Circus Contraption

August 3rd, 2004

Circus Contraption

I love the dark postmodern vaudeville/caberet/circus/sideshow performances that are becoming popular on the West Coast. I thought that San Francisco and Black Rock City lead the way for this genre, but I was wrong. A Seattle troupe called Circus Contraption blows the polka-dotted pants off the other twisted circus shows that I’ve seen, they’ve been doing it for many years, and this week they’re coming to San Francisco.

Circus Contraption serves up clever and astounding performances set to an entrancing live soundtrack. Each member of the troupe excels in a circus/erotic/dance specialty or two, and each doubles as a talented musician in a freakish, unforgettable band. The music doesn’t take a back seat; I’d still rush to see these people if they were just a band, and I happily bought one of their CDs.

If you haven’t seen this nonprofit troupe, don’t miss them. I loved their Seattle performance on a recent Sunday night, but Bunny Lamonte told me afterwards that Friday midnight shows are best. On Fridays the performers and the crowd are at their peak energy levels and things get wild and raunchy.

Circus Contraption’s latest show, “Grand American Traveling Dime Museum,” is coming to San Francisco starting this Friday, August 6. They’re playing at CELLspace in the Mission; tickets are $15 (or “pay what you can” on opening night.) Take it from a grad student — it’s worth the $15. But show up on a Friday night. And buy tickets early. (They kept selling out in Seattle — that’s why I went on a Sunday).

Another Look at San Francisco

July 2nd, 2004

Urban photologger Mike from satanslaundromat just visited San Francisco; have a look at the city through his eyes:

Oscar Wilde + Eno + French fury = Metal Urbain

March 27th, 2004

metal urbain cdTonight you’re in for a good show at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco. Elbow your way through the smarmy clots of hipsters in the front room and pay $10 to enter the grittier back room, where you’ll see old-school French electronica punks Metal Urbain. I checked out last night’s show and I loved their unique sound: angry punk anthems screamed in French, backed by dirty guitars, a laptop and what seems to be a weird old drum machine.

I didn’t know a thing about this band until I heard one of their tracks on KUSF a couple of days ago. A little Web and liner-note research reveals that they started out in 1976. They were big influences on the Jesus & Mary Chain and on Big Black (including Steve Albini who later produced the Pixies and Nirvana).

Hypnotic lead singer Eric Debris cites Oscar Wilde (!) and “anti-naturalistic” philosophy as major inspirations. The liner notes say they were the first punk band to use synth percussion, and they were the sole punk band to adopt Brian Eno’s approach to electronica (that is, using electronics for unique sonic potential, rather than just to replicate real instrument sounds).

I wish I could find the lyrics and figure out what Debris was shouting about… It definitely involved sex and Fascism.

UPDATE 5/31/04:Jason Harlan reports that Metal Urbain played a set on kickass indy radio station WFMU; you can listen to a RealAudio-format recording of it here.

San Franciscans to Reclaim the Streets

January 27th, 2004

rts-sf.gifA new Reclaim The Streets movement is underway in San Francisco. Participants hope to replace the usual glut of automobiles near the intersection of Haight and Stanyan Streets with a flood of pirate-attired, partying pedestrians on Valentine’s Day 2004 from noon until 9 pm.

The original Reclaim The Streets groups coalesced to form massive London street disruptions in the 1990s, including a 1996 event in which thousands reappopriated a 3/4 mile stretch of highway to form a giant street party.

See details of the San Francisco RTS movement, and plans for the February 14 event, at And spread the word.

(PARANOID WARNING: The RTS-SF Web site includes a mysterious sign-up form that requests your e-mail address. I’m not saying the people behind this site aren’t who they claim to be, but it’s best to assume the worst — that spammers and/or John Ashcroft are on the receiving end of that form. Use a junk e-mail account, or just don’t register.)

UPDATE 2/14/04: See phonecam shots of the event on cheesebikini cam.

SantaCon 2003

December 26th, 2003

santa-icon.jpg Brace yourself for breathtakingly belated coverage from San Francisco SantaCon 2003. Yet another conference hits the City by the Bay.

Trudy’s in Trouble

July 3rd, 2003
Who’s Trudy?

Who will pay you $300 to find her?

Nobody will pay you, if this is a hoax.

Snapshots from the Fire Circus

June 28th, 2003

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[ Click a photo strip to see the full-size version. ]

These are snapshots from Flam Chen’s fire circus last night. It was an impressive outdoor show on a spectacular evening in San Francisco.

After the show I spent most of the night just cruising all around town with my housemate Cheu, hitting the best hillside viewpoints like a wide-eyed tourist. The whole city was out playing, because in San Francisco we rarely see a night like last night: it was clear and warm enough to wear shorts, even on top of Twin Peaks. Last night, this town was Heaven.

UPDATE: Derek Powazek took better photos of the fire circus.

George Orwell Centenary Festival

June 25th, 2003
Homeland Security

Today, on the 100th anniversary of George Orwell’s birth, his masterpieces really are more important to us than ever.

If you live near San Francisco, come out for the George Orwell Centenary Festival at Edinburgh Castle in San Francisco. The festival runs tonight, tomorrow night and Saturday night. It includes readings from Orwell’s most important works, film screenings, and “Free Victory Gin.”

Show up tonight and tell them “cheesebikini is doubleplusgood.” You’ll get free admission to the Thursday and Saturday night shows; normal cover charge for those shows will be $6 and $7 respectively. And remember: four legs good, two legs bad.

Illegal Art

June 12th, 2003


Illegal Art is coming to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Artist Gallery at Fort Mason next month (July 2 through July 25).

Yum. I can hardly wait.

From the exhibition Web site:

…copyright was originally intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas but is now being used to stifle it.

The Illegal Art Exhibit will celebrate what is rapidly becoming the “degenerate art” of a corporate age: art and ideas on the legal fringes of intellectual property. Some of the pieces in the show have eluded lawyers; others have had to appear in court.

Loaded with gray areas, intellectual property law inevitably has a silencing effect, discouraging the creation of new works.

The last time I was at Fort Mason, a security guard kicked me out for photographing portions of the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit which I pieced together that afternoon in my own bit of illegal art.

(By the way — we were good tenants; we were evicted because the house was sold and the new owner was moving in.)

UPDATE: Here’s an intriguing column that reflects Creative Commons’ take on this exhibit.


March 14th, 2003

Last night a drunken Fez-wearing turtle came to me in a dream and said:

“You won’t know Jack about Experience Design until you visit Attaboy at his Yumfactory.”

Strange dream, no?

Attaboy art is featured at a free show that will take place March 15 though the end of the month at Culture Cache gallery, 1800 Bryant Street, San Francisco. New Yorkers can check it out in April at CBGB’s 313 Gallery.

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