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OUT FROM WITHIN

Ryan Rocha is a thinker, which you can probably tell by the detail in his paintings. In our interview, the Sactown-bred painter and illustrator breaks down his journey, from skating and making flyers for punk shows, to hanging with Grandma, to setting up shop in Oakland.

Her Resilience

Quelling Violence Against Women Through Art

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Harnessing the power of art as a form of healing, The Her Resilience Project aims to bring awareness to the plight of violence against women. Inspired by the violent death of Kimberly Robertson in May 2014, Hazel Streete alongside, Nicole Gervacio, Shana Lancaster, and a talented group of women have come together to create a series of events aimed to empower women while celebrating art and community.

Set to be held at Park Community Garden on March 21st, the event will feature a collection of workshops centered around self reflection and healing. After recently speaking at last week’s Wine & Bowties Talk, we spoke with the team about their inspiration for the project and their aspirations for the work.

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THE TALKS: MEET THE SPEAKERS

A brief introduction to the artists, educators, and activists that make up our panel for Sunday

Wine & Bowties

This week, we’re gearing up for the latest version of our ongoing Talks series, which goes down this Sunday at Studio Grand. This time around, we’ll be focusing on Oakland community and culture, with short talks from a panel of East Bay folks doing good work in education, social justice, arts, and journalism. Given that our focus tends to be a little further on the arts and culture side, Sunday is a cool opportunity for us to hand the floor over to some of our friends doing incredible work to build community and share ideas. Aside from that though, it’s an opportunity to open up a forum for everybody else to do the same, and for us to collectively talk through some of the conversations being had here in Oakland and beyond. Below, an introduction to our speakers: Lukas, Pendarvis, JazZ, Rick, and Hazel.

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LOST & FOUND

Stashed away for decades, John Roberts' street shots and punk portraits finally see the light of day

John Roberts

I’m never quite sure how I decide to keep the things I keep. The last few times I’ve moved, I’ve taken entire boxes knowing I wouldn’t even be planning to crack them open, probably until the next time came around. Baseball cards, Calvin & Hobbes books, ads cut out from the Source–there’s something about that experience of nostalgia that’s been too powerful for me to ditch all that stuff. I’d imagine John Roberts might have something similar to say about his collection of negatives, shot in the late ’70s and early ’80s, during a stint living in San Francisco.

When Willee hit me from New Orleans last year, he had a lot to tell me. His dad’s health was getting worse, and he was coming home in the next few months, staying indefinitely. He’d be living in the back den, half of which had just been converted from garage to living space, and during the renovation, boxes of John’s old negatives had surfaced. Naturally, they were full of amazing shit, his father having seen a lot through his camera, including the chaotic SF punk scene circa ’79. An art show was to follow. People had to see this stuff.

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AHYVE – “PURGATORY”

OnTask Fam's resident sound architect takes us somewhere else on a new five-track collection

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AHYVE

Shouts out to AHYVE, who’s been quietly putting together some of the most engrossing production work for half a decade now. Lending beats to homie projects and crafting a spacey, soulful, and atmospheric sound, his most high-profile placements so far were probably on Main Attrakionz’ 808s & Dark Grapes II, alongside contributions from Friendzone and Squadda. Since then though, he’s been steady working, churning out tracks for Metro Zu, Mondre, and OnTask family members, as well as his own solo and remix projects.

His latest, “Purgatory”, is a five-song collection, sequenced as a single track. As the title suggests, the whole experience feels a little like slipping into a coma and floating around in your subconscious for a while. Opening with crashing waves and keys, “Purgatory” fades into heavy-reverb remixes of Tinashe and “OG Bobby Johnson”. The real highlight here though, is “5150”, a dark, gorgeous collab with the homie Jjaahz. If this is your first time digging into AHYVE’s music, make sure to stop in at his Soundcloud page for more good things. For now, there’s this to meditate on.

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OMENS & OFFERINGS

Illustrator Hannah Stouffer breaks down her artistic journey and her new show at RVCA SF

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Hannah Stouffer

Every once in a while, you come across artists whose back catalog is so stacked, it’s hard to even make sense of. Looking at Los Angeles-based illustrator Hannah Stouffer‘s CV, some names come popping out at you right away. There’s her tenure at Juxtapoz. There are high-profile solo shows in LA, New York, and Miami. There are commissions for cultural institutions like Nike, Vans, Levi’s, and Dior, and editorial illustration work for The New York Times and NPR. The work itself is just is varied: natural phenomena, human bodies, metaphysical symbols, psychedelic glitter panels. There are common threads between works, but dozens of different mediums, from gigantic murals and in-store installations, to hand-drawn prints and textile patterns.

If you’re the kind of person who finds themselves browsing through Juxtapoz often, Hannah’s fingerprints would be hard to miss. Serving as the mag’s Illustration & Erotica Editor for several years, Hannah’s taken on curatorial projects to go along with her individual artistic ones, serving as a key player in putting together anthologies like Juxtapoz New Contemporary and Juxtapoz Psychedelic. In looking over Stouffer’s career so far, you can see a lot of intention–both in the detail and conceptual aspects of the work, and in building the kind of relationships that allow you to get paid for doing cool shit by people who have the budget for it. It’s an elusive balance, and one I think a lot of us are still working out.

Hannah’s latest work comes in the form of Omens & Offerings, a solo exhibition up at RVCA’s SF flagship location. When the homie Bob Sagat made the hike out the Haight a few weeks ago, we were able to set up an opportunity to talk to Hannah a little about the show, the meaning behind it, and about what she does more generally. Naturally, I found a way to wedge in a question about Ludacris. Read on below.

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REMEMBERING DORI MAYNARD

A meditation on one of Oakland's journalistic heroes, and the ideas she fought for

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It’s heartbreaking to lose those rare journalists who are committed to the context around their subjects, telling the most complete story they could. Dori J. Maynard, who was all that and more, passed away in Oakland at the age of 56 on February 25, 2015. Over the course of a career spanning four decades, Maynard worked as a reporter for a wide variety of outlets, including the Oakland Tribune, the Huffington Post, and the Detroit Free Press, earning her the title of Nieman fellow from Harvard’s school of journalism.

As a journalist, Maynard’s writing reached beyond the tropes of urban storytelling. After a fatal shooting at Art Murmur in 2013, she argued against the narrative of a “tale of two cities” when discussing violence in Oakland:

“[The] notion of a bifurcated city in which half of the population lives in upscale bliss while the rest is mired in misery is also inaccurate. Oakland may be a city of varying opportunities and experiences, but it is one city. To cover it otherwise is as misleading as looking at the violence as somehow apart from a similar epidemic plaguing the country.”

Maynard wasn’t afraid to name the culprits of misrepresentation in media because she was keenly aware that those misrepresentations traveled from public opinion to public policy. She wrote critically about the lack of diverse voices in the news discussing the murders of young black men and women at the hands of those protected by laws and badges. She recognized the incomplete picture that mainstream media tends to paint as the result of a systematic lack of intention and dedication to incorporating diversity as a framework for storytelling. “To tell the stories of communities of color,” she once lamented, “we’re relying increasingly on people who may have little or no knowledge about them.”

Her dedication to challenging journalistic failures extended to her work as president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland. Named after her father, the former editor and owner of the Oakland Tribune, the institute trained media managers and journalists from communities of color, allowing them to enter the workforce equipped with a skill for context and accuracy. Today, the Maynard Institute continues to produce work that serves as a model for nuanced and sharp commentary and criticism, embodied first and foremost by pieces written by Maynard herself.

There is a comfort in knowing that exceptional people like Maynard almost always leave a great legacy behind. Earlier this year, another rare figure in journalism, New York Times columnist David Carr, passed away. The brilliant writer Ta-Nehisi Coates who worked under Carr’s editorial guidance early in his career, describes a principle Carr instilled as such:

“David Carr convinced me that, through the constant and forceful application of principle, a young hopper, a fuck-up, a knucklehead, could bring the heavens, the vast heavens, to their knees. The principle was violent and incessant curiosity represented in the craft of narrative argument.”

By many accounts, Carr was rare not only in his loyalty to curiosity and the craft of narrative but also in his advocacy for minorities in the newsroom: the young, the women, and the writers of color many of whom followed unorthodox paths to journalism. Maynard and Carr were exceptional, in the true sense of the word: the kinds of journalists and advocates that left little space between their principles and their practice. And onward lives their legacy, through their words, the institutions they shaped and the work of those who they taught.

Learn more about the work of Dori J. Maynard and the Maynard Insitute here.

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INTRODUCING TOP SHELF COMEDY

A new hub for rising comics is putting the Oakland scene on the map

Top Shelf Comedy Oakland

Last month, on a dark Wednesday evening in Oakland, I found myself downtown in one of the neighborhood’s newer night hubs, Drexl. There, a large crowd of folks chatted excitedly, placed drink orders, and quickly found their seats. Patrons packed into booths and descended upon folding chairs lined in theater rows facing the bar’s corner staircase, with a spotlight directed at its landing for a night of stand up.

Top Shelf Comedy is the East Bay’s newest monthly stand up event, boasting a rotating line-up of eclectic local comics. The brainchild of comic and event host Jon Lawrence, Top Shelf Comedy aims to provide a diverse and accessible performance space that’s specific to Oakland.

“I plan to put the East Bay on the map in the comedy world by bringing high quality yet affordable shows with the perfect mix of classiness and rowdiness to Downtown Oakland,” says Lawrence. And so far, he has. Top Shelf Comedy aims to showcase local talent on an Oakland stage with a vibe that strikes a balance between basement open mic and high-end comedy club, for a damn affordable $5 cover.

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NATURE BOY

Fresh off his debut, and helping to grow a gear empire, Andre Martel is ready for the world

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Andre Martel

It’s not every punker that would throw a Lambo in his music video. Then again, Andre Martel is a man of broad taste. His debut full-length, His Majesty Obscured pairs cloudy psychedelia and off-the-wall slap with his own high-intensity delivery, swerving in and out of moods and ideas. One moment, he’s in heavy flex mode. The next, he’s onto emo spaceouts. The clothing line he and Antwon design, Nature World, draws on ’90s canon staples like Bugle Boy and Fubu, and alternates imagery between femdom S&M scenes, combat boots, and what may or may not be a Bobby Brackins reference.

At this point, the “Holy shit this guy loves punk stuff AND he’s great rapper!!!” angle on Twon has probably been exhausted, but the cross-cultural tendencies that have come to define Nature as a crew are still worth thinking about. They’re also–and this should be obvious to people who spend much time engaging with lots of different shit–not exactly disparate sets of ideas.

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IN WITH THE NEW

We check in with YK's own DJ Shruggs to see where he's been, and where he's going

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Our first transcendent moment with Shruggs happened at the first FEELS. As the art show slowly turned turnt, and FEELS rose to life, Shruggs (born Skyler Strickland-King) hopped on the tables. It was unexpected, considering he wasn’t on the bill, but the impromptu set set the stage for what was to come.

Rising to prominence in the Bay alongside his Youthful Kinfolk collaborators, Shruggs’ weekly radio presence in the form of Rime Radio continues provide a rarefied collection of slaps you wouldn’t really expect to hear together. Broadcasting live on All Day Play FM at Downtown’s Youth Radio, Rime brings together an eclectic mix of rap and electronic, splitting the difference between dark and moody, and smooth and melodic. That unpredictability is a good thing, and one that sets Shruggs apart when approaching his craft. With YK’s Open House event on the way for tomorrow afternoon, we sat down with Shruggs to check in on what’s next.

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ON TECH & THE PRISON SYSTEM

Pendarvis Harshaw dives deep into the ways technology is changing the world for the incarcerated

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Fusion

All praises due to our good friend Pendarvis, for helping to tell stories that matter. As the journalist, and photojournalist, behind OG Told Me, Pen’s photo-interview-essay series with Oakland’s assorted elders is just one of the many storytelling exercises he’s been a part of. More recently though, Pen set up shop in a new position at SF’s Fusion to continue on the journalistic path, with a newfound focus on the strange, exciting, and frequently troubling space that is the tech sector.

Pen’s latest project, a collaboration with Fusion’s Senior Editor Kevin Roose, sheds some light on the fascinating but under-covered intersection between tech and the prison system. “Tech Behind Bars” is split into three pieces, each focused on a different issue–the first on the illicit market for digital devices behind bars, the second on the difficulties inmates encounter on entering a “digital society,” and the third on “video visitations” and the range of new tech devices being introduced into the corrective industry’s institutional framework.

For those of who mostly encounter tech reporting through stories about either how many hundreds of millions some enterprise software startup just raised, or which cool ass neighborhood landmark is about to get bulldozed, reporting like this is always refreshing. As we keep on grappling with the big questions–like say, whether all this new technology will keep opening up lanes for empowering people, or whether powerful people will just have more efficient weapons at their disposal to shit on everyone else and sell them things–it’s cool to talk about the impact of all these advances on people who tend to get left out of the conversation. In any case, Pen and Kevin have more insight than I do on the subject, so peep the excerpts below, and follow the links. More than worth the read.

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RARE COLLECT

Oakland's own Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment is a video game archive for the people

Museum of Art & Digital Media Photography by Max Claus

The first time I walked into The MADE, it was a trip. A trip because I hadn’t expected to confront my childhood and feel the nostalgia of remembering how dope it was to be a kid. As the bleeps and bops, loading screens, and box art images flashed in my head, I kept asking myself, “how haven’t I heard about this place?”

If at some point in the past, you were obsessed and consumed with video games, The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment is quite literally a safe place you can go to relive and reflect on a time when NBA Jam Tournament Edition was all that mattered and which one of your homies got all 120 stars in Super Mario 64. Looking around at everything for me started to trigger vivid memories of once meaningful video game achievements and that one time on my birthday when I wanted Street Fighter 2 for the SNES but that shit was sold out everywhere. Haven’t fucked with birthdays since then.

The MADE is a non-profit museum that houses a collection of historically significant works in video games. It is dedicated to educating and teaching the public about how video games are created, and how they’ve changed over the years. Its main goals are preserving the history of video games and heralding them as an artistic medium.

Oh, and you can play them.

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KOSSISKO – “THIS MAY BE ME”

The artist formerly known as 100s takes a step toward reinvention

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Kossisko

“To the 100s fans, I appreciate each and every one of you, but it’s now time for me to continue my journey. So this is goodbye.” So says the kinda-epitaph that closes out the video for “Ten Freaky Hoes,” the vocoder-laced slice of synth boogie g-funk that served as the de facto lead single for IVRY. Released in the fall of last year, the video is an at-least-for-now swan song for the 100s project, which found the Berkeley native going balls to the wall with uncompromising, $hort-inspired pimp raps. A few years removed from stumbling on a YouTube embed of “My Activator” on Yams’ Tumblr, IVRY and Ice Cold Perm stand as two of the most all-around solid rap projects I can remember from the last half a decade.

As of last week though, the Kossisko persona has gone live, following up a few one-offs with a legitimate introduction in “This May Be Me”. Slow burning and new wavey, with Kossi singing in a Billy Idol/Bowie on “China Girl”-register, the song is likely to be billed as a rebrand, which it isn’t exactly. Like a bunch of the best tracks from Perm or IVRY, production on this one is led by Joe Wax, and there’s a pretty clear kinship between the slinky ’80s synth slow-burn here, and the more Purple Rain-ish chunks of IVRY–even putting aside the guitar solo. Anyway, it’s a jam, and the video’s pretty wet too. I guess a little change never hurt anybody.

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NOISE POP SHOWS YOU SHOULD HIT

This week, SF's sprawling indie fest is coming to a venue near you

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Noise Pop

Now in their third decade of operation, Noise Pop has had the kind of longevity most music events can only dream about. Dispersed across a few dozen venues in the city, and now the Town, NP’s 2015 iteration brings with it another lineup that’s impossibly stacked with shows, featuring buzzy indie outfits, electronic experimenters, and onetime P4k darlings. In 2015, I’m kinda inherently suspicious of big, broadly booked festivals that purposefully don’t really book rappers, but shit, you still gotta to give it Noise Pop for consistently booking solid bands, and putting on for a good chunk of the local scene. Plus, any festival that counts DJ Rashad and R. Stevie Moore as alums is OK by me.

In that spirit, we figured we should put together a quick overview of some of the folks playing the festival that shouldn’t be missed. You might notice the acts here fall a little further down the bill, and that a lot of them are from Oakland or SF. This is for a few reasons, one of which is that if you want to see Caribou or the dude from Death Cab, you’re shit outta luck anyway. The other reason, obviously, are that the bands are tight, and that you should support tight bands that live near where you live. OK, let’s do this.

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