into the underground with
There are many Bay Areas, each one hipper than the preceding. I had pretty much given up on North Beach, abandoning it to the tourists as a kind of Beat wax museum, until I got snared by the Tentacle Sessions, produced by Laughing Squid.
The Laughing Squid list features email dispatches on art, culture, and cacophonous activities, mostly in the Bay Area. It’s one way of learning how to drop in and out of the many undergrounds that honeycomb this place we call home.
Laughing Squid Productions has taken its mission to inform beyond the world of the wired to cool non-computer folks. It offers a recorded digest of events via a voice mail system at The Number (415) 289-6666. Tell a friend who can’t click on a link or check their email, they can still let their fingers do the talking.
The logic of the Tentacle Sessions is impeccable: take the living artists we know and love, who are promoted on the list and move in overlapping scenes–give them one night on a stage in a North Beach bar to do their thing.
The usual suspects here might be expected to enjoy if not create Art Cars, Burning Man, and many of the upstart circuses and blasphemous churches that threaten to make life in these parts a complete carnival.
All this, and more, the third Sunday of the month from 6:30-9:30.(Blue Bar, 501 Broadway, San Francisco beneath the Black Cat restaurant). The cost is $5-10, sliding scale; 21 and over.
The series began in February with the stately, sub-genial Hal Robins, who is an underground comic artist with an anachronistic, mellifluous manner that conjures another time, a once parallel universe that may now be in collision with this one. In a declamatory tour de force, Robins recited Coleridge’s epic sailor poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" with projected illustrations by Gustave Dore’. If any person could hold a jaded 90s crowd rapt with 19th-century laudanum-soaked verse, it was Robins.
March’s session featured Harrod Blank, film-maker and art car artist of Camera Van fame. Harrod showed a rarely-seen early film that got him in trouble at school, In the Land of the Owl Turds, about his gangly loneliness as a developing art car nerd in and around Santa Cruz. Blank's aesthetic pursuits may have made him a social outcast, but they did yield an evening full of fun and hilarious stories. Harrod told of a cross country trip showing his documentary Wild Wheelsand raising funds for the sequel, Driving the Dream, lingering with perverse glee over an anecdote detailing an unrequited run-in with an oversexed fan in Florida who was as short as he is tall.
At a recent Session, I knew that I was entering a Seussian world where anything could happen when a clown began losing hats off his head, each one progressively goofier as it peeled away to reveal another. This while DJ Toph1 twirled disks and a curious audience assembled.
Michael McElligott is one of the producers of the Tentacle Sessions. On this evening, he was the featured performer, indulging in a mix of media that was weighted towards poetry.
Paying tribute to the genius loci, he read some Bob Kaufman and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (whose words Toph1 muralized on a wall of the Black Cat). mikl-em (his aka) also performed his own dadaish poems, and provided a critical retrospective on a little-known group of Scottish film-makers, the Invisiblists.
The atmosphere of the Blue Bar is cosy lounge. There is fine pasta to be had from the Black Cat upstairs. The audience seems to be on intimate terms with the performers; they could just as easily be out blowing shit up, or burning the giant figure of a man on a beach or in the desert, but instead they are here being entertained by living artists.
Here, the photo to the right is from the most recent Tentacle Session on May 16 which was an evening with Brian Goggin. He is the sculptor whose Defenestration, remains a serenely weird installation on a condemned building at 6th and Howard.
Here Goggin is seen flashing back to the 1997 unveiling of his sculpture "Body of Urban Myth" in Palo Alto.
Perhaps Brian has an idea for the Embarcadero, now that Buster Simpson's giant Foot got the boot? Come and find out! On June 20, anti-performance artist Michael Peppe will take the stage, and another Evil Empire may tremble and fall.
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