Thursday, October 30, 2014

Artist Mari Marks @ 2014 Annual Juried Show at the Piedmont Center for the Arts

A dear friend and one my favorite people, encaustic painter Mari Marks, let me know she has a piece in the Annual Juried Show at the Piedmont Center for the Arts in Piedmont CA. The public is invited to an opening reception this Saturday, November 1, from 5:00 to 8:00. You can also see the work on Saturdays and Sundays in November from 12:00 to 3:00. 
2014 Juried Art Show @ Piedmont Center for the Arts, 801 Magnolia Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
2014 guest jurors Carin Adams, Oakland Museum of California, Associate Curator of Art & Material Culture and Caitlin Haskell, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture selected 39 art works from 23 artists.

Mari also let me know this is the last week to see another show, Materia + Meditation, at Vessel Gallery in Oakland, that also includes her work:
  Material + Meditation, Installation "Taken/Vessel" by Beili Liu , Paintings by Mari Marks, Walter James Mansfield,
Sanjay Vora, and Tim Rice.
11:00 to 6 :00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday  through Nov 1 @ Vessel Gallery, 471 25th Street, Oakland, CA 94612
 More about Mari:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Artist Interview: Songwriter Melissa Phillips

East Bay artist Melissa Phillips has steadily attracted new fans since leaving the songwriting gates in 2012 with the release of her debut album "Fits & Starts."  A song from the collection, "Centralia," was selected for the KFOG Local Scene 10 compilation (2013), and she  regularly appears at notable area venues with her stellar backing band The Sincerelys. After a whirlwind fall which included a performance at The Great American Hall and getting married, Phillips reflected on her songwriting process and what's currently feeding her muse.
Q: How did you first start singing?  Who are some of your earliest influences?
MP: I remember singing along with the radio pretty early on and being encouraged to "sing louder!" I loved picking out the harmonies. I didn't really start performing until later. Having access to music classes in school was huge for me. I had some great music teachers in junior high and high school who pushed me in a very positive way. I was in chorus, singing ensembles, I did district chorus competitions, musical theater, church choir — all of those things helped me figure out that singing was something I was good at and that I wanted to pursue it in a bigger way.
I grew up on Top 40 radio, that's the soundtrack of my childhood. If it got played on the radio between the 1970s and 1990s, I probably know the words! I loved Whitney Houston and the first tape I ever bought was "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". When I was 11 or 12 she was just it for me. But I grew up in small towns and you don't get a lot of variety on small town radio. I don't think I really had any idea what was out there until I went to college and I was exposed to what my friends were listening to. We used to sit around the dorm rooms with our CDs and a stack of cassettes and we'd make mix tapes. I still have those mixes and they have some really good music on them. It was the first time I heard Paul Simon, Crowded House, Van Morrison, [and] Indigo Girls. I really think that time spent making those tapes was more valuable than some of the music courses I took because it really helped me develop my own opinion about what I liked and ultimately, what I wanted to do.

 How did you make your way to California from Oregon and have the different places you've lived influenced your work? 

MP: I did move to California from Oregon (I lived there for a few years in my early twenties) but I actually grew up all over the place. I had a sort of unconventional nomadic upbringing, we moved around a lot. I got to see so much of the country from the back seat of a car as a kid. I didn't start writing my own music until I was much older but I do think being able to experience that kind of a life as a young person informed how I see the world. It gave me a good awareness of how other people live, which is definitely something I find important, not just for writing, but also for being a human.

Q  Do you keep to a writing schedule or do you write as inspiration strikes? Words first or do you write to the music? 

MP: I get ideas in bits and pieces. Mostly lyrics first but sometimes they come with a melody. On any given day, my bag is full of post-it notes scribbled with lyric ideas. I carry a notebook to write stuff down and if I come up with a melody I record it into my phone. I don't have a writing schedule but I do sit down frequently with my ideas and see what I can wrestle into shape. Sometimes it comes fast and easy, but more often than not it is a slow process for me. I try not to rush, I'm not in a race. Songs will be done when they're ready. I just finished a song that I started back in 2010! I kept going back to it and I tried for a long time to force it into being done, but it wasn't ever quite right. I stepped away for a while and came back with fresh eyes and finally knew when I'd figured it out.

Q  Any current listening or reading obsessions feeding your muse? 

MP: I am in the middle of a lot of books right now, my goal is to read 38 over the next year! Here is what I currently have a bookmark in: "Where I Was From" by Joan Didion, she's a favorite, especially her non-fiction. I'm reading a book of short stories by Alice Munro, a memoir by Mary Karr, and a biography of Dorthea Lang. As for music, I have these in heavy rotation right now in my car: Rosanne Cash - The River and the Thread; John Hiatt - Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns; Holly Williams - The Highway. I also really like the newest Tom Petty and Ryan Adams albums. As far as other obsessions, I am pretty addicted to Instagram. It's a nice community of supportive, creative people sharing interesting images of their daily lives — crafters, photographers, musicians, writers. Sometimes looking at beautiful stuff is what I need to simultaneously calm and stimulate my brain after a work day. Just seeing someone else do something creative can motivate me to do the same.

Q What can listeners expect in the next six months? Any big shows or new recordings?

 MP: I'm on a little hiatus from performing right now so I'm focusing on writing. I hope to go back into the studio next year with a batch of new songs. I'd also like to do some regional touring again and definitely get back on stage with the full band.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Read.Eat.Listen: Hunkering Down

Summer is over. I know that's a ridiculous statement in late October, but this past week I really felt it. In part, because I was in the mountains, in Truckee, for a gig and a night, at elevation. There, at close to the 6,000 ft, the temperature dips to freezing and below most nights, and the aspen trees have long since changed color, and I remembered, duh,  seasons. "The shoulder season" our host, a long-time resident called this weekend, between the bright summer when mountain bikes and hikers head for the trails and the snow-filled, skier-drawing winter. Still the bars were full, and while the thin air called for slightly different singing strategies (mainly a lot more water),  I felt the history of mountain living in my skin, camping in the Sierra, waking up to icicles dripping from the eaves in Boulder, and felt placed. I don't know I'll ever call a mountain town home long-term again, but there is nothing like the clear signifier of weather on lifestyle that comes with high elevation and its atmospheric changeability.
Fortunately, for my personal need for a sense of seasons and place, and more importantly for the California water-table, it rained twice, at home, at sea level, over the course of five days. We saw fit to relight the pilot light and I've made like a bear for a couple days of long naps, extended sleep, and actual book reading.
Read: Tracks, by Robyn Davidson. When I was a kid, I lived for the arrival of certain periodicals, especially the pink section of the SF Chronicle and the monthly delivery of National Geographic magazine. It's hard to imagine one news source having such an impact in this day of everything-at-your-fingertips, but National Geographic was formative for me: articles on Egypt and bird migration and native peoples of countries whose names I couldn't pronounce. One issue included an article about a woman who crossed the Australian desert, alone save for several camels. I was mesmerized by the pictures of her riding the animals, encrusted with flies, drinking out of streams and finally, reaching and wading into the Indian ocean. I think I read that article again and again, and then...forgot about it. Last week, a fellow-hawk watcher told me the story had been made into a movie. Instead of going to the theater, I bought the book and have been feeling like that National Geo-reading kid again.
Eat: Chances are I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich made with white bread, cheddar and lots of butter while I was reading those National Geographics. This many years later, I rarely east dairy or bread, but that doesn't mean the charms and comfort of grilled cheese have been lost to me. I ordered such a sandwich after a gig recently and nearly swooned from pleasure.  It wasn't vegan or gluten free but this one is: Basil Butternut Grilled Cheese. OMG!

Listen: Really enjoying what I'm hearing from Frazey Ford's latest "Indian Ocean." Recorded in Memphis with Al Green’s band, The Hi Rhythm Section, at her back, its makes for another sumptuous, if aural, feast.
Al Green’s band, The Hi Rhythm Section

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Artist Interview: Annie Bacon's Pounding Corps

When I think of artists who exemplify The Bay Area's creative culture, I think of people like Annie Bacon. Highly original, filled with integrity and continually questing, the SF-dwelling singer/songwriter/composer/bandleader and mother has several EPs and a full-length CD with annie bacon and her oshen, as well as a highly acclaimed musical suite, The Folk Opera, to her name.  She's also sung and played on a slew of other artist's recordings and projects (Corinne West, Savannah Jo Lack), and just received an Arts Incubator award from Intersection for the Arts for her next creation. I recently caught up with her as she prepared for a benefit performance she's doing for The Liberation Institute Urban Retreat Center, Sunday, October 26, in San Francisco.

Q When did you first embrace songwriting? Who was a big early influence on your becoming an artist and who or what is fueling your muse currently?
AB: Before December of 2007, I'd definitely written songs, but I never considered myself a songwriter. I was content to play other people's music. That was the month, however, when I got Garageband, which changed everything. Suddenly I could sketch out concepts of songs across multiple tracks, and it was like a floodgate had been opened. Within a few weeks I knew that this was what I was supposed to be when I grew up. Pink Floyd and whatever was playing on the soft rock station in the late 80s ... those were my early influences. Music that was emotional. Right now I'm dealing with an Alt-J infatuation, a British art-band that does everything I love: harmonies, highly literate lyrics, dirty-grimy bass drops, ear-worming melodies, and arrangements that keep you on your toes. A few songs of theirs I love: "Fitzpleasure"and "Ripe &Ruin."

Q Tell us about the new EP and the 'community effort' it's entailed? 

AB: The new EP, which I haven't yet named, is a collection of ukulele songs that I've written across five or six years, but which never quite fit on any other release.  2012-13 were hard years for me and my family. Without going into it, I'll say that I was creatively paralyzed coming out of it and having trouble getting re-started. A kind friend set me in motion with a gentle nudge, another friend stepped forward to engineer it, and others threw down their massive talent as the OSHEN. And still other friends have offered ears, insights, and hours of talking them through. It's one of those projects that has happened for me, not because of me, which is a sweet and humbling relief. I feel really blessed by my community.

Q You just were just awarded an Arts Incubator by Intersection for the Arts. What does that mean for your work and will you build upon The Folk Opera or drum up something else altogether?

AB: Yes! This is really exciting for me. There's another project altogether that inspired me reaching out to them for support. It's a project that needs to happen within a certain framework, and to be honest I don't even know what exactly it is going to be yet, only that I'm supposed to set out to do it. I'm being necessarily vague, you'll forgive that I hope. But I do also see the potential for the IFTA sponsorship as a platform for finding the Folk Opera's next life, which is on stage. Maybe I'll find funding to get the incredible Alphabet Arts puppet production of the piece out here from Brooklyn.

Q You're doing a benefit performance for The Liberation Institute. Tell us about their work in the Bay Area (and any more details about the show) and how it's important to you.

AB: The Liberation Institute is an organization dear to my heart. I sit on their Board of Directors and am consistently amazed and impressed by how much they do with so little. Their community-mental-health model means that absolutely anyone can access their services. As an artist, I know how often I and other artists need support, but feel limited by finances, so this accessibility is a key part of what I love about them.
The show is to raise funds for their services for children, teens and families. As a mama myself now, I also have deep empathy for how necessary therapy can be in the process of both being and raising a child! Holy moly. The show will be kid-friendly, with those under 12 free to enter and the show happening from 3-5p. (After nap before dinner!) It's going to be an intimate show with only about 30 tickets available for purchase. Since it's a fundraiser we're asking $25-50/ticket, fully tax-deductible since Libi is a 501(c)3 non-profit. I'll play the Folk Opera, followed by a set of ukulele songs from the EP.  
Details: Music Is Love: An afternoon with Annie Bacon, Sunday October 26th, 3pm-5pm at the Liberation Institute's Urban Retreat Center, 1227-A Folsom Street at 8th, San Francisco. $25-50 tax-deductible donation suggested, kids 12 and under are free! Tickets available via

Monday, October 20, 2014

FAR-West Fun; Coming up on KZSU & @ The Cottonwood Truckee

Well, FAR-West in Oakland turned into a song-soaked, musical fun ride. I had a great time playing PGS rooms hosted by Bohemian Highway, Maurice Tani & Jim Bruno, Kyle Alden and Amy Andrews Music, as well as the pre and post-conference events at High St. Station and Awaken Cafe, and the gig with Kate Burkart at High Street on Saturday between everything. I heard SO MANY GREAT songs and met a slew of great folks. I feel both replete and reinvigorated for more!
On that note, I went straight from FAR-West to a rehearsal with KCDC. We'll be playing LIVE this Wednesday, Oct. 23 on KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM. Tune in!
Thursday, I'm hitting the road with Kwame to play in Truckee, CA. Got friends in this fun, mountain town? Send them our way as we'll be holding down The Cottonwood from 7-10pm. The award-winning restaurant "has it all; a rich and vibrant heritage, a lively music scene, a full bar, and an adventurous menu created by the Executive Chef of 17 years, David Smith."
Deborah Crooks in Truckee @ Cottonwood Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 7pm Off Brockway Rd.(Old hwy 267) Truckee, CA 96160 (530) 587-5711

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014


Deborah Crooks in Truckee - 7pm
Off Brockway Rd.(Old hwy 267
Truckee, CA 96160
(530) 587-5711
- See more at:

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014


Deborah Crooks in Truckee - 7pm
Off Brockway Rd.(Old hwy 267
Truckee, CA 96160
(530) 587-5711
- See more at:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Read.Eat.Listen: Island State

Read:  Though I was hard pressed to wander to far from the beach on my visit, there's a more to Hawaii beyond the sand and teaming tourists. Written in 1866 (!), nearly a century before it became a state,  "Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands: Hawaii in the 1860s by Mark Twain captures Hawaii when it was still a kingdom yet in the process of getting colonized ...and all the complexity inherent in a collisions of cultures the state still exhibits: "Nearby is an interesting ruin--the meager remains of an ancient temple--a place where human sacrifices were offered up in those old bygone days...long, long before the missionaries braved a thousand privations to come and make [the natives] permanently miserable by telling them how beautiful and how blissful a place heaven is, and how nearly impossible it is to get there; and showed the poor native how dreary a place perdition is and what unnecessarily liberal facilities there are for going to it; showed him how, in his ignorance, he had gone and fooled away all his kinsfolk to no purpose; showed him what rapture it is to work all day long for fifty cents to buy food for next day with, as compared with fishing for a pastime and lolling in the shade through eternal summer, and eating of the bounty that nobody labored to provide but Nature. How sad it is to think of the multitudes who have gone to their gaves in this beautiful island and never knew there was a hell." — Mark Twain
Eat: Acai berries are native to Trinidad,  and Acai bowls originated in Brazil, but given how omnipresent the latter are on Hawaii breakfast menus, you'd think the antioxidant packed berry was an Aloha original. I'm not complained about having eaten so many acai bowls — which combines the best aspects of superfruit smoothie, fresh fruit and crunch —  last week. I became partial to those layered with raw granola and topped with local honey. Ascension Kitchen offers a good guide to composing one at home.

Listen: I've been playing Jenny's Lewis's The Voyager (produced by Ryan Adams) nonstop. This song encapsulated her fresh, rocking sound and humor well as what it's like travel in popular vacation destinations:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Red Meat, Run Boy Run, David Jacobs-Strain to Perform at FAR-West Music Conference Venues' Choice Concert, Thursday, Oct 16, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 7:00 P.M.
Oakland Marriott
On Thursday evening, October 16, FAR-West will kick off its 11th annual conference with the Venues’ Choice concert. Five venues from around the region, dedicated to presenting acoustic music year-round, will each present an artist(s) of their choice. FAR-West's opening night 'kick-off' concerts are always one of the highlights of our conferences and we anticipate another great night!
Limited tickets ($15) are available for public purchase at the FAR-West Brown Paper Tickets site.

Folk Alliance Region West (FAR-West) is the western region of Folk Alliance International including Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Northwest Territory, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Yukon Territory.
FAR-West fosters and promotes traditional, contemporary and multicultural folk music, dance and related performing arts in the Western United States and Canada.
FAR-West supports this mission through its annual conference each fall, one of five regional Folk Alliance Conferences. The annual FAR-West conference provides a three-day, music-filled weekend for the folk and acoustic music community to unite, exchange songs and ideas, re-charge and do business.