Rock a few Wednesday’s back and landed smack into Christine Marie and Dan Cantrell’sRootabega Opera. I’d known about their project for months and was never sure if my schedule would allow me to be part of the show, but they had a small part throwing shadows that they kept for me! And I jumped in slowly but with relish and spanch. Great to land back into the “shit” as Wes Nisker calls life, into an amazing fantasy land of shadows, clowns, and amazing live music. The flame throwers and metal art of the Fire Arts Festival also provided a strange take on reality after a week of looking inward.
Here’s a YouTube teaser that Christine edited last night. I threw the sun shadow. Hope you all enjoy it.
Life will return to HappyFt soon as well. For all the micro-latest, head over to FaceBook. For stencil goodness, keep the RSS feed humming over at Stencil Archive…. TTFN
Back in April, FORA.tv recorded the Stencil Nation presentation at Booksmith up on Haight St. in San Francisco. It has been posted on their site for a while (over 700 views, who knew?) but I decided not to spread the word until I finished the touring. With the Year of Stencil Nation finally complete, I present to you the presentation in all its guts and glory. Or should I say umms and uhs. This presentation changed over time (in Middle America, I opened up the presentation with pics of stencils and street art from Iran), and was always different. So here’s a unique slice of what was going down on tour a few months ago.