Bay Area arts: 11 cool festivals and shows to take in this weekend

Bay Area arts: 11 cool festivals and shows to take in this weekend

From a new “Soul Train” musical to a gaggle of fairs and festivals and a symphony of animals sounds, there is a lot of great stuff to see and do in the Bay Area this weekend and beyond. Here’s a partial roundup.

Broadway-bound ‘Hippest Trip’ gets hopping.

As the story goes, radio DJ and music impresario Don Cornelius was irate at the lack of Black music artists on television in the late 1960s. So he decided to do something about it. The result was “Soul Train,” a sort of “American Grandstand” for the mostly Black fans of contemporary soul and R&B music, which debuted on TV in 1971 and became one of the most successful shows in broadcast history, while changing the American pop culture landscape forever.

The story behind “Soul Train,” the impact it made by introducing African American music to mainstream America and the personalities and stars it created is covered in a world premiere musical, “Hippest Trip — The Soul Train Musical,” debuting in previews on Aug. 25. It’s presented by American Conservatory Theater. With a book by Tony winner Dominique Morisseau (“Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations”), musical arrangements by Kenny Seymour and choreography by Camille A. Brown, “Hippest Trip” plays at ACT’s Toni Rembe Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco, through Oct. 1.

The buzzy musical is said to be aimed for an eventual Broadway run and backed by some big names in the biz, including Generation Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots, Don Cornelius’s son Tony Cornelius; and Emmy-nominated “CSI” creator Anthony E. Zuiker, all of whom are credited as executive producers.

Details: $25-$140; www.act-sf.org.

— Randy McMullen, Staff

Festivals: Arts, pride and classic cars

Late summer means another weekend packed with festival choices. This time it’s gay pride, classic cars and hot rods, arts and wine, antiques and collectibles. Here are the highlights:

Palo Alto Festival of the Arts: Celebrating the 40th year of this University Avenue event with 250 arts booths, Italian Street Painting Expo along Tasso Street, live music on two stages, children’s art studio, plus food, wine, beer. Bring tote bags for purchases. Details: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 26-27; free admission; www.paloaltochamber.com/festival-of-the-arts

Silicon Valley Pride: “Live Out Proud” festival, 6-11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, followed by parade at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, along Market Street and festival noon-6 p.m. Aug. 27. Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park, 1 Paseo De San Antonio, San Jose. Live entertainment, vendors and food. Festival admission, $5 per day. Details: www.svpride.com

Goodguys West Coast Nationals: More than 3,500 American-made hot rods, classic cars and trucks and customized vehicles will be on hand at the Alameda Fairgrounds in Pleasanton from Friday through Sunday for the 36th West Coast Nationals. Event also features AutoCross competition, dragster exhibition, swap meet, kids zone. Details: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday; $25-28, with military/veteran discount at the gate; parking extra; www.good-guys.com.

Niles Antique Faire & Flea Market: Scores of merchants will assemble on the streets of this historic Fremont district on Sunday for the 59th annual antiques and collectibles sale. Official hours are from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., but bargain hunters often arrive early with flashlights. Details: Free admission; www.niles.org.

— Linda Zavoral, Staff

“The Great Animal Orchestra,” an audiovisual installation illuminating and celebrating nature, is at the Exploratorium in San Francisco through October. (The Exploratorium) 

Critters on key

To call “The Great Animal Orchestra” at The Exploratorium in San Francisco an immersive audiovisual exhibition only partly describes experiencing the remarkable work created by Sonoma bioacoustician and musician Bernie Krause.

After working on such films as “Apocalypse Now,” Krause tired of Hollywood and embarked on a long-term project: making 5,000 hours of recordings in nature over 40 years. He came up with an acoustic harmony among some 15,000 species studied in the soundscapes of the oceans, in Africa, in Amazonia and in U.S. and Canadian national parks.

“Animal Orchestra,” commissioned in 2016, is a sound symphony realized and visualized through real-time streaming spectrograms. Projections of sounds speed around the darkened theater space. On one wall is a display of sonic frequencies in vivid color. A shallow ring of water below the projections moves in ripples and waves.

In seven looping soundscapes that are 12 minutes each, there are the melodic, trumpeting calls of African forest elephants, chattering exchanges by humpback whales, howling wolfpacks in Ontario, Canada punctuated by hundreds of bird calls and insect extravaganzas. Pixilated woodpeckers come across like tuned pile drivers. African baboons sound off looking for mates as they call from inside rock caves to amplify their voices.

Details: Through Oct. 15; the Exploratorium, Pier 15, Embarcadero at Green Street, San Francisco; $30-$45, with discounts available; exploratorium.edu.

— Caroline Crawford, Bay City News Foundation

Cinequest keeps on rolling

San Jose’s popular and acclaimed Cinequest film fest — with its seriously mind-bending lineup of 250-plus film screenings — continues through Wednesday in downtown San Jose and Mountain View (www.cinequest.org). Here are a couple recommended films.

“Under the Influencer ”: Social media influencers tend to be easy targets for criticism, a fact that weighs heavy on the mind of perky YouTube sensation Tori (Taylor Joree Scorse). She has built a following and a successful business, but her career and personal life collapse due to her vapid and conniving competition Becca (Ava Westcott) and an alarming health scare. Director-screenwriter Alex Haughey astutely reflects up the influencer culture without belittling it in this thoroughly enjoyable dramedy. Screening: 11 a.m. Aug. 24 at Mountain View ShowPlace ICON Theatre & Kitchen.

“Swarm”: In this adult twist on “Robinson Crusoe” and “Swiss Family Robinson,” a husband and wife, their teen son and younger daughter lead a survivalist life on a remote island somewhere in Northern Europe. But 10 years in, tensions are at all-time high and are leading to hostilities between father and son and husband and wife. When a shocking event happens, the balance of power shifts in Bartek Bala’s “Lord of the Flies”-like parable. Screenings: 7:10 p.m. Aug. 27 and 5:45 Aug. 30 at Mountain View Showplace ICON.

— Randy Myers, Bay City News Foundation 

Kronos plays for free

The Bay Area’s internationally renowned Kronos Quartet is about to launch, amazingly enough, its 50th concert season, and the ensemble will kick it off with a free concert at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Bandshell on the Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse in San Francisco.

Long celebrated for practically reinventing the string quartet and rendering it wholly relevant to contemporary times, Kronos consists of violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt and cellist Paul Wiancko. They have won multiple major awards, including three Grammys,and have released more than 70 recordings.

Their program for Saturday’s concert will include both new works and signature pieces from their vast repertoire, including music by Angélique Kidjo, Bob Dylan, Sigúr Ros and others. This will be their first appearance at the Bandshell, and founder and artistic director Harrington comments: “What a thrill and renewal it will be to play at this beautiful gem in the beating heart and breathing lungs of our city for our friends and neighbors.”

Details: More information at kronosquartet.org.

— Bay City News Foundation

In time with Tash Sultana

The thing about a Tash Sultana concert is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get. Not that this 28-year-old Australian singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist isn’t consistently terrific and passionate on stage or in the studio. It’s just that Sultana (who describes themself as gender fluid and uses the pronouns they/them) can literally do just about anything. They can play guitar, various keyboards, bass, a variety of percussion instruments, beatmaking and sampling machines, trumpet, saxophone, flute, mandolin, oud, harmonica, panpipe and probably several other things we’re not aware of. Sultana puts this orchestra of versatility to use tackling musical styles ranging from psychedelic rock to reggae to neo-soul to blues and hip-hop, and ties it all together with a lovely singing voice that boasts a five-octave range.

Sultana performs live as a one-person band, producing a rich and often driving sound with an army of looping and percussion machines. Sultana’s musical path reportedly started when they were 3 years old with a guitar gifted by their grandfather. By their early teens, Sultana was playing open mic events wherever they could, but their unusual personal style often discouraged venue owners from booking them; so Sultana took to the streets and evolved into a legendary busker around Melbourne. Sultana continued to draw attention until 2016, when they dropped a music video titled “Jungle” on social media sites and it garnered more than 1 million views in five days.

Since then, there have been performances around the world, two EPs, two full-length albums and  current tour that  brings them to a concert at Stanford’s Frost Amphitheatre on Aug. 25.

Details: Presented by Stanford Live; 6:30 p.m.; $49.95-$55; live.stanford.edu.

— Bay City News Foundation

The Songs of Sondheim

It’s hard to believe that November will mark the two-year anniversary of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, a man who revolutionized musical theater so thoroughly that many of us are still trying to catch up. With their sophisticated melodies and rhythms, and lyrics and themes that explored darker aspects of love and life, Sondheim’s songs and musicals created a new experience at the theater. So any chance we have to revel in his catalog should not be taken lightly. Now Contra Costa Civic Theatre company is affording such a chance with a production of “Sondheim on Sondheinm.” Mixing interview footage with live song and dance performances by a cast of eight Bay Area theater mainstays, the show presents a wide-ranging look at Sondheim’s life and theatrical achievements. Most important, of course, “Sondheim on Sondheim” serves up some two dozen musical nuggets from the composer and lyricist, including “Love Is In The Air,” “Comedy Tonight,” “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “Waiting for the Girls Upstairs,” “Happiness,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Company – Old Friends,” and many more. CCCT executive artistic director Marilyn Langbehn helms the production at Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito.

Details: Aug. 25-Sept. 10; $40 for adults, $20 for youths aged 13-17 and $10 for kids ages 6-12; ccct.org.

— Bay City News Foundation