Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What I Did Over Summer Vacation

It has been another active summer.

We saw our daughter Anita sing for the band Cher Horowitz at the Gay Pride Day celebration. I had seen her perform before as DJ Durt. She played Rhythm and Blues classics from the Sixties. The same songs I used to listen to on The West Side! Great dancing music. DJ Durt can really get the party going.

Cher Horowitz got a spot on The Women’s Stage at Gay Pride. “We’re a Punk band from San Francisco!” Durt Gurl yelled. It was a thrill to see her stalking the stage, singing and rocking out! The band sounded great with pounding beats. We got to go backstage and meet the rest of the band. They went on a long tour that took them all the way to Maine and Canada.

The Fillmore Street Fair still draws a big crowd, but it hasn’t had the drunken excesses of some of the other fairs in San Francisco. Maybe it’s because it features Jazz music.

There are four stages and we heard The Marcus Shelby Trio at the California Street stage. They played a great set that included a couple of Irving Berlin songs. We wandered around a bit and came back to see Kim Nalley.

Nalley is a local and in all her glory playing the Fillmore neighborhood. We arrive to hear “Compared to What.” Then she sings The Ella Fitzgerald hit: “Tisket Tasket.” They did a version of “Long Gone Blues” with many dental double entendres. There were lines about a woman’s pain and novocaine, and what a big driller her dentist is.

They do have a problem at this stage with crowd traffic. Even though they put barriers up to guide the crowd it turns into human gridlock as the day goes on. Kim Nalley had to stop the show for a while, “Some policemen are upset.” We left to hear some old Blues songs from Scary Larry and the Blues Monsters. Despite the crowds, The Fillmore Street festival is still a great event.

Some of the street fairs in San Francisco have had problems. They just got too big and out of control. There was no alcohol sold at The Union Street Festival. I heard that people in that neighborhood loved it. It was a smaller, more family oriented event. We went to The North Beach Fair. Drinkers there were herded into small areas on the street, like social outcasts. There are still plenty of bars around, but the fair doesn’t get as crazy as it used to. There was no big stage set up in Washington Square Park. It’s the first time that has happened in years.

North Beach legend Carol Doda performed at the end of Grant Street. The first topless dancer on Broadway is getting old, but showed she’s still a performer. The Jazz band with her played a couple of warm up songs. Doda seemed a bit miffed when they start the third one.

Doda is a petite woman with platinum hair. She wore a silver and black pantsuit. She is the feisty stripper with a heart of gold. She still sings in San Francisco night clubs. She’s a show business veteran with the old North Beach rough edge. She started with a cocktail lounge classic: “You’re Nobody Until Somebody Loves You.” The next song: “These Boots Were Made For Walking” could have been written for her. This woman has seen a lot of North Beach entertainment history.

A young guy, Jacob, goes up to the stage carrying a music case. He joins the band and plays very well. He wants to stay, but the band tells Doda he’s had enough time onstage. I see him later in the crowd. He’s still exulting and buzzing a bit from more than holding his own onstage.

Doda tried to get people dancing from the start. She called a young guy with no shirt on and his partner to the front of the stage. She calls him “Tarzan.” The band does a Mambo number and a woman in a green shirt shakes it up. One of the locals joins her.

Doda turns the stage over to several “guests.” The first is Pedro Ramos and he’s obviously a veteran of singing lounge standards. Another woman joins later and does a Nat King Cole song. Doda has a seat at the front of the stage. She looks content to have others carry the show. The third guest is a woman the crowd recognizes as being from the neighborhood. She sings “Volare” and gets the crowd clapping and singing along with “Mambo Italiano.”

Peter Maccharini sat outside his shop on a stool. He’s in his work apron and working on some jewelry. Tourists come by and take pictures of the local North Beach artisan.

The stage schedule is strictly adhered to. “How long do we have? Two minutes? What can you do in two minutes? You can’t do anything in two minutes.” There are smirks and laughs from the crowd. Doda pretends to realize her inadvertent double entendre. “Oh.”

Two San Francisco police are standing near the stage. There is an increased police presence at most San Francisco street fairs. Doda sings her last number, a short love song, directly to the waiting cops. They do have to laugh.

The North Beach Fair has been scaled back a bit. Maybe it did get too big. I overheard someone say they failed to get the right music permits this year. Carol Doda was the only real live music we saw at the fair.

We went to the Cotati Accordion Festival, an interesting little event with a wide range of acts with one thing in common: Accordion! We had missed it last year. The day was full of frantic absurdity. Folk group Limpopo came onstage in babushka drag and performed juggling feats during their songs. Two of the members are from Siberia! The Great Morgani, a former stock broker, filled in between acts on the second stage wearing his wild costumes. The headliner on Saturday was Polkacide, a legendary combination of Polka and Punk. Like most of the Punk generation, the players have aged, but they put on a spirited show that had the crowd dancing.

Kathy got us one of the treasured picnic tables at a Stern Grove event. It’s the Seventy-fourth year that concerts have been held on summer Sundays there. The programs each year run the gamut: Symphony, Opera, Ballet, Jazz, and a Rhythm and Blues day. It was built for another time and it’s a little small now for the crowds it can draw if there’s a bigger name involved. There’s limited room inside ‘the bowl.” People sit on the steep slope across from the stage. Eucalyptus trees cut off much of the view, but people get spots up there and listen. Like any free event, it can get crowded. We try to go once a year. It’s worth it to see the Trocadero Clubhouse.

We got to see Luisa Maita as the opener, with Wil Campa y Su Orchestra as the main act. It was Salsa Day at Stern Grove. It’s not a show we would have usually gone to. Luisa Maita and her small band opened. They were surprising. Some of their music sounded Goth at times.

Salsa means dancing and party and the crowd was ready and excited to see Wil Campa and his Orchestra. Dancers filled in a small area in front of the stage. The band wore matching blue suits and the horn players did some synchronized dance routines. Wil Campa is quite an entertainer. He really got the Salsa party going.

San Francisco events are changing. Some events got too big, but seem to be adjusting. There are still great events happening on summer weekends in San Francisco.