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SO OBSESSED

Some vibrant nostalgia from the mind of Michelle Guintu. East Bay raised but SF residing, Michelle has developed her aesthetic simply by painting the things she likes. From 90′s R&B superstars, like Missy and Aaliyah, to Joe Montana paintings and McDonald’s installations.

ABOUT FRIDAY NIGHT

We teamed up with a few friends to bring you Sick Sad Decent, and a very special guest

ABOUT FRIDAY NIGHT

Photography by Ray Solorzano

Folks who made it out to Riddim on Friday found themselves in a right place-right time type of scenario. Maybe somebody told them something. Maybe they just thought it was going up by virtue of the folks involved. Whatever the case, when Diplo made his way up to the top floor booth around midnight, the spot was already in motion, with vibes curated by Sick Sad’s finest. Phones popped out of pockets and Diplo made at least one of those “Yeah, I know! It’s Diplo!” faces at this one girl. It was tight. Fresh off the Mad Decent stage at the Greek, he treated an only-kinda-suspecting crowd to an eclectic set, making sure to sprinkle in a few homecourt anthems for good measure.

A major thank you to all the parties involved–especially Hawa, Bobby Peru, and DJ Dials–but really to the entire Sick Sad World//TT6 and Browntourage families too. Team effort on this one, as usual. Fortunately, our friend Ray was on the scene to snap a few souvenirs in 35mm. More from him here.

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SO OBSESSED

Enter into the colorful, nostalgic world of Michelle Guintu

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We came across Michelle Guintu going down the rabbit hole, the internet making everything so accessible. Praise be to the internet, where you can meet a lover, get a job, or find your new favorite artist. In the latter section is where we find Michelle Guintu. An East Bay raised, SF-residing visual artist, Michelle’s most recent exhibition came together in the formation of Hype Nation, a group show curated by RVCA and the VASF Gallery this summer.

When I touched base with Michelle she was in transition, having recently wrapped up her latest show, and looking forward to her second solo show in L.A. this December. With a vibrant and playful aesthetic, much of Michelle’s recent work depicts a whimsical 90′s hip hop utopia, where TLC is reunited, and Biggie, Pac and Janet Jackson go on picnics. Amidst it all, we see a sharp attention to detail that makes Michelle’s work unique. In between creations, we spoke with Michelle about how she developed her aesthetic, her early memories creating, and her love for R. Kelly.

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OAKLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL: THE OFFICIAL PREVIEW

Our guide to the sights and sounds at OMF, which takes over Downtown next Saturday

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Oakland Music Festival

Summer in The Town has been something to see this year. Trill Team’s been throwing bangers, Youthful Kinfolk have been doing their thing, and Flavourhood’s set to make a return. The 15th Street galleries are carving out their corner and Daghe, Taulib and the C8C fam have turned up Sundays pretty reliably. Meanwhile, we’ve had everything from bike parties and screenings, to art shows to undergrounds go up. On the more macro scale though, the day festivals and block parties have never been more plentiful. There have been beerfests and food walks, block parties and corporate-sponsored megafests. A few, like Hiero Day or the Malcolm X Jazz Fest, have been pretty damn transcendent, channeling the city’s energy and its eclecticism.

Fortunately, Oakland Music Fest also promises to be heavy on both those things, having rolled out a lineup this month that both celebrates The Town’s independent, ground-level scene, and recruits some talent from our neighbors down South. Now in its second year, the festival is a homegrown effort, the brainchild of Oakland entrepreneur Alfonso Dominguez and a dedicated crew of volunteers. Booked independently, and supported by local mainstays like Oaklandish, Lagunitas, and Pandora, the fest will kick off year two next Saturday, with headlining sets from Dom Kennedy and SZA. Rounding out the bill are more than a dozen hometown heroes, including the HNRL Crew, Trill Team 6, and Ezale.

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FLAVOURHOOD PRESENTS “SEEN 2″

Oakland's realest arts collective returns with a two-part group photo show and zine

Flavourhood

I don’t think I’m alone in saying the last Flavourhood show was one of the dopest events I’ve ever been to. Buried deep under Korean BBQ hotspot Gogi Time was a group show for the ages, spread across different disciplines, but curated with care by Japheth, Ben, Ruth, and the FH team. Seen 2, the East Bay art collective’s latest project, opens up on Friday in Berkeley, and narrows the focus a little, so to speak.

Seen 2, as the title hints at, is a two-part group photography show, highlighting the work of 18 of the Bay’s finest shooters, including many friends of the Bowties, and even our very own [Dispo] Max Gibson. Also on the bill: FH’s Japheth Gonzalez, Kristian Contreras, Lauren Crew, and OnTask affiliate Valentin Saqueton. All that talent will be split up across consecutive Fridays, with the debut on Friday, and part two a week later on the 26th.

Aside from the art on the walls, Seen 2 will also provide the platform to launch Flavourhood’s latest publication, a 48-page collaborative zine with work from a handful of the folks in the show. Below, we have a few rare excerpts, but Friday, you’ll get a chance to delve a little deeper. Come find us there. Show opens at 6.

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LES SINS – “BOTHER”

The artist sometimes known as Toro puts in work with some new visuals

LES SINS – “BOTHER”

Les Sins

Shouts out wacky waving inflatable tube men. Are those dudes ever having a bad time? Guess it kinda depends which direction you draw the mouth, and a flailing sad bruh would probably sell a lot less cars or furniture or other things sold on the side of interstate highways. Plus, everybody’s gotta work. Maybe it’s naive to think these guys aren’t phoning it in at least like some of the time. Anyway I’m slightweight blown, and I’m enjoying this, as I do pretty much all of Chaz Bundick’s audio-visual output.

“Bother” starts as a busy house workout, syncopating percussion around a simple request and a statement: “Don’t bother me…I’m workin’.” Like most of Chaz’s (AKA Toro Y Moi) Les Sins material, this is uptempo, built for sweaty places with brick walls and cool-looking lights. Around the 2:30 mark though, it splits open into something sublime–a giant, shining ball of choral vocal and synth funk vamp–before shrinking back down into “Nautilus”-style Rhodes. Enjoy this for now, and catch Les Sins on tour this Fall. Some extra Chaz-related goodies below, because they’re relevant, and good, and you deserve great content™.

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LIVE FROM FUNKTOWN

Born and raised in East Oakland, hometown hero Ezale embodies the Town spirit

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Photography by Ngozi Gant

I stepped out of my car on a sunny Oakland day and looked around a little confused. I had just gotten off the phone with my interview subject whose directions, to walk down the long driveway to the back, could have applied to many houses on the block. A man in a Buick on big rims was hitting a U-turn and noticed my uncertainty. “You looking for Ezale? He’s back there,” he said, pointing in the direction of a two-story white house to my left. I thanked him and started towards the driveway.

Ezale greeted me at the gate and led me to a shed in the back of the house where he and five or six others were watching the latest edit of his new music video for “Too High”. The Cambodian rapper is short with long braided hair and animated features that draw all of your attention when he talks. He was meticulously going over the details of the video: the order of the scenes, the effects, and the transitions, pausing every once in a while to make a comment to himself or the group. Turning away from the computer he asked, “You think the “Up Down” beat is too old?”. We all assured him that he had made the song completely his own.

My initial exposure to Ezale came with the music video for “5 Minutes of Funktown”, a localized play on the classic Whodini song that cycles through funk-sampling beats for five minutes. The video expresses Ezale’s personality perfectly while paying homage to his neighborhood at the same time. For those unfamiliar, Funktown is the name for an area of East Oakland between 1st Ave and 19th Avenues and east of Park Boulevard. In the ’70s and ’80s, Funktown was the home of one of Oakland’s most notorious gangs. Now, the neighborhood is one of the city’s most diverse, with families hailing from all over the globe living side by side.

Ezale represents a sound and energy that has too often been watered down, replicated, and uncredited. Although he has only released one mixtape and three videos, he’s earned high praise in likely and unlikely locales. Below is an excerpt from a phone conversation that took place a couple weeks after our first meeting.

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MOVIN MEAN

Lifestyle photographer Max Claus captures our third Bike Night through Oakland

MOVIN MEAN
Photography By Max Claus

We were riding down 40th when the moment set in. Will, ever so sure with the playlists offering up the most settled vibes. Something like that Washed Out into the Nicole Wray had Bike Night Part III going up. It was beautiful. With the jams amplified by Manifesto’s mobile speaker system, we were absolutely groovin. Like all Wine & Bowties efforts this one took a team effort. From Blooddren, the leader of the pack keepin the whole squad together, to Milt with the mobile tire pump, we were good to go. Maybe you just had to be there, but I hope those moments were a sign of things to come.

We bike to get the exercise, but more importantly we bike to bring it all together. To offer up an experience you’re not soon to forget. For those that have ventured out to be a part of these past three rides, thank you for riding with us.

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POWER UP

An intimate conversation with Elaine Brown over The Black Power Mixtape

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Photo by Jasmin Porter

As Elaine spoke, I tried not to blink. My eyes, welled up with water were about to burst and I didn’t want her to see a tear stream down my face in the middle of a Q&A. “What the hell you cryin, for?” She’d probably ask. The moment was real, and I felt it. But I wasn’t the only one.

On Thursday night we partnered with our friends at Oakland Surf Club to present a screening of The Black Power Mixtape. After some brief technical difficulties, we screened the film to a beautiful audience of artists, creatives and thinkers. The room was so thick that people were standing, it was a squeeze to even find a place to be. A few moments before the film, we were blessed by Elaine Brown, the former Chair of the Black Panthers and still an activist at heart. With her dynamic voice, loaded with purpose she spoke to us about the 1960′s, contextualizing the film through a searing history lesson of race relations in Oakland and abroad.

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FREE SPIRIT

We chat with mixed-media artist Austin Willis as he preps his debut art exhibition in Oakland

Photo by Goose

Perhaps we weren’t the only ones left with a raised eyebrow and our curiosity piqued when we heard mixed-media artist Austin Willis announce his first art show. It’s a smart move, considering Oakland’s current renaissance and the ground level ingenuity, which leaves plenty of room for collaboration. Specializing in graphic design and digital illustration, at the ripe age of 20, the self-taught artist has recently enrolled in San Francisco’s Academy of Art University to sharpen his skills. From digital design pieces laced with crisp patterns, to custom kicks, to album art, Austin’s already begun building up a solid body of work that’s both playful and distinctive. On the cusp of his first solo show, we took a moment to chat with Austin about his inspirations, influences, and what we can expect from his upcoming debut at Downtown Oakland’s Massive on Friday.

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SENSATIONS FIX RETURNS

Franco Falsini's cult favorite prog ensemble takes the stage in SF this weekend

Sensations Fix

In the wake of their odd and beautiful ’70s output, a lot of the writing on Franco Falsini’s Sensations Fix ensemble has focused on how difficult the music is to classify. When Steve at Superior Viaduct put me up on their gorgeous reissue of Fragments of Light he explained how prog doesn’t quite capture it. “When I think of prog, I think of big, bombastic drums and virtuosic solos,” he told me. Sensations Fix’s music, as he explained, is more about texture, atmosphere.

As I found out, exploring that record, and the SF back catalog (a substantial chunk of which was reissued by RVNG Intl. in 2012), it’s definitely tough to squeeze into any given box. But despite that difficulty, it’s pretty damn easy to listen to. Mostly home-recorded, Falsini’s music is heavy on synth squiggles, lush textures, warped guitar effects, and occasional dream-state vocals. It’s unrestrained and playful in the way that most of the best Krautrock or early-career Vangelis stuff is, but generally light on percussion or frantic energy. Despite the psychedelic layers, it tends to skew jangly and melodic rather than heavy.

In any case, this Saturday at SF’s Brick & Mortar, we’re all lucky enough to have an opportunity to catch Franco and the original members of Sensations Fix live, in the first West Coast tour date of their strange and storied careers. For the professional diggers, it’s a chance to see a band behind a handful of culty, experimental classics bring their art back to life in a live space. For the more casual listeners, it’s a chance to hear some beautiful weird cool shit in the company of people who take beautiful weird cool shit very seriously. Tickets here, pretty sounds further down the page.

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