Best Grassroots Radical Guerrilla Marching Band
For the longest time, I could not figure out what type of band rehearsal I was hearing through the hills every time I visited Graton. They had horns, but they weren't a ska band. They had drum cadences, but they weren't a military band. It was like some sort of subversive, renegade hooligan band playing demonic, jazzy Eastern European melodies. Just who were these people?
Months later at the Handcar Regatta, a cluster of semi-uniformed revelers called the Hubbub Club Marching Band turned up surreptitiously, marching through the crowd in guerrilla ranks, and the sound was immediately recognizable. This was the band! A drum majorette, a glockenspiel, plenty of brass, woodwinds, drums, an accordion and a sousaphone made a joyful noise unto the Railroad Square skies. Heads turned, hands clapped and small children, as if reenacting some lost episode of The Andy Griffith Show, queued up behind the band to march along in exuberant imitation.
The 30-member Hubbub Club Marching Band is grassroots, radical and loads of fun. Founder Jesse Olsen, grandson of author Tillie Olsen, describes it as "a marching band that's open to all—mixed-level, mixed-age, mixed-background—that's specifically about playing in such a way that supports our community and causes that we believe in." Hence, they've showed up and honked away at bicycle races, art shows and, in their most public display of political support, a huge Santa Rosa march against Proposition 8.
"People tend to be shocked, in a really positive way," says Olsen of the general reaction. Usually, the surprise gives way to thrill among the general populace; most of the negative reactions come from police, who have cited all sorts of obscure ordinances to get the band to shut up. (The HCMB shares members with the Jungle Love Orchestra, who are currently collecting signatures to overturn some of those ordinances.) The band's repertoire—"Watermelon Man," "Moliendo Cafe," "Down by the Riverside," "Theme from 8 1/2, " to name a few—is chosen by consensus, as the band has no official leader; they even take turns conducting.
Next month, the Hubbub Club Marching Band heads up to Seattle for Honkfest, a three-day convention of radical grassroots marching bands. They've also come to an agreement to appear in Sebastopol's Apple Blossom parade, which, given the band's customarily unconventional venues, seems downright normal. Olsen, who confirms that the band doesn't know anything by John Philip Sousa, seems nervous about joining an organized civic parade. "There's always a feeling in those kinds of situations," he observes, "that we just don't quite fit in."
Find them online at www.myspace.com/hubbubclub. —G.M.
Best Sunshine on Incompetence
The small town of Sebastopol is an unlikely place to find someone undertaking an endeavor on the scale of Carl Malamud's, but that's where you'll find the CEO and founder of the nonprofit Public.Resource.org. Malamud is attempting—and accomplishing—a titanic task: putting all federal and state government records online. In the last year and a half, the organization has published 32.4 million pages of legal documents on the internet, and that's just the tip of the bureaucratic iceberg.
With a background based in science, government and computers, Malamud says that he's always felt that access to knowledge is a human right. While living in Washington, D.C., he taught computer science to government agencies and corporations for 10 years; he also wrote eight books. "But in the '90s, the internet started to really spread," Malamud says. "Some of the things that I was able to do, since I was based in D.C., was put the floors of the House and Senate on the internet as live webcasts, and to get the Securities and Exchange Commission database online. It just led to doing more work getting the government online."
He's continued that work with his nonprofit, making what he calls "America's operating system"—all the primary legal materials of the United States that range from building and fire codes to court opinions, state regulations and congressional hearings—freely available online. "I choose to focus on bureaucratic agencies that are overreaching, that are doing something that's clearly outrageous or bad or silly," Malamud explains. "And I look for a place where I'm able as a small organization to have an impact. I can't solve $100 million problems, but I can solve smaller ones."
Asked where he finds his biggest opposition, Malamud laughs and says, "Bureaucrats! The policy makers get it. But there's been a lot of empire-building in Washington as well as many other places, and people have carved up the public domain and made money off it selling building codes and court cases, and there is tremendous resistance. There's a $10 billion a year industry selling access to primary information, so there's big money involved. And where there's big money, there's big resistance.
"I'm going after data that everybody agrees ought to be public," Malamud continues, "and there are no security issues with what I do, so I'm dealing with a very different kind of battle in which I'm going up against very large institutions and big bureaucracies. People like Daniel Ellsberg, and more recently Seymour Hersh and The New Yorker, really dig in and ferret out malfeasance, whereas usually all I'm ferreting out is incompetence."
Malamud is currently campaigning for the seat as head of the Government Printing Office, so would be engaging in his current work from the inside of our federal government, rather than independently.
To help petition Malamud into the GPO slot, go to www.yeswescan.org—S.D.
Best Genial, Well-Dressed Theater House Manager
"I think appearance is always the first thing people notice," says Harry Roberts of Rohnert Park, "so I decided long ago that that's how I would approach the job of house manager. When people step into a lobby, it matters to them who greets them, and how they are greeted, and when they are greeted by someone in a coat and tie, it just tells them that they are in good hands. Besides, when you are responsible for handling 400 or 500 people at a time, and when you sometimes have to take control of a situation, wearing a nice coat and tie makes a big difference in how they react to you." For the last 16 years ("Sixteen years! It doesn't seem like that long," he laughs. "I guess that's what happens when you love what you do"), Roberts has served as the immaculately attired house manager of the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park, where a regular series of plays and musical events draws hundreds of people a weekend into the lobby of the center. Once inside, patrons are always met with a warm, welcoming smile by Roberts, whose responsibilities include taking tickets, managing the snack bar, organizing the volunteers and ushers, and solving any "audience grievances." He began his theater career only after retiring from his previous career as a medical photographer at San Francisco's Letterman Hospital. Despite having no experience with theaters, he landed the job and has since become a beloved fixture at the sprawling arts center. "Basically," he says, "my job is simply making the audience feel comfortable, to help them feel that they can relax, forget about everything and surrender themselves to whatever is happening onstage." In other words, it's the most important job in the house. "I wouldn't put it that way," says the always tactful Roberts, "but it's certainly a more important job than some people might think." 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. 707.588.3434.—D.T.
Best Claim to Galleons
"Our sole purpose is to advance the preservation of Filipino-American history and share it," explains Delia Rapolla, president of the Sonoma County chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society. It's a history with roots reaching back to the 1800s, when crewmen from the transpacific "Manila galleons" came ashore in Acapulco and stayed, gradually migrating northward. Legally forbidden from marrying Caucasian women, they often paired instead with Mexican or Native American mates, which has tended to obscure their ethnic origins. Today, Rapolla estimates there are more than 6,000 Filipino Americans living in Sonoma County, including those of mixed heritage, up from just 400 identified here in the 1970 census. Their collective history is traced in a new, locally produced documentary, Remembering Our Manongs. The hour-long film features interviews with several notable manongs—respected elders—from Sonoma County, including Greg Sarris and Jeanette Anglin. The film received its television broadcast debut March 2 on Santa Rosa's cable access channels. Several additional broadcasts are scheduled; check the Community Media Center (www.communitymedia.org) for dates and times. —B.R.
Best Ridiculous Idea from an Out-of-Town 'Expert'
Yes, the AT&T building is ugly. No one cares how much it costs to tear down. It should just be torn down. Really. Give everyone a sledgehammer and the citizens of Santa Rosa would willingly do it themselves. But with no money to get the costly demolition done, what should we do in the meantime? Why don't we bring in some more out-of-town "experts" to tell us what we should do? What a great idea! It worked so well for the lowercase "california cornucopia" artichoke-on-my-own-vomit logo, and that only cost us $80,000! Thus, our tremors at the sight of an out-of-town "expert" standing over a projector in the Council Chambers last year, explaining to residents at a downtown planning meeting the stellar possibilities that we, in our small-town myopia, could never have possibly conceived: grayish skyway tunnels lumbering over Third Street from Courthouse Square leading to an ugly, empty building! Yippee! Behold, inside, a cavernous, empty concrete lobby, where what should be placed for the benefit of the people—a hardware store? A drug store? A supermarket? No! A pipe organ! "And people," it was said in all seriousness, "could come in off the street and play it!" Hopeless, we are. Totally hopeless. AT&T Building, Third Street, Hella Ugly, Santa Rosa. —G.M.
Best Place to Ponder the Future by Examining the Past
Situated on the former site of an ancient Miwok Indian village, the Marin Museum of the American Indian has been a quiet, unassuming center of historical education since its founding over 40 years ago. Serving an estimated 6,000 elementary school students each year—in addition to a steady stream of folks who stumble upon the museum accidentally—the MMAI was originally established as a storage place for the thousands of valuable artifacts that began turning up in construction sites during Marin's building boom of the 1960s. The current collection includes Miwok baskets, blankets, masks and tools, and the museum is host to regular touring exhibits of artifacts and artworks from other Native American tribes, South to North. After spending an afternoon pondering the piles of goodies that can be unearthed when a thriving culture is forced into the margins of history, one can only wonder what people of the future will be digging up from our lives. 2200 Novato Blvd., in Miwok Park, Novato. 415.897.4064. —D.T.
Best Place to Reproduce 'American Idol' Auditions
No one will admit to watching a whole season of American Idol, but everyone loves to talk about the first few audition episodes, which usually consist of sadly confident people who up until their television debut had no idea their singing could break a mirror (see William Hung). At Friar Tuck's on the Cotati Crawl, karaoke lovers get the chance to see such self-proclaimed singers outside of a television and, even better, they're usually inebriated. These karaoke singers consist of three main categories:
Groups of drunken college girls singing pop songs Songs like "Barbie Girl," "Bootylicious" or "Hit Me Baby, One More Time." They are never singing the words correctly, even with lyrics in their faces, and they usually dance and drop it like it's hot.
The awkward duet Two singers who seem not to know each other and whose faces remain emotionless throughout the entire song. They sing country songs or something from Grease.
Depressing slow-song singers Bars are not the place for slow, sad songs, but these singers decide that the theme to Titanic is just what everyone needs and wants to hear while drinking a brewskie.
Friar Tuck's karaoke may not have judges to tell these singers in a British accent that they have the singing talent of a pancake, but they do have booze and, thankfully, no Ryan Seacrest. Be careful, because one too many drinks may put you in the category that was left out:
Drunken-ass person falling over and trying to sing Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin'' I'm told that it's been done. 8201 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati. 707.792.9847. —H.S.
Best Place to Peruse the Aeronautic Exploits of the Past
With its imposing outdoor assortment of military planes and flying devices and its interior collection of historical artifacts and charmingly hand-constructed displays, the Pacific Coast Air Museum is a member-run operation abounding with donated aeronautical items. The museum is hoping to move someday to new digs nearer the entrance to the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, which will give them more room for storage and a much larger space for displaying their current homage to the history of flight. While the indoor displays are absorbing enough—one favorite is the beautiful, oversized photograph of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart—the big crowd-pleasers are the actual aircraft, standing here and there in a grassy field surrounded by the occasional picnic table and a fair abundance of weeds. The aircraft range from an A-4E Skyhawk and A-6E Intruder to the cockpit of a DC-6 airliner. There's an F-16N Viper, an F-14A Tomcat and even a Huey helicopter. The museum also contains such educational oddities as a working gyrocopter and a cutaway of a 1950s-era jet engine, so onlookers can examine the insides of a real jet fighter. 2230 Becker Blvd., Santa Rosa. 707.575.7900. —D.T.
Best Place to See a Blurry, Upside-Down American Flag Projected onto a Water Curtain While Listening to an Amateur Reggae Band Play Steve Miller Covers
What's better than a carnival? How about a carnival set on water? Step right down folks, to the annual Fourth of July Water Carnival and gala fireworks, hosted by Monte Rio's Chamber of Commerce in the heart of vacation wonderland. Last year, water-parade spectators crowded the community beach, swaying to the sounds of a frisky reggae trio. Anticipation grew as a pod of heavily lighted and decorated floats prepared for launch; local kids (and some adults dressed like wizards) crammed in last-minute practice of their most patriotic dance moves, to be performed on the floating barges in hopes of winning over the judge's booth. As the sun set, the John Philip Sousa blared up, and the floats meandered down the river, showing off their talents and inspiring raucous cheers. But the fun didn't stop there. Urgent whispers about a promised water curtain floated along the beach. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. And then, like a gift from the gods, a grand sheet of water (courtesy of fire department water hoses) flowed over the bridge, providing a fuzzy screen for blurrily projected images of an upside-down American flag and what looked to be either a liberty bell or a trash can. Anticlimactic? A bit. But the awesome fireworks afterward made up for it. To plan your Fourth, go to www.mrrpd.org. —L.C.
Best Look into the Psychology of 'Peanuts'
Though Charles Schulz's old studio is recreated in the Schulz Museum, the true insight into the man is inside the building tucked behind the outdoor hockey rink and baseball field. 1 Snoopy Place is Schulz's old studio, where he drew "Peanuts" every day for over 40 years. Closed to the public, it's now a conference room for the "Peanuts" licensing team, with a large table where the cartoonist's former desk, files and television used to sit. Certain touches remain, though, such as the wood-paneled walls, where there's a clear horizontal scuff from the back of Schulz's chair hitting it every day. A framed photo of he and wife Jeannie is still hung, as is a painting Schulz was inexplicably rather fond of: a herd of water buffalo, drinking from a river. But nothing is as revealing as a bookshelf, where every book from Schulz's life here has been left intact. A sample: The Boy Scout Handbook; The Way to Natural Beauty by Cheryl Tiegs; Treasure Island; The Tarbell Course in Magic, volumes 1, 3 and 5; Citizen Soldiers by Stephen E. Ambrose; The World of the Past; the van Gogh biography Stranger on the Earth; Save Your Stomach; the Thornton Wilder biography The Enthusiast; The Law and the Prophets; World's Best Dice Games; The New Testament in Living Pictures; and my favorite, How to Fight a Bull. What a guy. 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa. 707.579.4452. —G.M.
Best Community Center Oasis
The Dance Palace Community Centerin Point Reyes Station was founded in 1971, the same year the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, the same year hijacker D. B. Cooper parachuted from an airliner with 200 grand in his backpack. With visions of forming an alternative live-work art compound, a group of seven young artists established the original Palace in a heatless building on Main Street, where, by sheer willpower, they turned the place into a community center, whether the community wanted it or not. With curious initial audiences bundled in layers of jackets and blankets, the Palace nevertheless became the location, that first winter, of film screenings, folk dances, art classes, dance classes, art shows and a big old crafts fair. As the Palace gradually became more integrated into the cultural lives of the community, it became clear that the existing building would not be its home forever. After years of fighting with the county over pesky safety and sanitation issues, constantly worried that the building would be sold out from under them (which it eventually was), the Palace people eventually raised the money to purchase the site of a former church. In 1989, the Dance Palace officially moved into its present spot, a 4,700-square-foot facility that now is home to a dizzying array of events and activities. From concerts and plays to classes and conferences, the Dance Palace is a true community center, programming everything with a decidedly progressive bent. Like Point Reyes itself, it's an oasis of calm in the midst of a crazy world. 503 B St., Pt. Reyes Station. 415.663.1075.—D.T.
Best Place to Witness Spontaneous White-Boy Breakdancing
What does it take to get you to shake your moneymaker? In these tough economic times, this is a question you need be able to answer, 'cause if there's one thing that'll get you through times with no money (besides dope), it's dancing. The Juke Joint at the Hopmonk Tavern has us dancing for $5 to some of the funkiest turntablism in the Bay Area, plus tall, tasty cold ones on tap and a year-round beer garden to boot. Back that ass up to Hopmonk's Abbey, and as long as it's Thursday night after 11pm, you won't be disappointed—breakbeats, funk, old-school and soul mashups—plus more windmilling, head spinning, poppin' and lockin' than I've seen since the street corners and subway platforms of my youth. Peep the Hopmonk website (www.hopmonk.com) or check its marquee to see who's spinning—guest DJs from the Bay Area and beyond or house DJs (Malarkey, Chango B, and iNi). Thanks to music manager Patrick Malone, it doesn't seem to matter—the shit is bumping and talent is coming off the Technics. The Juke Joint, Thursdays in the Abbey, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. $5. 707.829.7300.—M.T.J.
Best Place for Forlorn Immigrant Poetry
Between 1910 and 1940, thousands of Chinese immigrants were detained at Angel Island Immigration Center. Known as the Ellis Island of the West, it was built to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was created to curb the number of Chinese coming into the United States. The immigrants were interrogated, underwent humiliating medical exams and crowded into barracks for months at a time. To entertain themselves, detainees took to carving poems on the walls. Years later, the abandoned Immigration Center was going to be demolished until a sharp-eyed ranger discovered the poetry under some chipping paint. When taken together, what looks like graffiti turns out to be an astonishing chronicle of the anger, frustration and despair the Chinese experienced during their time on the island. This February, the Angel Island Immigration Station reopened after four years and a $60 million restoration. You can tour the two-story facility and of course, you can see the poetry itself. Here's one you might encounter:
The sea-scape resembles lichen twisting and turning for a thousand li.'
There is no shore to land and it is difficult to walk.
With a gentle breeze I arrived at the city thinking all would be so.
At ease, how was one to know he was to live in a wooden building?To learn about visiting Angel Island, go to www.angelislandferry.com. —J.L.
Best Street Party
Where else are you going to see people cruising waxed-up lowriders on the sidewalk, half-naked teenagers sucking face behind the dumpsters, moms in aqua-blue pantsuits carrying around toddlers with Mohawks, the mayor of Santa Rosa cuttin' a rug with a singer in a flowery strapless dress, guys wasted on contraband cognac getting arrested by cops, women making pupusas faster than the eyes can believe, a 12-year-old named Lil' Tony defending his crown in a serious break dance battle to "Billie Jean," a homemade "Dogg Pound-4-Life" tattoo, DJs playing uncensored E-40 12-inches, restored '57 Chevy Bel Airs, baile folklórico dancers, cherry pie, Rice-Krispy cookies, bounce houses, mariachi bands, dogs, strollers, spilled horchata, folk-art murals, airbrushed T-shirts, Aqua Net feathered hair, board of supervisors candidates, reggaéton groups, aspiring rappers, accordion players, Latin-rock bands and more fake gold hoop earrings than have ever been documented in the known universe? It ain't Montgomery Village, that's for sure. Everyone knows Roseland's got the best block party around. Every Cinco de Mayo at the Roseland Shopping Center, Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa. —G.M.
Best Place to Get a Chess-Burn
In the sunny, concrete park near the Depot Bookstore and Cafe in Mill Valley, there are a number of outdoor chessboards and tables, built by the legendary late concert promoter and chess aficionado Bill Graham. Nearly every afternoon, you can find chess players there, soaking up rays while busting those crazy 64-square moves. Tables are taken on a first-come, first-served basis, so bring your own pawns, bishops and castles—and don't forget the sunblock. 87 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. —D.T.
Best Hardcore and Hairstyles
When in a crowded room checking out emerging artists, do we consider why it is that the art hangs on the otherwise bare walls? When in a crowded alley checking out great bands, do we ever ponder that alley as perfectly fine and quiet and empty instead? When amid a buzz of an exciting cultural gathering, do we ever think, "Why is this happening?" Basically, do we ever think like Travis Kennedy does?
Kennedy runs the successful hair salon Daredevils & Queens in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square, but mention the place to anyone under the age of 30 and you'll get a completely different description, one that involves some of the rawest and most home-spun art shows and musical performances of the past year. Bereft of art snobbery, bereft of nightclub stuffiness, Daredevils & Queens doubles as a haven for the outcast and truly unique creative young wizards of Santa Rosa—and all while lingering stylists sweep up split ends and minking foil from late appointments.
Between body-length mirrors, art of all shapes and sizes dazzles people crowded into where once were scissors and hair-dye bottles. Up in the salon's loft, a DJ spins vinyl, while beneath rotates an assortment of vegan cupcakes and beer—usually, for some reason, from Thailand. Down the narrow hallway past the ever-present line to the bathroom unfolds the salon's back alley, where bands play on a small corner stage in front of a graffiti mural designed by Ricky Watts. No one, I've noticed, is ever underwhelmed at Daredevils & Queens; every night spent there in the old Café This location is electrifying, individually and communally.
The fact that most events at Daredevils & Queens are free only adds to its laudability. Kennedy takes no money at the door, he takes no percentage of art sales, and he usually spends his own money on band merchandise and art. Knowing not to overdo a great thing, he's trying to keep events sporadic, but his will is buckling under the weight of the talent and energy of the area. If a depression is indeed on the way, and if money will soon not rule all, then Daredevils & Queens is truly visionary.122 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.575.5123.—G.M.
Best future that never existed
Mixing the curiosity and wonder of the Victorian age with the not-so-jaded know-how of the 21st century, the Handcar Regatta surpassed all expectations last September and is in fine position to blow 2009 out as well. Looking to host an arts festival like no other, cofounders Spring Maxfield and Ty Jones took inspiration from the steampunk aesthetic embraced by designer Theresa Hughes and her husband, artist David Farish. Steampunk imagines a world in which hot air, not fossil fuels, propel mankind up into the ether and down across the earth, mixing high Jules Verne with low Wild Wild West. Last year's fest drew some 4,000 people to Railroad Square to watch fantastical machines race down the tracks, hear great live music and enjoy the mixture of the modern, the old and the marvelously odd. Promoters expect some 8,000&–10,000 attendees this year, and while they won't be expanding the festival's footprint, they do plan to better use the area across the railroad tracks, are encouraging more street artists to crash the party, are planning extra stages for live music, and will grow this uniquely kid-centric fest to be even more dazzling for the young-uns. "We created," Maxfield says with satisfation, "the kind of party we'd like to go to ourselves."
The 2009 Handcar Regatta is slated for Sept. 27. [ http://www.handcar-regatta.com%D1G.G/ ]www.handcar-regatta.com—G.G.
Best Art Gallery: Di Rosa Preserve
Bowling balls in the bathtub, a midsized American car dangling by a chain from the limb of a tree and a minor Bruce Connor sculpture kind of gathering dust in the living room are just some of the treasures of the di Rosa Preserve, your vote for Best Art Gallery in Napa County. Rene di Rosa and his late wife Veronica made a point of collecting and supporting Northern California artists, even when it meant using every available spot in their home. Today, the home, sculpture meadow, permanent collection and the Gatehouse Gallery are open to the public, offering a rare glimpse into the di Rosa's true bohemian romance as well as showcasing the best in modern art. Under the direction of consulting curator Michael Schwager, the Gatehouse now exhibits more than just the di Rosa's own large stockpile of work, regularly bringing emerging and mid-career artists in for a startling perspective focusing exactly on today.
5200 Sonoma Hwy., Napa. 707.226.5991. —G.G.