[Professional publicists ceaselessly implore writers to preview shows, but often the most worthy events lack such luxuries. The Bay Area is both actively producing and attracting experimentalists, multimedia performance spectacles, cult punk rituals and innovative anti-socials with no capacity for self-promotion (those interest me especially.) Hidden Agenda is a new column to let you know about their performances. ]
Oakland's sprawling open gallery event each month on First Friday has become a sort of barometer to gauge an individual's perspective on the East Bay arts scene. Many recall its calmer incarnation on just a couple blocks with a lamenting sigh, some deride it as a drunken bacchanal in the guise of an art walk, and other self-styled kunst aficionados sneer at the simple philistines' hapless stumble amongst the glut of insubstantial galleries with their quixotic "curators." The tension is healthy, the discussion is positive, the walking is good for the heart, and I personally adore most any event that shuts down thoroughfares otherwise bustling with automobiles. The streets are for strolls, no matter your style or blood-alcohol content.
And on Dec. 6, Oakland's newest record store, Econo Jam, adds another destination for the First Friday mad dash or graceful saunter: an exhibit of local musician and visual artist Erin Allen's poster work.
Allen is one third of Club Paint, a collaborative effort with Keith Boadwee and Isaac Gray whose work is acutely irreverent but full of oblique nods to history, much like Allen's viscerally urgent but calculated noise rock with bands like Straight Crimes, High Castle, and Child Pornography. The show title, Before I Go To Go See Prince, speaks directly to Allen's evening itinerary. An initial announcement declared that he would DJ the event, though the artist has clarified that he will only be playing records.
On Dec. 7 at Bender's in San Francisco, champion of brevity and hooks Tony Molina shares a bill with the volatile Violent Change and propulsive pop outfit Swiftumz. Tony Molina and Violent Change are responsible for two of the best local albums this year, and the latter's sophomore full-length is rumored to be complete, making 2014 that much brighter. Barring any more of Violent Change's prolonged naps in the van, spontaneous out-of-state excursions, or sudden line-up disruptions, this show is confirmed and imminent. In the event of any snags, well, reliable bands are usually dull.
On the excellent albums of 2013 tip, Sacramento macabre rock unit Screature's excellent eponymous debut deals ghastly vocals and severe grooves. Refreshingly, it was self-released -- an autonomous act in an age when "independent" means outsourcing publicity, tour managing, booking, and distribution and "DIY" is just a neutered acronym to spice up PR emails. See Screature on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at The Knockout in San Francisco.
Since we began with art, let's end with film. The Punk Singer, a documentary about Bikini Kill and Le Tigre leader Kathleen Hanna, opens on Friday, Dec. 6, and runs throughout the week at The Roxie in San Francisco. It's tempting to pine for the radicalism of independent rock in the '90s, with its cultural iconoclasts like Hannah and contrast it to the strangely bureaucratic world of even low-profile bands nowadays, but willfully difficult and principled acts still persevere, and fill the Hidden Agenda every week.