“Impossibilities are merely things of which we have not learned, or which we do not wish to happen.”― Charles W. Chesnutt
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A big thing is afoot for this weekend….something that really is making me believe that the world is maybe just maybe going back to a place of normalcy: The Stern Grove Festival is having it’s opening day of the season. Like everything else canceled last year….like everything else programed this year with the uncertainty of its happening…with California opening up, Stern Grove is in perfect unison lock-step: the country’s oldest non-classical free concert series will once again play host to the Bay Area public and showcase some of the best music in the world (this weekend is a celebration of Juneteenth with Ledisi). And what is more, for the first time it will open up it’s stage to the world with a live-streaming opportunity that will run all season long.
The Stern Grove Festival has deeply woven itself into my life, starting by my attending concerts as a child. When I moved back to SF in 2002, my friend Adam Werbach suggested me for the Program Committee, of which I have been on ever since (residing over it for the last 10+ years)…and I joined the board in 2005. But the biggest impact the grove had on my life happened on July 15th, 2007 when the legendary band Os Mutantes were onstage. That was the day I met my wife, who was sitting with friends nearby and was told by one of them that there was a guy she should get to know. Our story towards our first date is a crazy one, to be told another time, but that day at the Grove was what started it all in motion. Flash forward: we have been bringing our kids to Sunday concerts since they were small babies.
Stern Grove is honestly one of the most beautiful music venues ever, where the temperature is always perfect (most of the time) and the group camaraderie is always brimming over. Allen Toussaint was so taken aback by its magic that he stopped his set, marveled at it, and dedicated his next song to all the trees that were in his eyesight. Being at the grove….for a Grove Moment like that one, is magical. Like when Santana made a surprise appearance during Rai legend Khaled’s set in 2005, or when Toot’s and the Maytals blasted through hit after hit in the final moments of their set in 2019 (one of the final appearances for Toots in San Francisco). Or maybe it was just when my one-year-old daughter, while sitting next to my Mom and Dad during an SF Symphony performance, chose the quietest moment of the set to shout with her finger pointed in the air for the thousands of spectators to hear: “LOOK! It’s s bird!” Grove Moments are the best moments, and I am looking forward to more during this incredibly programmed season (shout out to new Program Director, Stacy Horne).
It is opening day for the Stern Grove Festival this Sunday….for the first time ever broadcast live for anyone to see (all season long). It is gonna be good. See you at the Grove (full season schedule here and please note, due to COVID restrictions in crowd size…which will probably be loosening as the season goes…you need e-tickets to come. Still free, more like a proof of reservation).
My friend Scott Barretta turned me onto this webpage which, while really just a store page to buy a Gregory Corso CD, showcases great Corso stories and tributes by two of the people involved with the record, Hal Wilner and John Kruth. Even though their words are 19 years old, they are still powerful reads about the beat poet. And if you wanna take a REALLY deep Corso dive, Brown University has the Gregory Corso for public consumption, full of unplublished poems to rabbit hole into.
David Pescovitz writes: About 6 years ago, someone, or some thing, posted a slew of videos to YouTube of strange images quick-cut together with a backing track of chaotic electronic beeps. There are hundreds of them and each is 11 seconds long.
Daniel Popper’s sculptures are trippy crazed masterpieces. So large in scope, it is almost impossible to comprehend them in pictures…just nuts.
“The saga of the former Beach Boy has been told many times, but Brent Wilson and Jason Fine's film — part musical exploration, part "Carpool Karaoke" — makes the old stories new again.”
WEEKEND LISTEN: MAX ROACH’s Freedom Suite: WE INSIST!
Everyday is a good day to listen to Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Coleman Hawkins and Olatunji’s Freedom Suite. And as this Sunday is Juneteenth, it is a perfect time to pull this puppy out and throw it own. From the very beginning of Driva’ Man, with Lincoln’s drop-dead killer vocal soliloquy and hammering tambourine as accent…leading to Hawkins’ sweet-sweet-serious sax riffing atop James Schenk’s walkin-down-bass, the stage is set for a incredible, deep telling of the black experience. One of my favorite records of all time, through and through…definitely a highpoint for the Candid label.
Oh…and a great story I had heard about the opening track…and it must be true (ha) because it appears in wikipedia: "(Coleman) Hawkins would stay far past his part in the recording, and he would turn to Max Roach in astonishment, asking, ‘did you really write this, Max?’” (he did with Oscar Brown).
Evening Scene from my Table
By: Vikram Seth
Evening is here, and I am here
At my baize table with a glass,
Now sipping my unfizzy beer,
Now looking out where on the grass
Two striped and crested hoopoes glean
Delicious insects one by one.
A barbet flies into the scene
Across the smoky city sun.
My friends have left, and I can see
No one, and no one will appear.
This must be happiness, to be
Sitting alone with birds and beer.
In a brief while the sun will go,
And grand unnerving bats will fly
Westward in clumped formations, slow
And dark across a darkened sky.